Who Am I? | BMW 535d Gran Turismo

BY Burnpavement

Never before have we been puzzled by a name for new car. It suggests a two-door heritage, sexy and fast. Can this new crossover on the block live up to the claims?

Photos: Low Fai Ming

Some of you may understand the connection of the title to Jackie Chan's "Who Am I?". For those who don't, "Who Am I?" revolves around a secret agent suffering from memory loss being chased by good guys and the bad guys, but he has no idea who he is, who is on his side and who isn't.

Now, the 5-Series Gran Turismo. From this angle, the first similarity we drew in our mind is the BMW X6 - a coupe-like SUV. Sure, it does have the handsome F10 5-Series Sedan face, albeit a slightly bigger grille and more aggressive styling.

With the sloping "fastback" coupe roof line, the 5 Series Gran Turismo isn't really a wagon. But if the size is of concern, the 5-Series GT is anything but small. In fact, it's as big as the 7-Series - because name aside, they both share the chassis, wheelbase and track widths.

Perhaps the side profile will help you understand the mash-up design. We can imagine the endless nights that the designers spent trying to blend the SUV, wagon, coupe and sedan shapes together. It's not ugly, but there are some rear angles that we probably will take some time to getting used to.

Things get really good once you step into the cabin. The driving position does put you in a SUV-like position, lauding over everyone but big SUV drivers around you. Visibility is pretty good all-round, save for a slightly big B-pillar. Most importantly, it's the ultra-luxurious feel of the spacious cabin that really cocoons you.

The seats feel soft, but they do serve a snugly-firm support once you're seated. And this doesn't just apply to the front two seats, but all four of them. While the front seats get the usual electrical adjustments, the rear seats can be manually adjusted for back tilt, backrest angle, and can slide back and forth for better leg room or luggage capacity. The fifth seat is best reserved for short trips.

Noise isolation is right up there with the best of the luxury offerings on the market today. It is reasonably quiet enough to hear your thoughts and also hide the fact the under the skin lies an army of electronic aids.

While the standard car already comes with an impressive array of standard features, the optional equipment list is very extensive. Other than the usual navigation systems, there is also a list of driver aids which includes side view cameras...

...Adaptive Cruise Control, heads-up display, lane change and departure warning systems and parking systems with cameras at the front and rear with visual and acoustic feedback.

That wasn't even an exhaustive list of what the car can be specified with. Now how about connectivity options for mobile phones and entertainment options for the rear passengers - such as these screens which can feed navigational data or entertain the passengers with a movie, with audio piped through individual headphone jacks?

Is it practical then? The rather cool part of getting to the boot space is the dual-opening tailgate: You can open just a smaller lid to toss smaller items in, or you can raise the entire tailgate, electrically of course. Boot space is best described as acceptable with the rear seats set at "maximum leg stretch and comfort" mode. BMW claims a massive maximum of 1,700 litres with the rear seats folded. We'll take their word for it.

Engine choices? Well, you can have an 3.0-litre Twinpower Turbo inline-6, a 4.4-litre Twinpower Turbo V8 or a 3.0-litre diesel. For the record, both the V8 and diesel produces a meaty 600Nm of torque.

You might imagine that with the diesel churning out more horses and torque than the Audi Q7 diesel we tested earlier, it will be a hoot to drive. You'll be half right. The plant in the 5-series GT is a tad slow to respond to your command of instant acceleration, but once it does, it is was handled smoothly through its eight gears.

We're pretty certain that cruising will be this car's trump card. Driven normally, the engine is turning over at just below 2,000rpm at highway cruising speeds. Perhaps the only cruising beef we have is with the "comfort" mode on the Dynamic Drive Control system. It rides a little too firmly.

With that said, it's the corners where it scored well for a two-tonner. Throw the drive control into sport plus, find a nice twisty road and be amazed at what this high-riding sedan is capable of. No, it doesn't flip flop like a traditional SUV, but it does not corner like a sedan. At least, we could draw some confidence from the nicely-weighted steering and get a rough idea of how the road feels like. Perhaps, it is the additional weight of the optional panoramic roof that was limiting the car's handling capabilities.

So, to answer a question we asked ourselves earlier, we find that the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is a crossover of a different class. Crossbreed a wagon with a SUV and sprinkle some style to create the ultimate luxury niche? Yep, that's right, a niche.