BMW launched the Gran Turismo version of its 5-series to compete in the new crossover market. It sits lower than an SUV, but higher than a sedan.
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Although a few inches higher than the 5-series sedan, it retains a subtle style that makes it blend in well on the road.
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The 550i Gran Turismo gets BMW's latest engine, a 4.4-liter V-8 with a twin-scroll turbo. This engine offers more than enough power, but fuel economy is low.
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The cabin's generous proportions make it very comfortable, with good headroom front and rear.
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BMW equips the 550i Gran Turismo with an adaptive suspension, which can be set between comfort and sport modes.
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The Gran Turismo has a standard hatchback, which can be set to open at different heights.
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Alternatively, you can just open this small rear hatch for quick access to the trunk.
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The rear seats fold forward at the touch of a button, maximizing cargo room.
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Our car came with a rear entertainment system and a luxury rear-seat package, which makes the rear seats power adjustable.
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Except for the slightly higher seating position, the cabin of the Gran Turismo is identical to that of the 5-series sedan.
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BMW tried to give the Gran Turismo the same driving dynamics as the 5-series sedan, but we felt it was less capable in the turns, partly because of the extra 500 pounds it carries.
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A gauge at the bottom of the tachometer shows instantaneous fuel economy, and the car's regenerative function. The 550i Gran Turismo sends power back into the battery when braked, although there is no electric drive motor.
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The head-up display projects the vehicle speed and route guidance instructions on the windshield.
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BMW's new automatic transmission has eight gears, which should improve fuel economy, but the 550i Gran Turismo still earns a gas guzzler tax. We were not impressed with this transmission's Sport mode.
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You can configure the car's Sport mode slightly, choosing to tighten the suspension and make the engine more responsive. There is also a Sport Plus mode that turns off traction control.
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The navigation system uses these brilliant 3D maps that not only render buildings in major cities, but also show topographical features, such as mountains and canyons.
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Zoom out to a mile or more, and the maps change to satellite imagery.
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The navigation system shows traffic congestion and dynamically routes around it.
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HD radio is standard in the 550i Gran Turismo, delivering high-quality broadcast radio over FM.
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The disc player reads MP3 CDs, and you can also copy or rip CDs to the car's onboard hard drive.
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The premium audio system option includes a seven-band graphic equalizer.
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The 550i Gran Turismo gets BMW's standard Bluetooth phone system, which can copy a paired phone's contact list to the car. But unlike the new 3-series, you can use voice command to place calls by name.
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Our car came equipped with this sonar-based park distance warning. BMW makes two different camera systems available: a backup camera and an around-view array of cameras.
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