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BMW 530d SE Grand Turismo

Click to view picture gallery“First UK drive of BMW’s new 530d
  Gran Turismo. The first of its
kind, it offers unbeatable space,
  specification and performance.
  Not only that, but it is arguably
  unique — the only car of this type
  on sale

'S NOT EASY trying to describe the 5 Series Grand Turismo. Aimed at niche customers in a market sector not yet in being, the new 5 Series variant is a mix of some of the desirable elements that a saloon, estate or SUV can offer: elegance inside and out from a luxury BMW saloon; long legroom and huge load capacity from using the 7 Series platform; limousine ride comfort but with near 5 Series agility (it adopts the 7 Series adjustable rear air suspension); and the command seating positions, versatile sliding and folding rear seats and twin tailgate openings from the X5. The GT has boot space of 440 litres which can be expanded, by folding down the rear seats, to a very accommodating 1,700 litres.

Bringing luxury and versatility together in one product — one that isn't an out-and-out high-range 4x4 — is not an easy task, but the unique BMW Grand Turismo is an interesting product. Only time will tell if UK 'premium brand' customers are convinced a long wheelbase, five-door hatchback will meet their needs.

There are three engine options for the GT. First, and expected to take 85% of sales, is the 530d: a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder common-rail direct injection turbocharged diesel. It produces 245bhp with a massive 398lb ft of torque and accelerates from zero to 62mph in 6.9 seconds before going on to a top speed of 149mph.

The official combined cycle fuel economy is 43.5mpg and we achieved a real-life 27.5mpg during some very hard and fast driving on the wind- and gale-lashed roads in the very north of Scotland. Emissions are 173g/km so the annual road tax is a modest 175 — not bad for a do-it-all luxurious limo. Like the other two engine options, this unit is only available with BMW's new fuel-efficient, eight-speed automatic transmission. That said, with its tiptronic-type sequential gear change function it works really well either in full auto mode or by using the manual override.

There are two petrol engines on offer: the 535i (a new 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbocharged powerplant that produces 306bhp and 295lb ft of torque) that runs to a limited top speed of 155mph and accelerates from zero to 62mph in 6.3 seconds. Average fuel economy is officially 31.7mpg but somehow we only achieved 19.3mpg during our test drive! Working the petrol engine harder to achieve the same response as offered by the better 3.0-litre diesel unit clearly took its toll on fuel economy. The emissions, by the way, are 209g/km so the annual road tax cost will be 215.

There is more to like
than dislike about the
Grand Turismo
particularly the brilliant
road holding and
The last engine option, for those who must have the largest and most powerful on offer, is the 550i — a 4.4-litre V8 with twin turbochargers. Zero to 62mph takes 5.5 seconds; top speed is limited to 155mph with 25.2mpg being the official combined cycle figure. Emissions are 263g/km and will incur the largest VED bill: 405 — but from April 2010 it will rise to an eye-watering 950. The GT with this engine option was not available at the press launch so no comment.

Prices start at a reasonable 40,810 for the five-seat SE 530d version and the likely best selling model — which is very keen for a sporting luxury limo. However, the 53,490 V8 Executive variant looks less of a good buy for what has yet to be established as a new and acceptable sector of the new car market.

There is more to like than dislike about the Grand Turismo. I cannot fault the looks, space, command seating positions, versatility and high level of standard specification, or the brilliant road holding and agility (considering the car's long limousine length), build quality and the great diesel engine.

Drawbacks are few but include rear seats that do not fold completely flat and there's no all-wheel drive version for the UK so it could lose out to Audi's quattro offerings. Neither am I convinced that the rear tailgate needs the separate opening top section. However, for a limited number of people wanting something different these points will not be a deterrent and for them the Grand Turismo will tick the boxes that matter. — David Miles

BMW 530d SE Grand Turismo
| 40,810
Maximum speed: 149mph | 0-62mph: 6.9 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 27.5mpg
Power: 245bhp | Torque: 398lb ft | CO2 173g/km | Insurance group 18