Click here to View Our Other Publication
Drive Life : May 7th 2010
1HERSA1 F014 14 Drive Life May 7, 2010 drive.com.au THE COMPETITORS * Prices are recommended retail and exclude dealer and on-road costs. AUDI A5 SPORTBACK 2.0 TFSI QUATTRO How much? From $78,400* Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cyl; 155kW/350Nm; 7-speed dual-clutch auto; AWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 7.5L/100km and 174g/km Safety 8 airbags, stability control, no crash rating Pros Build quality; stylish interior; punchy engine; practical ''liftback''. Cons Spasmodic ride; middle rear ''seat'' wasted space; numb and inconsistent steering. Our score JII BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo Part car, part SUV, BMW tries to please everyone. BMW X5 xDRIVE48i How much? From $122,800* Engine 4.8-litre V8; 261kW/ 475Nm; 6-speed auto; AWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 12.5L/100km and 299g/km Safety 6 airbags, stability control, rear-view camera, parking sensors, no crash rating Pros Excellent dynamics for a soft-roader; great V8; spacious cabin; third-row option. Cons Facelifted X5 coming in June, with new 8-speed auto and better iDrive; thirsty engine. Our score JII MERCEDES-BENZ CLS350 Price $152,000* Engine 3.5-litre V6; 200kW/ 365Nm; 7-speed auto; RWD Fuel use and CO2 emissions 11.0L/100km and 263g/km Safety 8 airbags, stability control, no crash rating Pros Seductive styling; long- legged grace; composed and competent dynamics. Cons Poor rear-seat room; more expensive than an E-Class; replacement due soon. Our score Not yet rated. Price From $151,400 (plus on-road costs) As tested $199,320 (plus on-road costs) Country of origin Germany Engine 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder Power 225kW at 5800rpm Torque 400Nm at 1200-5000rpm Consumption and CO2 emissions 8.9L/100km and 209g/km Transmission 8-spd auto Weight 1940kg 0-100km/h 6.3 seconds (claimed) Safety Front, side and curtain airbags; stability control; rear-view camera; not yet crash rated Pros Spacious and luxurious interior; engine refinement and performance; build quality; loaded with features. Cons Unrefined ride; over-servoed steering; expensive options; noticeable tyre roar; heavier than a 7-Series; polarising styling. Our score II THE TEST JEZ SPINKS Gran design If you haven't noticed, there's an intense civil car-sales war taking place in Germany. Audi wants to oust BMW as the world's luxury-car leader, and the result for car buyers is a proliferation of niche cars as the Teutonic manufacturers peek desperately into every nook and cranny of the automotive market to grow both sales and profits. BMW's latest niche vehicle is one the Munich-based company claims is a blend of luxury sedan, sporty soft- roader and classic grand tourer. The Gran Turismo -- or 5GT, for brevity's sake -- is for now the range- topping variant of the new 5-Series (which arrives in May in sedan form). The 5GT, though, has more in common with the 7-Series. The car that's labelled a ''Progressive Activity Sedan'' in BMW-speak is based on the limo's underpinnings. WHAT DO YOU GET? A three-model range comprises the $143,440 six-cylinder turbodiesel 530d that's expected to be the best seller, the $151,400 turbocharged six- cylinder petrol 535i we're testing here, plus a $192,900 V8 550i. The 535i GT carries a $22,500 premium over the 535i sedan that goes on sale next month. BMW has yet to reveal standard equipment for the sedan, but the GT's highlights include four-zone climate control, bi-xenon headlights, panoramic sunroof, electric tailgate, satellite navigation, heated front seats, leather upholstery, rear-view camera, head-up windscreen display and audio/visual parking guidance. If you wanted to drive away our test car, which added 20 cost options, you'd need more than $200,000. The options included variable dampers ($7000), rear DVD entertainment ($5700), two-seater rear layout ($4000; three-seat bench is standard), soft-close doors ($1500), Active Steering ($3600) and 20-inch alloys (19s are standard). WHAT'S INSIDE? Despite the 5-Series badge, the GT's interior design and fit-out is a closer resemblance to the 7-Series' cabin. The combination of a long wheel- base and raised roofline means the 5GT offers the rear legroom of the 7-Series limo and the headroom of the X5 large soft-roader. The rear seat's (optional) individual outer pews -- divided by a centre console incorporating storage compartment and concealed cupholders -- are multi-adjustable via switches. Rear air vents complement the overall comfort (with full climate- control switches, pictured bottom right), while the huge sunroof can turn the cabin into a sunroom at the flick of a switch. The front seats also offer the long- distance comfort that is a prerequisite for any aspiring grand tourer, though more lateral support would have been welcome. Storage gets ticks for two cupholders and flip-out dash tray but crosses for narrow door pockets, shallow glovebox and cramped console bin. Practicality, in fact, is not the strong suit you might expect for such a large vehicle that measures five metres front to rear, and 1.6 metres from the ground up. Boot space (440 litres) is small compared with the X5 (620L), 7-Series (500L), and even the new 5-Series sedan (520L), and although the rear seats fold (electrically), they don't lie flat. A two-piece tailgate, though, gives owners the choice of accessing the boot either via a small, sedan-like bootlid or, by pressing another button, a full hatchback-style top-hinged door. UNDER THE BONNET The 535i debuts a new turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder that achieves the same power (225kW) and torque (400Nm) as the twin-turbo version it is gradually replacing. It continues the fine BMW tradition of smooth, gorgeous- sounding six-cylinders, and the engine has little trouble producing pace despite the 535i's two-tonne mass. There are near-imperceptible shifts from the new eight-speed automatic and the abundance of ratios also delivers relaxed performance on the freeway. At 110km/h, the engine is ticking over at just 1750rpm -- where maximum torque has already kicked in and is available all the way to 5000rpm. Official fuel consumption of 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres makes the 535i as efficient as a four-cylinder Toyota Camry manual, though our trip computer's average never sank below 14.0L/100km. ON THE ROAD Switch the variable car settings to Comfort mode and the Gran Turismo lives up to its name by reeling off freeway kilometres with a loping, effortless gait. In the confines of the city or a twisting bumpy country road, however, the 5GT is less impressive. Four suspension settings are available with the optional adaptive drive, yet, whichever mode you choose, ride quality is never of the standard expected for a luxury tourer. Even in the softest setting (Comfort), the 5GT can crash and thump over bigger imperfections. Throttle response is also lethargic in both comfort and (default) normal mode, making parking manoeuvres and stop-start driving slightly frustrating. Sport and Sport Plus sharpen the engine's reactions to throttle inputs, though the liveliness is better suited to sporty driving. You sit higher in the 5GT compared with a sedan, though the ''semi command'' position doesn't allow you to peer over the front of the bonnet like most SUVs. The steering is also disappointing in a BMW context, with too much assistance from the electric- powered rack. It feels slightly better during quick cornering, where the 5GT is nicely balanced on smooth, curving roads. Uncharacteristically for a BMW, however, the 5GT's composure is upset by mid-corner bumps. Tyre roar starts to intrude on coarser surfaces, though wind and engine noise are pleasantly muted. VERDICT The 5-Series Gran Turismo follows the X6 SUV in appearing to be the answer to a question no one asked, even if the four-wheel-drive ''coupe'' has so far been a sales success. In trying to be a Jack-of-all-trades, there's always the danger of becoming a master of none. And the 5GT is neither as practical as an SUV nor is its ride refinement befitting of a luxury grand tourer. It's also expensive. Otherwise, there's much to admire about the 5GT's vast and supremely finished cabin, as well as this 535i model's delicious turbocharged six- cylinder.
May 14th 2010
April 30th 2010