5-Series with a little extra

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By Nick Jones

Look at other members of the BMW family and the 5-Series GT looks a bit of an oddity – like a cross between a 5-Series and a baby X6.

But don’t let the looks alone influence your decision.

Stand it on your drive and suddenly it all becomes very likeable, and indeed, rather imposing.

I’m sure BMW are going for a market segment here that only has a few contenders, the likes of the Maserati and the Aston Martin Rapide perhaps, although both rather pricey in this company.

You could also include the Porsche Panamera on your shopping list.

Back to the styling then, BMW has taken a basic 5-Series, added more height and therefore more headroom, stretched it here and there and given it a firmer, more solid rear end.

On paper, it promises to be some car, competing with the larger 7-Series for front and rear legroom.

I have to say at this point, the styling thoroughly grew on me after a week’s testing and I quickly became something of an expert at answering peoples questions about it when I left it anywhere parked. Believe me, people like to talk about this car.

The engine to have is the 530d, with its smoothly-changing eight-speed gearbox and bags of torque on tap to waft you along silently to more than 150mph while still promising over 40mpg.

On those figures, the 70-litre fuel tank means cruising distance is less than I would have liked at about 620 miles – not even Lands End to John O’Groats on a single fill – but hey, never mind.

The engine is so docile it idles well under 1,000 revs and by the time you hit 70mph the revs are barely showing 1,500 revs. Relaxing? You bet.

If the diesel isn’t your baby then you have the option of the 535i and the 550i, which are both petrol versions.

While the diesel delivers 240bhp, the smaller petrol stirs 300bhp and the 550i gets 400bhp, all with the promise of decent economies and low emissions (the 535i only emits 209g/km).

The Dynamic Drive Control, which measures the throttle, steering maps, damper settings and gearbox is standard and is so good you can flick between Comfort and Sport+ settings, and what you will find is a chassis that just deals with everything you throw at it.

Normal is about right for this car, unless you’re cruising down the M1 when Comfort is like riding on a fluffy cloud.

So as well as being an exemplary car on the road, it’s somewhat a star on the inside too, thanks to the GT’s added versatility.

The seats are excellent, with soft cushioning for your back, backed up by firm support underneath – just where you want it – and that goes for all four of them.

The usual array of switches and dials are a BMW trademark of quality and that will never change.

The space in the rear has changed though, but that is hardly surprising when you learn that this car sists on the same chassis as the bigger 7-Series.

Climb in the back and shut the doors and you cannot help but marvel at the amount of head and leg room. In fact, it’s so spacious you get the impression you would have to shout at the passenger sitting beside you because they are so far away.

I notice too the number of storage bins littered around, great news for family motoring.

Open the rear hatch and the boot is cavernous to the extent that two sets of golf clubs can be accommodated. It gapes to an incredible 1,650 litres with the rear seats folded down but is spoiled slightly by the narrow opening.

So should you buy one?

Well, it drives like a 5-Series, arguably the best car in the world, but with something extra. It feels like it has its own agenda without losing any of its BMW-ness.

At the side of the Porsche four-seater Panamera (£61,461 with a 3.6-litre V6 engine) the £42,225 BMW 5-Series GT looks like some kind of a bargain, and I for one would be visiting the BMW garage to place my order, given the choice.