In the simplest terms, BMW’s new sexily named “Grand Turismo” is a hatchback. But it is no budget hauler, as most of those tend to be, nor is it a gnarly hot hatch in which you could trash roads like Travis Pastrana. The 550i GT is a space wagon, a tech-loaded long hauler that provides a posh ride but unleashes a powerful kick on command. Buy one if you’re a classy dude with bank to burn and kids to drive to soccer practice at 130 mph…and there’s no way you’d be caught in a clearly less-cool crossover.
The 550i GT is a rear-drive BMW, so of course the driving dynamics are dialed in. Right out of the driveway it’s clear that this is one connected ride, with steering that’s predictive and a road feel that’s direct. A super-smooth 8-speed automatic is paired to the twin turbo’d V8, and on the open road the thing’s downright athletic. 100 mph arrives startlingly easy.
The exterior design? It’s not a wagon, it’s not an SUV or a crossover. It’s a…thing. We kind of like its look, actually, less staid than a sedan, and definitely cooler looking than recent “it’s-not-quite-a-wagon” attempts by other manufacturers (see the Honda Accord Crosstour.)
What’s really cool about the 550i GT is its total embrace of technology. Its console is stacked with digital smarts that are crap-your-pants cool. Here are just two of 'em:
We hope this gets kicked down to other cars, soon: the 550i GT’s heads up display. Chevy has had a pretty simplified version of heads-up on the Corvette for years, but BMW’s system takes the idea a step further, by blasting not only your current speed up on the windshield (only the driver can see it), but any upcoming turns—with street names and distances—if you’ve got a destination locked in on your GPS (see photo). That feature is really helpful if you’re navigating a complex web of interchanges in the midst of high-speed traffic (read: driving in any of NYC’s outer boroughs), since it prevents you from having to take your eyes off both the road and the asshole darting in from the slow lane to cut you off.
And a cool option on the 550i GT that probably won’t catch on for quite a while: night vision. A camera mounted at the front of the car uses thermal imaging to ID humans and animals in your path, from as far as 900 feet out, and live video is displayed on the center console (see photo). The idea here is that if you’re driving out in the countryside and an animal (or wayward drunk) stumbles into your path, the system will alert you (via heads up display) so you have time to pull over and shoot them. I think.
In the city, stuff like night vision’s not as useful (X-Ray vision, on the other hand, would be very, er, useful). But half the point of this bleeding edge tech is the fact that you can wow your neighbors with it. Or your dates. And if you don’t have dates, the teenager that’s helping you haul groceries back to your sweet, under-the-radar ride.
2010 BMW 550i GT
Price: from $63,900
Engine: 4.4-liter turbocharged V-8
Torque: 450 lb.-ft
0-60: 5.4 seconds
Top speed: 150 mph (electronically limited)