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GRAN TOURING IN A SPINNING BLUE PROPELLER

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Wed, Jun 30, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LA CAR STAFF & WIRE REPORT: BMW 550i GT
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BMW 550i GT Another niche found and filled by BMW, but will anyone bite on the bait? By Harvey Schwartz The all-new 2010 BMW 550i GT is a mix of a near 7-Series sized luxury sport sedan with a sport utility-like double-tiered hatchback. The only competition is BMW itself with the X6 multi-tasking vehicle, and you can probably add the new Acura ZDX that I tested a few weeks ago into the mix. How many consumers, even BMW enthusiasts, will be willing to pay a base price of $63,900.00 for the V8-equipped 550i GT? I don’t know but this new 5-Series BMW is a true BMW, the ultimate driving machine, and rides on the 7-Series frame that is 3.8 inches longer than a new 5-Series sedan at 120.7 inches, and is 3.6 inches longer in total length, at 196.8 inches. That’s plenty of room to fit into the average garage. If you combine the extra length, giving you a more comfortable ride, and the very functional hatchback, it looks like the GT becomes the most accommodating and practical 5-Series vehicle.

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The 550i GT is all about loading cargo, whether it’s boxes, golf bags, or luggage for long vacation getaways, or when shopping locally. With the hatch fully opened, taking care of your cargo is a snap. Inside the fully carpeted cargo area are chrome tie-downs and straps at both sides to secure small or large items. For longer items, the luxury heated and reclining leather trimmed second-row seat is split 60/40 and folds flat. You can also option for two heated and ventilated rear bucket seats with a full length center console for an even sportier interior look, plus the seat backs also folds flat. There is also a removable rear security plate over the cargo hold that disengages easily and stores in the underfloor storage area. LED lit cargo lamps in the rear make loading or unloading at night safer. The coupe like silhouette, double kidney grille 5-Series front fascia, low front overhang, and frameless door glass give the new 550i GT a sportier look than the X6. I guess this marks the end of the 5-Series Sportwagon.

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The new BMW 550i GT is powered by a 4.4 liter, DOHC, direct fuel injected, twin-turbo, Double VANOS steplessly variable valve timing V8 generating 407hp and 450lb.ft. of torque. This mighty powerplant is the same found in the new 7-Series. Also just like the new 7-Series, torque to the rear wheels flows through a new ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting that felt like the gears melted through my right hand; always the correct shift in automatic, quick with no hunting around. From 0-60mph at launch, BMW claims 5.4 seconds, I think that it is even quicker. Like all BMWs, the new 550i GT is fun and easy to drive—and at the right time and place, very exiting when you put the car into Sport or Sport+. Instantly, the unique multi-link, four-wheel independent suspension’s electronic, multi-valving, gas-charged shocks, rear air springs, and stabilizer bars tightens up, the steering becomes heavier yet quick to respond as the active steering measures the angle and yaw of the steering wheel turning all four wheels to enhance handling control, while the onboard computer recalibrates the gearing and the electronic throttle response. Two tubular engine braces keep the front end taut and enhances the reaction to your steering inputs.

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The 4,900 pound 550i GT was surprisingly neutral and very nimble during normal driving around slow city traffic, and terrific at handling steep, curving mountain roads. With Sport+ engaged, the Traction Control system is automatically turned off and you can let the rear end slide through the turns. Quickly slowing the new 550i GT down from speed are massive, four-wheel vented rotors. Up front are 14.5 inch discs clamped with six-piston calipers, and 14.5 inch discs clamped with dual-piston calipers in the rear. Braking control and response are enhanced with standard ABS, Dynamic Brake Control, Brake Assist, Brake Wipe and Regenerative Brakes that return the electric energy back into the battery. The 550i rides on standard 18X8 cast aluminum wheels and tires, with 19X8 cast aluminum wheels and tires and 20X8.5 cast aluminum wheels are wrapped with Goodyear 245/40R20 front and 275/35R20 Excellence low-profile tires in the rear for excellent traction and a compliant, quiet ride.

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The interior is inviting, roomy and very comfortable. The forward and side visibility is excellent but the rear view is somewhat pinched with the higher seatbacks of the second row and small hatch window. The interior is signature BMW with excellent materials, workmanship and details. All around you are large pieces of real wood veneer, real aluminum trim, quality soft-to-the-touch dashboard, with hand-cut sewn leather trim around the doors. The instrument cluster is a great, well designed and easy to see and understand. The center stack is canted slightly to you making it easier to locate important buttons, dials and switches. The center console is finished in black piano veneer and contains dual cupholders, the ergonomic, aluminum stick shift lever and an armrest with storage down below. The three-spoke, leather wrapped/heated/power tilt/telescoping steering wheel feels perfect in your hands and contains buttons for the audio system and cruise control. The 12-way powered/heated, leather trimmed front bucket seats are a perfect fit for long drives, and are well bolstered when you are hunting down curving roads to enjoy the thrill of the 407-horsepower twin-turbo V8’s power. The heated, second-row, leather seats are also very comfortable, and feature a pull-down center armrest with dual cupholders, storage, and the ability to move fore and aft plus the seat backs can also be adjusted. Legroom and headroom in the rear is excellent for taller passengers.

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My new BMW 550i GT test vehicle came equipped with dynamic auto-leveling Xenon Adaptive Headlamps, LED Corona headlights-rings, cornering lights and rear LED lights, push button start/stop ignition, halogen free-form foglamps, AM-FM-CD-MP3 player audio system with 13-speakers and HD radio, dual temperature electronic climate control with air filtration, aluminum scuff plates at each door with BMW logos that light up when the door is opened, a panoramic dual moonroof with power shades, front and rear Park Distance Control, rain-sensing wipers, iDrive system with on-board computer and Controller and programmable memory buttons, all express power windows/door locks, power remote/power folding/heated/self-dimming sideview mirrors, retractable headlamp washers, power lumbar support, iPod and USB adapter, BMW Navigation system, and BMW Assist with Bluetooth. Options include ventilated front/rear seats, radar-sensing cruise control, Blind Spot warning, and Lane Departure warning. Standard safety features include driver/front passenger airbags, front driver/passenger side airbags, front and rear-seat head protection system, height-adjustable, three-point safety belts for all five seating positions with front load limiters-pretensioners, anti-whiplash head restraints, LATCH anchors for child seats, BMW Assist system, Tire Pressure Monitoring system, full perimeter anti-theft alarm system, daytime running lamps, front/rear crumple zones, and steel beams in each door. BMW has created and filled another niche in the luxury, sport segment by bringing to market a sedan that also offers the versatility of a hatchback for those consumers that need the ease of loading and unloading cargo of all sizes and shapes.

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© Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz For more information about BMW products, go to bmwusa.com To see more photos by Harvey Schwartz, go to autofotos.com

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SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 BMW 550i GT Price: $63,900.00 base/$74,025.00 as tested EPA mileage rating: 15mpg/city, 21mpg/highway Engine: 4.4 liter, DOHC, all-aluminum, 32-valve Twin-Turbo, direct injection, with Double VANOS steplessly variable valve timing Horsepower: 407 Torque: 450 pound-feet Drive Configuration: Front Engine/Rear Wheel Drive Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with sequential shifting Front suspension: Independent, multi-pivot, coil springs, stamped aluminum control arms, variable valve gas-charged shock absorbers, anti-roll bar Rear suspension: Independent, multi-link with air-springs, stamped aluminum control arms, variable valve gas-charged shocks, anti-roll bar, and isolated subframe Wheels/tires: 20X8.5 cast aluminum wheels, 245/40R20 front and 275/35R20 rear Goodyear Excellence low-profile performance tires Brakes: Front: 14.5-inch vented discs with six-piston calipers Rear: 14.5-inch vented discs with dual-piston calipers ABS, Dynamic Brake Control, Brake Wipe, Regenerative Braking Overall length: 196.8 inches Overall width: 74.8 inches Overall height: 61.4 inches Curb weight: 4,950 pounds

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