A promotional pilot we filmed with help from Elmhurst BMW. This is the BMW 550i GT with Chris Moran from Chicago Motor Cars
The unusually shaped BMW 550i Gran Turismo provides incredible long-distance touring comfort for four passengers. It's like being in a private jet, especially if you order the business class seating in back, then pile on the entertainment and driver assistance options. Costs like a private jet, too.
Between BMW's two hatchback-like recent offerings, the 550i GT is the better vehicle than the two-year-old BMW X6. The GT will be even more desirable once BMW in the spring adds versions with a 300-hp six-cylinder engine and with all-wheel-drive. Only two things require acclimatization: the view from the outside looking at the side and rear, and the view from inside looking out the rear window.
I put nearly 1,000 effortless miles on the 550i GT in a long, single-day trip down the Eastern seaboard during a gloomy, damp winter day and night, the kind of day that inspired Edward George Bulwer-Lytton to take pen in hand and proclaim, "It was a dark and stormy night." With a price starting at $65,275 and topping $90,000, the 550i GT represents excess, just not Bulwer-Lytton's wretched excess. Virtually every one of the $1,000-here, $2,500-there options has a reason for being in the car. As with other high end BMWs, there are more than a dozen entertainment, performance, driver assistance, and pampering options. For the comfortably affluent car fanatic, I cannot imagine a better vehicle for hauling four adults and their luggage long distances. An Acura ZDX, Audi Q7, BMW X5 / X6, Porsche Cayenne or Panamera, Lexus LX 570, Cadillac Escalade, or Infiniti QX56 all lack that ultimate luxury of rear seat comfort equal to the front seat.
Great for the Driver
Slide behind the wheel and you're in the best seat in the house. Vision systems help you in front (night vision, parking sonar, swiveling xenon headlamps), in back (backup camera, parking sonar), and to the side (side cameras, lane departure warning, blind spot detection). A $1,300 head-up display (photo left) puts only the most important information in a virtual window at the base of the windshield, reducing driver distraction. The $4,200 sport package helps the car bank through turns and the suspension and drivetrain can be set for comfort, normal, or sport-calibrated ride. So you order the sport package if you want the best ride, not just sportiest, ride.
Navigation comes standard, on a 10.2-inch 1280 x 480 display that can be split to show, say, navigation and entertainment details. The current iDrive cockpit controller is much easier to master. Order the $1,950 premium seats and you get a massage feature that raises and lowers the left and right seat bottom halves just enough to keep your butt from falling asleep. The $1,750 active steering package changes the steering ratio at low speed for easier parking lot maneuvers and the rear wheels also steer slightly, opposite the front wheels at low speed for sharper turns, same direction as the front wheels at high speed for smoother lane changes.
The engine is a 400-hp twin-turbo V8 with an eight-speed automatic transmission (BMW's first). It gets to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and passes most everything on the highway except gas stations. On my mostly highway trip I got 21 mpg and saw 23 mpg level-ground cruising at 70 mph; the EPA rating is 15 mpg city, 21 mph highway, using premium fuel. That's not bad, but the coming 300-hp six will still be cat quick and probably manage 25 mpg loping along the interstate, and you won't get the feeling, "Maybe we should top off the tank," at every bathroom break.
While it's not a hybrid, there is a brake energy regeneration system. The oversize battery is charged primarily by power generated when you apply the brakes. This is part of what BMW calls Efficient Dynamics.
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