There seem to be multiple definitions of the term, Gran Tourismo. How else could such disparate vehicles like a Mustang GT, Bentley Continental GT, Nissan GT-R, Ferrari 599 GTB, Pontiac GTO and the new BMW 550i GT all be considered Grand Touring cars.
The definition of a Grand Touring car revolves around the following characteristics, room for two (or 2+2) and their luggage, capable of comfortable high speed cruising, oriented to the driver (not chauffeur driven), and capable of handling any road thrown at it. The classic GT car would be something like the BMW 3.0 CS, lithe, agile, perfectly proportioned and eminently capable on mountain passes or autobahn.
Few previously would have included the 550i GT in the Gran Tourismo category, however. Its tall, Reubenesque, four door body makes this the BBW BMW. But what that rather large shape does do is coddle three plus passengers in the lap of luxury. Its versatile two mode rear opening allows it to swallow the contents of an antiquing run using the hatch, or a smaller items without exposing the cabin to the weather using the smaller bootlid. And yet it still provides the driver the tools to enjoy the joy of long distance, high speed, motoring.
Unlike its smaller (closer to the ideal) GT brethren, the 550i GT delivers high levels of comfort to back seat passengers. Depending on the options specified, four zone climate control, heated and cooled seating surfaces and rear seat entertainment spoils rather than squeezes those relegated to the back seat. And unlike its luxury saloon competitors, it sacrifices little in the way of driving pleasure.
The trick to making a big vehicle a GT is to deliver similar driving performance that its smaller siblings enjoy. The 550i GT does that through a variety of techniques. First is the high torque, high horsepower, 4.4L turbocharged V8. That great powerplant is coupled to a sophisticated eight speed automatic transmission. This transmission is lighter and shifts quicker than the six speed it replaces. It really works well with the flat torque delivery of the engine and shifts perfectly in any of its modes.
Adaptive drive permits multiple suspension tuning, from Comfort to Sport + and the optional integral active steering allows speed dependent steering inputs from the rear wheels. This features eases slow speed parking maneuvers and mimics a shorter wheelbases car’s agility at higher speeds.
Author: Hugo Becker