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Autos

Gran Turismo: new game from BMW

Special Sections correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 12:23 AM

Are you ready to play "Jeopardy"? Here's your question for $100. This automotive ground-breaker is part wagon, part hatchback, part crossover, part funky-sporty-luxury hauler.

Gosh Alex, I think I know that one: What is a BMW 5-series Gran Turismo?

Correct!

I'm glad someone knew the answer, because in the week I spent driving this gender-bending new BMW, the question I heard most from friends, neighbors, those guys who offer free taxi rides in downtown Tampa was: "What the heck's that?"

In fact it is something quite brilliant - a fabulously comfortable and spacious executive express with all the practicality of an XL-sized hatchback.

Of course, in typical BMW-fashion, they don't make it easy to figure out exactly what the Gran Turismo is.

Firstly, despite being badged a 5-series, it's actually based on the flagship 7-series. And while our test model was the 550i version, the engine is a 4.4-liter V-8. Go figure.

All I know is that sitting in the back of this new GT, with its individual, reclining, heated and ventilated La-Z-Boy bucket seats, and immense legroom, is automotive nirvana.

But there's real practicality here too, courtesy of one of the coolest hatchback designs ever. Hit one button and only the lower section of the tailgate opens, like a regular trunklid. Press a second button and the whole, enormous tailgate raises up. Fold forward the rear seats and you have a cavernous 64 cubic feet of load space available. Most of those empty Channelside condos aren't this spacious.

Yet despite its practicality, it drives in true BMW Top Gun fighter fashion, courtesy of its 400-horsepower twin-turbo V-8 coupled to a new 8-speed automatic.

The full-house 550i Gran Turismo will set you back $63,900. Less potent, yet equally satisfying, is the new 300-hp 535i GT version that starts at $56,000.

Luxury, performance and practicality? There's no question that this new BMW has it all.

Tampa-based auto writer Howard Walker can be reached at walkweb@verizon.net.

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