BMW flew me out to the prettier parts of New Jersey, stuffed me full of rich food, and put me through a day of "university" before letting me loose behind the wheel of the 5-Series GT.
Some physicists say that if you keep slicing any distance in half, you'll get smaller and smaller lengths until--theoretically--you reach the smallest distance possible, a length so small it's almost unimaginable. BMW must be approaching that theoretical quantum limit with the intervals in their model range, as the new 5-Series Gran Turismo--or GT, as it's badged--somehow finds space between the 5-Series sedan, X6 sports-activity "coupe" and the 5-Series Touring wagon.
Despite its closeness to other models in the BMW range, including the 7-Series, with which it shares its wheelbase and some styling elements, the 5-Series GT does stand out in several ways. In the end, though, it's still very much a familiar bit of BMW engineering.
But before we get into the GT's similarities, let's look at its unique attributes. Aside from the basic areas of space and configuration, which we'll address in a moment, the 5-Series GT has just one other area of contrast with the 5-Series, X6 and 7-Series it shares so much DNA with: the driving experience.
2010 BMW 5-Series Gran TurismoEnlarge Photo
Unlike even those other BMWs, the 5-Series GT lacks a real feeling of connectedness to the road. The stiff-but-slow tuning of the electric power steering certainly has something to do with it, as does the somewhat less noticeable transition from normal, to sport to sport plus settings on the adjustable suspension. Throttle response is tame, and acceleration, though forceful in the 550i twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 models tested, isn't breathtaking or even very exciting. It really doesn't feel like 5.4 seconds 0-60 mph or 400 horsepower, a fact possibly explained in part by the car's near-5,000-pound curb weight. The lack of a rear limited-slip differential and a stability control system that's still engaged even when traction control isn't also add to the disengaged feeling behind the wheel.