So it is not a head-turner but BMW's 5 Gran Turismo is a grand ride that is luxuriously decked out on the inside
Drives like a dream A quiet engine and generous seating space make for a cushy drive in BMW's 535i Gran Turismo -- PHOTO: TERRENCE TAN

Where is Chris Bangle when you need him? The former chief stylist at BMW was such a wonderful punching bag. You diss the design of a new model in his face and he smiles, whips out his felt pen, draws you a few sketches on napkins and makes a pitch so convincing you walk away nodding.

You cannot quite do that with Adrian van Hooydonk who took over from Bangle last year. Or at least I have not known anyone who has done it. It could be that the man seems a little too serious. Too intense.

I will say it here, if not to his face: His design of the 5 Gran Turismo reminds me of a badly bloated Prius.

Fortunately, there are plenty of relatively nice things to say about the car. So I will not have to dwell on its silly silhouette.

The 5 GT is a big crossover, the result of splicing coupe and SUV genes. It is BMW's second such attempt after the equally monstrous-looking X6.

Unlike the X6, which inspired awe with its physics-defying handling, the 5 GT is a veritable luxe barge in disguise. A prince in pauper's clothing.

The car is unbelievably quiet. If you were blindfolded in the cabin, you would swear you were in a 7-series. The car is so silent that at idling, you have to steal a glance at the tachometer to be completely sure that the engine is running. At a reasonable gallop, the car betrays none of the aural annoyance that fastbacks are occasionally associated with. So for sure, your ears are not assaulted.

The cabin is luxuriously appointed. It is immaculated finished and you get all the amenities that a 7-series buyer gets. And quite unlike the X6, the 5 GT offers decent room. Rear headroom is generous, despite the car's coupe-like sloping roofline. The rear centre divider and armrest can be raised to accommodate a third passenger.

Boot space, though sufficient, is not exceptional. But the rear seats can be folded down flat to release 1,700 litres of cargo space.

The car offers a two-way access to the storage area. The tailgate can be lifted entirely if you need to stow large objects. Or you can just open the lower half for smaller objects such as overnight bags. Nifty, too, if you are in a tight parking space. Unfortunately, you have to bend somewhat awkwardly to retrieve luggage in the latter mode. The cargo area is deep and the aperture is smaller than usual.

On the go, the 5 GT is quick, surefooted and cushy. If the drivetrain is lugging a bodyweight in excess of two tonnes, it gives no hint of it.

The only thing that mars its driveability is the tiny rear windscreen. Good thing, then, that the car comes with reverse camera parking assistance.

Its ride is decidedly comfort-biased. Even if you choose the sportiest suspension settings (via the iDrive), the 5 GT is a tad too soft for hard driving. The car is thus aptly named. It is a grand tourer that dishes out well-insulated, fatigue-free jaunts across long distances. Again, shades of the 7-series.

Plus, it has the muscles to make overtaking relatively effortless. Kickdown is instant and deadly. And because its steering is so precise, well-weighted and wonderfully communicative, the biggish beefcake switches lanes at high speeds with the dexterity of a far smaller, lighter car.

Finally, the car offers a slightly higher-than-usual seating position, which makes for easy ingress and egress.

If BMW had to compromise form for functionality when making the 5 GT, it certainly shows.