BMW 5 GT 4x4
We get a grip in the all-new exec that’s gunning for quattro Audis
Although BMW denies that it’s targeting Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive saloons, the addition of xDrive four-doors will do sales no harm. But this isn’t just a marketing trick. BMW has brought 4WD security to its two biggest saloons without harming their driving dynamics. The 5-Series GT and 7-Series bode well for other 4x4 variants coming to our shores in the near future
Four-wheel-drive BMW saloons are a rare sight on British roads – but that’s about to change! To take the fight to Audi’s quattro range, bosses plan to bring 4x4 versions of the 5-Series GT and 7-Series to the UK – and we’ve driven both.
Visually, the only change is the addition of a subtle xDrive badge (right) on the front wing. But you really notice the difference from behind the wheel on slippery surfaces.
The 4x4 system is shared with the X1, X3, X5 and X6. But instead of splitting the torque 40:60 front to rear, both new models send 70 per cent of the power to the back wheels to ensure a characteristically sporty driving experience.
To give the system a proper work-out, we drove both cars in snow – and if both rear wheels are spinning needlessly, the set-up transfers all the engine’s power to the front. As a result, the models offer impressive traction from a standstill and good grip through corners.
BMW has also fitted its Performance Control system, which brakes the inner wheel as you turn in, while applying more torque to the other tyres to eliminate understeer without slowing down. This means great agility, security and a lot of fun.
Of course, the 7-Series is more of a luxury cruiser than a sports car, so the effects of its considerable weight and five-metre length are amplified on snow. It feels numb, with slower reactions than the 5-Series.
Most owners won’t face such challenging conditions often. But the four-wheel drive will really pay off in the wet, with phenomenal traction on damp surfaces. Even when you floor the throttle off the line, the orange traction control light on the dash is barely prompted to blink.
By fitting the 4WD system to two of its most upmarket cars, BMW clearly sees it as a niche choice. If they prove a hit, an all-wheel-drive 3-Series could follow – that would really give Audi something to think about.
Rival: Audi A6 quattro Enviable build quality, superb interior design and a strong range of engines make the A6 a thoroughly compelling choice in the executive saloon market.
But it simply can’t match the latest 5-Series GT for driver appeal.