When it comes to company car executive saloons, they don’t get much bigger or better than the BMW 5-series. It may no longer be the newest kid on the block, but 18,000 of them found homes in the UK last year and it enjoys the kind of continuous high sales levels, cachet and demand most other prestige marques would kill for.

So you can hardly blame the Munich firm for wanting to further build on that success beyond the current saloon and Touring estate forms. Or can you?

At first sight, the new 5-series GT hatchback looks like an odd mix between a luxury saloon, 4×4 and estate all rolled into one. BMW’s reasoning is (relatively) simple – lots of drivers like the high driving position of an off-roader, but don’t want the social suicide at the school gates that comes with 4×4 ownership. The same goes for those who want the luxury of a 7-series, but would prefer something a little less conventional than a traditional executive saloon.

And so we have the GT, a car that’s taller than a 5-series but lower than an X6, while being longer than a 5-series Touring but shorter than a 7-series. It also has a sizeable 1700-litre boot too which is more than the Touring and only marginally less than an X5. Does it work? The GT certainly looks better in the metal than it does on paper and depending on your view is either fantastic (the front) or just too bulky (the rear).

Then again, unlike the 5-series, the GT doesn’t have to please everyone all of the time. BMW is aiming for just 2000 sales in the first 12 months, the vast majority of which are likely to be corporate sales from user-choosers going for the 530D – using the same 245PS 3.0-litre turbo-diesel seen elsewhere in BMW’s range. The petrol-powered 535i (3.0-litre turbo) and 550i (4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8) models will pick up the remaining the GT sales, but don’t be surprised to see the lovely twin-turbo 535D engine joining the line-up within the next year.

One look at the running costs make the 530D the obvious choice too. The 173g/km emissions put it at a benefit-in-kind tax level of 25% (compared to 29% on the 535i and an eye-watering 35% for the 550i) with an entry-level starting price of £40,810 – just £10 less than an X5 with the same engine.

On the road, the GT is certainly smooth enough and the engine and standard eight-speed automatic gearbox work well. However, anyone after the same involving driving experience of the X5 or standard 5-series is going to be disappointed. The GT’s extra height and width together with a hefty 200kg more than the equivalent 7-series, don’t make it the most chuckable car on the road. Although BMW’s Dynamic Control system does help to control things a little, you never really get away from the fact that the GT feels like a big car. The lack of steering wheel-mounted gearchange paddles almost suggesting that BMW knows as much too.

Matters certainly settle down at cruising speeds however, with the comfort setting making it a calming cruiser even if there is a little too much wind noise around the sides of the windscreen for our liking.

Inside, the dashboard is almost identical to that in the 7-series with exceptional build quality and BMW’s much-improved iDrive system. There’s a slightly higher driving position than is ideal even in the seat’s lowest position, but in five (SE trim) or four (Executive) seater formats, there’s also plenty of room in the back seats too. Despite being 200mm lower, the GT actually boasts the same interior headroom as the X5 and there’s also a Skoda Superb-style split tailgate that can open as a saloon or a full hatchback.

We like the new BMW GT. It would be easy to dismiss it as trying to please all of the people all of the time and failing as a result, like some other cars on the market (yes, we mean you Mercedes R-class). Instead however, it’s a neat stepping stone that with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof as standard is very close on price to a similarly-equipped 5-series Touring or X5. Put simply, no matter what your feelings, it’s hard not to applaud BMW for offering buyers more choice even if it might cannibalise sales from under its own roof. The GT is different yes, but sometimes different is good.

BMW 530D GT SE auto
P11D price £40,580
Model price range £40,810-£53,490
Fuel consumption 43.5mpg
CO2 (tax) 173g/km (25%)
BIK (20/40%) £169/£338
Service interval variable
Insurance group 18
Warranty 3yrs/unltd
Boot space (min/max) 440/1700 litres
Engine size/power 2993cc/245PS
Top speed/0-60mph 149mph/6.9 secs
On sale 24 October 2009
Score 7/10
Verdict BMW 5-series success
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