Car reviews - BMW - 5 Series - 530d sedan
Startling engine response, superb midrange acceleration, engine quietness, engine note at revs, low fuel consumption, fuel range, small weight penalty
Room for improvement
Lacks initial acceleration and overall excitement of petrol 530i, a little nose-heavier than petrol 530i, standard active steering takes some getting used to, run-flat tyres return choppy ride, $2000 premium over 530i sedan
6 Dec 2005
BMWs and diesels go together like ... like wow if it’s the 530d you are talking about.
Numbers don’t lie, not with 160kW of power at 4000rpm (heady for a diesel), 480Nm from 1750rpm to 2750rpm (that’s 180Nm more than the recently released N52 B30 3.0-litre petrol unit) and 7.5L/100km on the official average cycle (compared to the petrol’s 9.3 we averaged 7.5 driving the diesel very hard indeed).
Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 7.2 seconds is also only marginally slower than the petrol 530i sedan's 6.7 figure.
On their own these figures add up to an impressive engine.
Mix it in with the E60 5 Series package though and what you end up is really quite a wonderful marriage.
Because, with its poise and control, the 530d is the only mid-sized luxury sedan that really is finely tuned for drivers.
The active steering does take a little to get used to, but once acclimatised it works with the driver (and not against) for super smooth cornering.
And the suspension’s ability to sit the sedan squat over all manner of road conditions and surfaces is frankly second-to-none.
Run-flat tyres contribute to a cloyingly choppy ride over almost any bitumen (and they probably don’t help with the constant drone German cars are renowned for either), but beyond the rubber the suspension deals with ruts and bumps with exceptional finesse.
Especially if the model in question is the 530d M-Sport pack fitted with the 19-inch alloy wheels and suitably wide rubber.
So it is reassuring to know then that none of the driving pleasures are diluted with the diesel.
In fact, the mid-range wallop adds another source of entertainment.
Plant the foot from 60km/h and the forward thrust is deliciously intoxicating. So is doing it from 80km/h 100km/h 120km/h and beyond. The diesel just doesn’t let up. And the 300Nm a 3.0-litre petrol 530i just wouldn’t keep up.
At 100km/h the engine is barely turning over 1400rpm. And just on its smoothness and sweetness we defy anybody to pick the 530d as a diesel without looking at the 5000rpm-redlined tacho or clambering into the crowded engine bay (not recommended).
Mating it with the ZF six-speed automatic is also a very good thing, particularly as there’s enough mid-range poke for the gearbox to react instantly over its ample spread of ratios. Left in ‘DS’ (Drive Sport) mode the engine’s response can be quite startling.
BMW needs to be commended for making this engine virtually silent at idle and sound like a V8 at all other times. Kudos too should be given for not adding substantially to weight (only 90kg to the 1500kg 530i).
But let’s not get too carried away.
Initial acceleration, while extremely impressive in its own right let alone ‘for a diesel’, lacks the jackrabbit jump of the 530i, so it’s not the ultimate sub-V8 (or V10) 5 Series you can buy in this regard.
Nor is the 530d quite as light on its feet when flying through tight curves (the weight of a beefy guy over the front wheels might explain why).
Yet, except for a side-by-side comparison, you’d hardly know the difference even if you were very familiar with both 530 models.
You would however feel it in the pocket if you were paying for the petrol. Ears too, since BMW claims the diesel actually delivers a quieter overall decibel reading.
If you want the ultimate diesel luxury car then look no further than the E60 530d. It’s a strong, silent and sporting tea-totaller of a tourer. And it’s the best car of its type you can buy for now.
But if you yearn for the ultimate six-cylinder driving sedan then the E60 530i still rules.
Because, 1980s ETA engines excluded, nothing goes together quite like straight sixes and BMW.
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