Car reviews - BMW - 5 Series - 530i Sedan
Unbelievably agile for a large car, superb automatic transmission, lush interior with brilliant seats and technology
Room for improvement
Steering and suspension lack tactility and harmony of E-Class, petrol four-cylinder inferior to diesel six
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8 Dec 2017
BMW was once living in the seventies with its 5 Series.
Only five years ago an entry turbocharged petrol four-cylinder version of this sedan could be purchased for around $75,000 plus on-road costs. Fast forward to the latest 5 Series, and the action starts in the nineties – the $90,000-plus 520d – and noughties with the $100,000-plus 530i.
In the last half-decade BMW has joined the war against the decline of large cars by giving its contender a point of difference. Once known as an executive sports sedan, then pigeonholed as conservative in this age of the coupe SUV, the new ‘5er’ is now packed with technology.
Technology, it must be said, that costs more. So what is the current BMW 530i, then – a sports sedan, a luxury car, a technology feast? Jack of all three, or perhaps a master of none?
Price and equipment
Priced from $108,900 plus on-road costs, the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 530i asks a hefty $15,000 more than the 520d, which mirrors the above engine configuration but slurps diesel.
Standard across the range is a head-up display, active cruise control, active lane-keep assistance, front and rear cross-traffic alerts, surround parking sensors with automatic park assistance, a surround-view monitor with panoramic view, and speed-sign recognition while 530i adds LED headlights with adaptive-auto high-beam that can block out light affecting only individual traffic.
Outside, and 19-inch alloy wheels replace the standard 18s, adaptive suspension becomes standard, while a 12.3-inch colour driver display with 600-watt Harman Kardon audio system, front seat heating and – on the no-cost-option Luxury Line – ventilation, and power tailgate have been added to the 520d’s leather trim, electrically adjustable front seats, digital radio and satellite navigation.
Further options include a sunroof ($2900 extra), massage front seats ($1800), an Innovations Package featuring remote control parking and cabin gesture control ($1600), soft-close doors ($1150), four-zone climate control ($900 and up from the standard dual-zone), wireless Apple CarPlay ($623 extra), and rear-seat heating that would tally $116,973 in total.
Interior‘Mini-7 Series’ is the first thing that comes to mind with the new BMW 5 Series. It matters not what specification level is chosen, either, because the smooth stitched-dashboard surfacing, plush doorhandles, and high-resolution screen graphics come standard across the range.
As-tested, the 530’s Luxury Line trim provides armchair-like comfort front and rear, with rich and deep padding that is all-encompassing to the torso and thighs. The small steering wheel is a lovely reminder that this BMW still wants to be a driver’s car, though, with the only downside to the cabin being a slightly plasticy feel to some of the lower controls that fails to quite feel six-figure-special.
The iDrive6 infotainment system is superb, though, with benchmark voice control that enables an owner to simply say ‘I feel like eating German’ and the navigation will find a close Bavarian Bier Café. The bird’s eye camera is also a treat, allowing for a view from various angles above the sedan.
Legroom and headroom front and rear is exceptional, and having tested a Mercedes-Benz E300 in the same week as the 530i, the Munich offering comfortably eclipses its Stuttgart rival both in terms of space and seat comfort, particularly in the rear. The BMW certainly has a greater edge there than its 10-litre boot volume deficit, which at 530L still remains generous.
Engine and transmission
Some buyers might struggle with the concept of paying over $100,000 for a large car with only a four-cylinder engine. A Porsche 718 Cayman can get away with losing two cylinders on a recent facelift because it is a lightweight sportscars, but a 530i is a heavier sedan.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is a gem though, with 350Nm of torque delivered from just off idle (1450rpm) until 4800rpm, or about when maximum power of 185kW takes over (5200rpm) and is then held strong until 6500rpm. Edgy and engaging, it is a terrific engine. But it can also be had for sub-$70,000 in a lighter BMW 330i, which is also quicker.
The new 5 Series is light for its size, with a kerb weight of 1540kg – or 115kg below an E300 – and when allied with a near-flawless, dual-clutch-quick eight-speed automatic the rear-wheel-drive sedan’s 6.2-second 0-100km/h claim is impressive.
For the price, though, it can feel malnourished. That is particularly the case when the 530d, with a 195kW/620Nm 3.0-litre turbo six-cylinder diesel, costs only $11,000 more than the 530i. It has a 5.7s 0-100km/h and fuel consumption of 4.7 litres per 100 kilometres. On test, this petrol four delivered 8.1L/100km, or above its 5.8L/100km claim.
Ride and handling
Adaptive suspension is optional on 520d but standard on 530i/e, 530d and 540i that – for now – round out the range. Broadly the multi-mode damping package does a decent job of quelling road imperfections and maintaining body control on rough roads, though it is not perfect.
Equipped with optional ($950) 20-inch wheels, the BMW can be clunky over sharp-edged potholes, while the standard Comfort mode – which it infuriatingly defaults to on each start up – can be wallowy at low speeds, where it gently rocks the body (itself and riders) enough to notice.
Switching to Sport or Adaptive (which uses a camera to read the road and automatically adjust settings) introduces improved control, but the downside is jittery ride quality. At this point it is worth noting that none of this affects an E-Class with large wheels and its air suspension equivalent, which is near-flawless for comfort and control. Indeed, the Mercedes-Benz also has more linear steering than the sharp, but sometimes too vacant (in Comfort) or muddy (in Sport) BMW steering.
Where the 530i absolutely comes into its own is with its outright dynamics.
This is absolutely the sharpest-handling and most agile large sedan in the world. The way it can feel light on its feet and beautifully matched front-to-rear is delicious. Plus, a driver can use the rear-wheel-drive chassis to thrust from corners like some sort of enlarged Mazda MX-5. In this way, an E300 is not even close.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with panoramic-view camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and assistance, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), and auto-adaptive high-beam.
ANCAP tested the BMW 5 Series in 2017 and it achieved five stars with 34.8 out of 38 points.
BMW Service Inclusive includes servicing over five years/80,000km at a cost of $1640.
The new-generation 5 Series is a truly great BMW large sedan that dips in only few details.
Largely it successfully blends an enormous and luxurious cabin with superb safety and convenience technology, a fantastic chassis, and decent performance.
However, once upon a time a 530i could have been relied upon to set the steering and suspension benchmark, but it now only does this with outright dynamics – although by a significant margin. The once-six-cylinder 530i also now makes its 530d six-cylinder diesel sibling appear better value.
For performance and economy, this 5 Series should be more affordable – perhaps not in the seventies (thousands of dollars), but definitely in the nineties. On the flipside BMW has so many model grades on offer, with plenty of options, that finding a ‘high 5’ is certainly not hard.
Jaguar XF R-Sport 35t from $104,227 plus on-road costsSix-cylinder supercharged petrol a delight, but options list is very long.
Mercedes-Benz E300 from $107,900 plus on-road costsBetter steering and damping, but suffers similar four-cylinder value shortfall.
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