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Car reviews - BMW - 5 Series - range

Our Opinion

We like
Better value packages, engine performance and efficiency of all variants, slick eight-speed auto, stylish M Sport pack, ride and handling
Room for improvement
Entry engines occasionally feel breathless, naff ‘Luxury’ and ‘Modern’ badges, bland ‘Modern’ colour scheme

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BMW logo31 Oct 2013

THE only variant to get any kind of performance changes is the 4.4 twin-turbo V8 550i, which picks up a 10 per cent increase in power from 300kW to 330kW.

Torque also gets a boost in the process, up to 610Nm from 600Nm.

That may not sound like a huge boost but it has translated to quite an improvement to performance, with the zero to 100km/h dropping from 5.0 seconds to an M3-matching 4.6 seconds.

The high-rolling version in question also gets a price chop of $20,100 – those savings could put a Ford Focus on your driveway next to the 550i.

A full-boot pull-away in the 550i was very entertaining and feels every bit as quick as the nimble and much lighter M3. The significant increase in output isn’t beyond the capability of the 5 Series chassis however, and the same composed road manner - even at higher speeds - accompanies the extra dollop of performance.

Our test-car was dressed up in the M Sport styling package which adds a touch of gloss black to exterior trims, a dusting of aluminiumn and a black roof-lining to the interior, a chunky steering-wheel and firmer suspension.

Any 5 Series BMW can now be ordered in a choice of three styling ‘Lines’.

The aforementioned M Sport splashes a bit of M-badge magic around the car, the Modern Line adds aluminium trims to the exterior with lighter wood and interior tones, while the Luxury Line substitutes the aluminium with chrome and darkens the interior shades.

Darker shades as offered by the Luxury pack worked well with the 5 Series styling but the lighter Modern Line were a bit too close to beige for our liking. The choice of styling pack is described by a small badge positioned on the wing behind the front wheel which we thought was a little showy by traditional BMW standards.

Our pick would be the M Sport package as it offers a classy but understated look and is the only pack to add the firmer sport suspension and the excellent three-spoke M steering wheel and the wing badge is a simple small M.

The three aesthetic packages are included in the base-price of each variant, which simplifies the process of customising a 5 Series and removes many of the confusing and expensive items from the options list.

In terms of equipment upgrades, the $97,400 528i has come out on top with around $20,000 worth of equipment has been added, with a $1400 price-cut to boot.

The increased diameter 19-inch wheels (previously 18-inch) have added a more grown-up look but haven’t compromised the ride or interior noise levels, and when pushed hard around corners the 528i hung-on well.

The good road-manners and lively handling can be partly attributed to the relatively light four-cylinder engine up-front but don’t think that its 2.0-litre capacity makes it the soft-option.

With the addition of a turbocharger, the 528i produces 180kW of power and an almost diesel matching 350Nm of torque, but still manages to return a combined fuel consumption of 6.5 l/100km.

Piloting the 528i is a rewarding experience and the performance belies its 1700kg weight.

When not driving enthusiastically we had chance to play with all the new no-cost toys.

BMW’s Multifunction Instrument Display replaces the traditional mechanical gauges with an LCD screen, which allows the information to be displayed a number of different ways.

Under normal driving conditions the road-speed, engine-speed, fuel level and oil temperature are displayed in a conventional four-gauge format, but when sport mode is selected the whole appearance changes to accentuate the more important figures.

A large road-speed figure is displayed in the centre of the tachometer and the selected gear number appears surrounded by the speedometer, making it very easy to monitor information while enjoying faster sections of road.

When maneuvering at lower speeds, the Surround View system uses a series of cameras positioned around the car to create a birds-eye view of the vehicle and provides confidence inspiring visibility.

A top-notch HarmanKardon sound system upgrade further compliments the interior comfort with digital radio included too.

Both diesel offerings have been treated to more standard equipment too with the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder $121,900 535d (up $1200) sharing the 528i extras, but adding a fully-automatic parking assistant.

With 230kW and a hearty 630Nm on tap, maintaining a decent pace in the big oil-burner was effortless, but in tight cornering the heavier nose couldn’t quite deliver the poise of the lighter engined four-cylinder variants.

The smaller capacity 2.0-litre $82,400 520d (up $1400) could have felt a little breathless if it wasn’t for the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission.

It might only have 135kW of power but thanks to the close gear ratios, the little diesel could be kept right in the middle of the 380Nm of torque, allowing respectable progress and an almost unbelievable economy figure of just 4.7 l/100km.

All variants in the range have an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard and provided super-smooth gear-changes, working just as well with all of the engines we tested.

Negotiating the minefield that is the BMW 5 Series options list can be a very expensive exercise, but with far more equipment jumping off the extras list and on to the standard equipment, buying BMW’s large sedan is now a lot simpler.

The same impeccable road manner associated with the 5 Series remains unchanged, but the minor rework of aesthetics and added value make the decision between a 5 Series or a Mercedes E-Class (or Audi A6/Jaguar XF) just as tricky as ever.

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