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Driven: BMW launches 5 Series tech-fest

High five: BMW Australia is not expecting a massive sales boom from the new 5 Series, given the consumer shift towards SUVs.

Seventh-gen BMW 5 Series cops a price rise but adds loads of new tech features


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3 Mar 2017

BMW Australia has added standard safety features and left greater chassis technology optional as part of local specification for its seventh-generation 5 Series, in a move designed to please an older buyer base that values the latest driver aids.

According to BMW Australia, the 5 Series remains the benchmark in the large sedan segment for handling dynamics, however the all-new sedan (and forthcoming wagon) range now balances this with an onslaught of convenience and safety technologies.

Every model grade in the 5 Series range – comprising $93,900 520d, $108,900 530i, $119,900 530d and $136,900 540i – will be equipped with six stereo cameras, five radar sensors and 12 ultrasonic sensors used for a suite of features.

When lane markings are detected, the driver can steer “hands free” for up to 30 seconds at speeds of up to 210km/h. Should another vehicle swerve towards the lane the 5 Series is driving in, it can gently steer towards the outside of the lane.

Speed limit signs can be detected and the driver can choose at the press of one button to set the active cruise control to that speed (or 15km/h above or below it, as preset). The system also extends the functionality of the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) from its 80km/h limit to 210km/h, while automatic park assistance is backed by front and rear sensors and a surround-view camera.

Several convenience features also trickle down from the 7 Series including gesture control for the audio and phone system, a colour remote central locking display key and remote control parking as part of a $1600 Innovations Package available across the range.

However, other chassis technology remains optional, including three-mode adaptive suspension (a $2150 option on the 520d) and Adaptive Drive four-wheel steering (no-cost on 540i, $2250 extra on other models), while active front and rear anti-roll bars are available and standard only on the 540i.

BMW Australia head of product planning Shawn Ticehurst explained that the 5 Series garnered an older audience who are “retired or semi-retired and have the time to enjoy the technology”.

“We are expecting an older buyer, so I don’t think age is a barrier (and) I’m confident that there are older buyers who will embrace this stuff and love it and use it even more so than younger people distracted by other things,” he added.

Asked whether 5 Series buyers preferred new technology as standard over chassis enhancements, Mr Ticehurst replied: “Part of it is things like Adaptive Drive is an expensive technology and that’s a tough one to roll out on 520d, so we kept that for 540i.

“The four-wheel steering is a really personal one, you either love it or you think it’s a bit weird (and) it might have been a step too far to say it’s standard on everything,” he added.

However, Mr Ticehurst also insisted that the 5 Series remained “the driver’s car” in the premium large sedan segment.

Despite a higher number of standard inclusions, increased performance, lower efficiency and competitive pricing, Mr Ticehurst did not expect sales of the 5 Series to increase compared with the heights of the previous model as it could ride atop the SUV boom. He did, however, believe that the large car range would lift well above the final year figures for the outgoing generation.

“With 5 Series we find so much of it is loyalty (sales) and those sort of buyers, especially when they know there is a new car on the horizon, their attitude is often ‘we’ll wait’,” Mr Ticehurst reasoned for the 5 Series’ 2016 sales result that was down 47.5 per cent on 2015.

“I think (the sales increase with the new model) will be decent but we’re not expecting it to go above where 5 Series has been historically in its boom time when a new model has been launched.

“The fact of the market is that SUVs are booming, sedan models like this will do well and do well enough, but they won’t go through those peaks.”

In 2011, BMW sold 1384 examples of the F10 generation compared with 545 sales last year.

However, the 520d is also no longer expected to be the most popular variant in the range. Previously securing 41 per cent of sales, the entry diesel’s proportion will fall to a forecast 30 per cent.

The previous petrol 528i’s 24 per cent share is expected to rise to a dominant 40 per cent, while the up-spec diesel 535d is tipped to secure only 10 per cent of sales versus the flagship petrol 540i’s 20 per cent. The change has occurred as a result of the passenger car market’s shift away from diesels.

“Part of it is the market shift to petrols now, which we’re seeing across segments now except for SUVs,” Mr Ticehurst explained.

“There was (also) a point where we launched a whole new range of diesel engines and they were good … (but) we’ve now gone through this switch with petrol engines to newer generations so a lot of it have got to do with the fact these new petrol engines are so well received.”

The G30 5 Series range exclusively features rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic, with weight savings of up to 95kg compared with its F10 predecessor – kerb weight is now as light as 1540kg with 530i – owing to a new use of magnesium and all-aluminium doors, bootlid and bonnet.

The 4935mm-long sedan stretches 28mm further than before, although it is only nominally wider (1868mm, up 8mm) and taller (1466mm, rising 2mm), with a 2975mm wheelbase pushed out by 7mm. A 530-litre boot is also 10L larger.

BMW’s local line-up starts with the 520d utilising a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder with an unchanged 140kW and 400Nm. However, it now delivers official combined fuel consumption of 4.3 litres per 100 kilometres (down 1.0L/100km) and a 7.5-second 0-100km/h claim (0.6s faster).

The company claims that while there is a pricing increase of $9145 for the 520d, it has added $15,400 in standard features that were previously optional but which most buyers picked anyway.

The 520d includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and foglights, colour head-up display, full leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats and steering column, leather-look dashboard trim, dual-zone climate control, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen with internet connectivity and digital radio.

The 530i replaces both the 520i and 528i in the range, but still with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder now developing 185kW/350Nm (up 5kW), and claiming 5.8L/100km (down 0.7L/100km) and a 6.2s 0-100km/h (unchanged).

It shares specification with the 530d that includes a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder offering 195kW/620Nm, and claiming 4.7L/100km and a 5.7s 0-100km/h.

Although it effectively replaces the twin-turbo 535d that previously delivered 230kW/630Nm, the 530d’s consumption falls by 1.4L/100km but with a 0.2s-slower 0-100km/h and $3755 price cut.

By contrast the 530i’s price rises by $9645 to close the gap between petrol four and diesel six, although BMW Australia claims it has added $16,050 in new features compared with both predecessors.

Over the 520d, the 530i and 535d add 19-inch alloy wheels with adaptive suspension, M Sport brakes, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high-beam assistance, electric opening bootlid, front seat heating, 12.3-inch colour driver display and 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

The flagship 540i replaces the 535i, but continues to use a 3.0-litre turbo-petrol six-cylinder now with 250kW/450Nm (up 25kW/50Nm). It claims 6.7L/100km (down 1.2L/100km) and a 5.1s 0-100km/h (0.6s quicker).

BMW Australia claims it has added $34,300 in added value for a price rise of $19,245 – including 20-inch alloys, sunroof, electric rear sunblind, Nappa leather trim with ventilated front seats over the 530i/535d.

2017 BMW 5 Series pricing*
520d (a)$93,900
530i (a)$108,900
530d (a)$119,900
540i (a)$136,900
*Excludes on-road costs

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