MUNICH, GERMANY – “The heart of the brand” is what BMW AG sales and marketing director, Ian Robertson, used to describe the 5 Series. And it’s difficult to argue when you learn that more than 6,6 million units have been sold since its debut in 1972. The 5 is in its sixth generation, of which a million units have already been sold, making it the most successful 5 Series to date. Now BMW has decided to refine it in the middle of its life cycle. It may only be minor changes, in fact, some are hardly noticeable, but it’s sure to give Mercedes-Benz a good fight in the executive saloon segment.
Having recently tested the facelifted Mercedes E250 at CAR, I was curious to see what BMW had up its designer sleeves. Speaking to the head of exterior design, Domagoj Dukec, it became clear the company merely tweaked an already good-looking vehicle. Contour lines have been added to the surrounds of the BMW kidney grilles and newly structured lower air intakes add to the sporty appeal of the 5 Series. The front apron has been modified, but again, ever so slightly. Xenon headlamps are now standard on all models. LED foglamps and adaptive LED headlamps are optional. The indicators are now integrated in the side mirrors. The rear end has seen newly structured lights and an additional crease in the rear apron. The boot capacity of the new Gran Turismo version has been increased by 60 litres to 500 litres.
Step inside the cabin and it feels as if nothing has changed … because almost nothing has. The control display is bordered with a chrome trim, and storage space and the number of cupholders have been increased. That’s it.
The drive in Munich’s countryside and a spin on the autobahn revealed that the changes in chassis and steering are so slight that they go almost unnoticed. It still holds the appeal of a luxury yet fun drive. Whipping it round tight corners or opening it up on the highway remind you that this car is still one of the closest to getting the balance between comfort and dynamics spot on. It is impressively smooth and handles whatever you throw at it with grace and agility.
All 5 Series engines are now EU6 emission compliant. The saloon comes with a choice of four petrol and six diesel engines. A new entry-level diesel engine has been added to the line up, the 518d with an impressive fuel consumption of 4,5 L/100 km and CO2 emissions of 119 g/km. We won’t see this option in South Africa, however. Topping the range is a brand-new V8 powerplant with twin-turbo technology, which produces a whopping 330 kW of power. The engine line-up for the new BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo comprises two petrol units and three diesel engines. I drove the 530d saloon on the launch and what really stood out for me was just how refined the 3,0-litre single-turbo diesel engine is. I almost can’t see a need for the 535d version, so powerful and yet economical is this version.
But what does this all mean for the E-Class? Well, it’s hard to say. Both offer superb ride quality, excellent performance and are economical – even more so now than before – and dominate this segment. To me, it comes down to brand loyalty and the ever-so-slight differences here and there. Both cars offer complete packages.
BMW has placed huge emphasis on individualisation. BMW Individual offers a range of features ranging from exterior paint finishes to interior upholstery and a wood insert for the leather steering wheel. New to the 5 Series is the BMW Luxury Line and BMW Modern Line packages which offer exclusive design and equipment features. The M Sport Package can also be specified.
It’s safe to say that the 5 Series is that much more exciting than the E-Class, but that doesn’t mean it walks away with the title of best executive saloon. As we mention in our road test of the E250 (August 2013, on shelves from 22 July), “The E’s quiet manners, comfort and solidity are among the tenets of what makes a successful mile-munching executive saloon.” The same could be said of this 5 Series, but just add a pinch of thrill to that and you have the recipe for the heart of any brand.
The new 5 Series will arrive in South Africa in October.
Model: BMW 530d Sedan
Engine: 3,0-litre TwinPower Turbo
Power: 190 kW at 4000 r/min
Torque: 560 N.m at 1500-3000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 5,8 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h
Fuel consumption: 5,1 L/100 km
CO2: 139 g/km
All manufacturer’s claimed figures