Subscribe
Search articles


CAPE TOWN - The new BMW 530d has the odds stacked against it in the current market place. Firstly, sedans are not exactly the flavour of the month as proven by the hordes of SUVs on our roads. Secondly, the 5 Series range now starts at R770 956 (for the 520d) and this specific model surpassed the R1-million mark with its options fitted, which is plenty of money for a mid-model-range executive saloon. Lastly, “Dieselgate” has done the international reputation of oil-burners no favours.

However, do not let the listed concerns prompt you to cancel your order; it is a brilliant vehicle.

That engine

Turbodiesel engines are known for a good performance-to-fuel-consumption ratio. In the 530d, the six-cylinder, 3,0-litre mill delivers 195 kW but, even more impressively, 620 N.m. It is this latter figure that lends the vehicle an elastic, mid-range acceleration capability that the 540i (3,0-litre turbo petrol with 250 kW and 450 N.m) we had on test a week earlier simply cannot match. The instant response to throttle inputs in town reminds of a high-power electric powertrain pushing the vehicle along. In this case, though, a meaty growl from the engine department is pleasant to the ear.

On our test strip, the powertrain connected to the slick eight-speed torque converter transmission matched the impressive 0-100 km/h claim from BMW of 5,7 seconds. The fuel consumption claim of 5,1 L/100 km is slightly optimistic, but our fuel route figure of 6,5 L/100 km is still mighty impressive given the performance potential on offer.

The only criticisms against the 530d engine compared to that of the petrol unit in the 540i are the slightly less refined nature and reduced peak performance. The steering wheel vibrates slightly at idle (if the stop-start function does not kick in) and the turbodiesel runs ever so slightly out of puff towards redline in each gear. This is all relative, though, as it still packs enough punch to attempt three-trucks-at-once overtaking manoeuvres…

Ride and handling

The advantage of piloting a sedan compared to an SUV is immediately apparent when the road starts to snake. The low centre of gravity and planted feel of the 530d allows the driver to confidently turn the vehicle into a bend and enjoy the building of lateral force while the vehicle stays in complete control. Yes, the 5 Series may not be as nimble as its more popular smaller brother, but it thrives on long, sweeping bends at high speed.

Sport mode enhances the response of the powertrain further while the dynamic traction control option (one press of the traction control button) elicits a few chirps from the Michelin rubber during enthusiastic driving. Switching off the traction control can result in anti-social behaviour (i.e tail-slides) not in tune with the elegant persona of this vehicle.

Our test unit was sans the adaptive damper option (fitted to the 540i unit) and it is clear that a slight compromise was made in terms of ultimate ride comfort. The standard suspension (in combination with the 19-inch wheels) results in a slightly firmer ride in Comfort mode than expected, especially when a ridge in the road surface is encountered. This was obviously done to enhance the cornering prowess, but we would suggest ticking the adaptive suspension option to get the best of both worlds.

Styling

It is clear that BMW has evolved the previous styling rather than risking upsetting potential buyers in an slightly conservative segment of the market. The company has mostly succeeded and it is a good looking car in the flesh, but only keen eyes will spot that it is indeed the new 5.

Inside, the cabin mimics the technologically advanced setup of the 7 Series and it can feel intimidating at first as controlling the infotainment system can be done by various means. This includes the traditional iDrive controller, touchscreen, voice control and also gesture control, with the latter involving hand gestures above the centre console. Best is to use the function you are most comfortable with.

There is no denying that the materials, fit-and-finish and layout speak of craftsmanship of the highest order, but somehow the interior lacks that X-factor offered for example by Mercedes-Benz.

Practicality

With a increase of 36 mm in length, the 5 Series offers impressive rear legroom (700 mm) and the boot swallows 392 L, according to our measurements. That means there shouldn't be an issue fitting the holiday luggage of a family. In some sense, it makes one wonder whether the 7 Series is superfluous...

Summary

Although most potential buyers will probably opt for a luxury SUV, the few that decide on the 530d have made the right decision. It offers almost the space of a 7 Series, is frugal beyond reproach and provides true dynamic driving enjoyment. The fact that it costs a bar in this form will add to its exclusivity ... and ensure access to priority parking at high-end hotels.

GEORGE – BMW’s seventh-generation 5 Series has just been released on the local market and we got a chance to sample the halo diesel model, the BMW 530d M Sport. And with the many tenets of what’s perennially lent the 5 Series a distinctive appeal present and correct, there’s a distinct impression of "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" about the latest iteration.

Familial frame

Take a look at the German Big Three’s sedan line-ups and you’ll notice aesthetic threads that are so strong they blur the lines between the apex and the entry-level offerings that sees most having to do a double take in order to ascertain just which model they're clocking. And the latest 5 Series is yet another example of this trend. The lines are tauter than those of its forebear and the silhouette more elongated, lending it a more grown-up air. But this, along with such new signatures as more angular LED coronas glowing within headlamps that flow into the kidney grilles, sees the new 5 treading ever closer to the 7.

It’s a similar story in the cabin, where much of the switchgear and architecture will be familiar fare to anyone who’s sat in a 7, and that’s not a bad thing. The perceived quality is impressive, features such as the expanded colour head-up display work a treat and the slight angling of the central facia towards the driver is a nostalgic nod to BMW's past. Although our test unit’s black roof liner lent the cabin a rather sombre, close air it hides a cabin that’s roomy enough to comfortably accommodate a brace of six-footers in the back and a boot that, while deep, does have a noticeable amount of intrusion from the wheel arches.

The major changes take place under the 5’s skin, where an all-new platform and composite metal/alloy architecture lend the new car more cabin space and (in certain models) a weight saving of up to 100 kg.

Packed with autonomous tech

With autonomy being the current craze in automotive circles, it comes as little surprise that the latest 5 is offered with a suite of such driver aids that have filtered down from the 7 Series. Among these are radar-assisted adaptive cruise control and a semi-autonomous driving package that can plot the car along well-marked stretches of motorway – it utilises among other things a camera that scans lane markers – with little-to-no input from the driver. You can also opt for a remote parking system that allows you to stand aside while your car squeezes itself into tight bays with input from your smart key.

Diesel remains a favourite

The initial model line-up comprises four engines, pairs of petrols and diesels in four- and six-cylinder guises. The CAR team deemed the previous 530d the pick of the 5 Series litter, and with the arrival of a new 3,0-litre powerplant that bests its predecessor in every respect that doesn’t look set to change. While its 195 kW power output only modestly eclipses that of the previous engine, torque climbs to a hearty 620 N.m between 2 000-2 500 r/min, lending it appreciably more low-end punch, and therefore a modicum of added responsiveness, than the more powerful but 170 N.m-shy 540i.

Does it still deliver dynamically?

The answer is a definite yes. The somewhat artificial-feeling Dynamic Steering system that was a bone of contention in the cars on the international launch was pleasingly absent from the units we sampled on the wonderfully engaging ribbon of road that spans George's Robinson's Pass and then weaves onto the switchback-laden Karatara road just outside Sedgefield. The standard power steering is probably the best in its class, being quite communicative, responsive and weighting flexibly to whatever you throw its way.

The previous car, although impressive in its own right, occasionally felt somewhat leaden at speed – sometimes barrelling into bends with a touch more weight-related momentum than you’d deem confidence inspiring. The new car’s chassis, however, feels wonderfully balanced and the body control under hard cornering is mightily impressive. This was especially apparent in the M Sport package-equipped test units we were piloting, with the sportier springing rendering the BMW 530d a pleasingly nimble car.

The 3,0-litre turbodiesel six plays along with proceedings with a satisfying, muted snarl under hard acceleration and is well matched with a smooth, quick-shifting automatic transmission that never misses a beat. It also builds up a smile-inducing head of steam with an alacrity that the petrol six struggles to match. There's none of the nose-heavy ungainliness that sometimes afflicts big diesels, with the 5’s poise only becoming a little understeery when booting it through bends in a less than gentlemanly fashion. If there was one niggle, it's that the distinction between the sport and comfort drivetrain presets is not as marked as you'd expect.

But does it meet the sporty/refined balance?

On this front, the answer is more obtuse. In terms of general refinement, the 5 impresses with great suppression of mechanical noise and road noise, even on the coarse surfaces that coat many of the Garden Route’s roads, largely consigning them to a distant, unobtrusive rumble. But going the M Sport route does entail a compromise in terms of ride composure. The rippled but unbroken road surfaces we encountered sometimes set the stiffened springs to a slight stutter that would likely be absent in models with more modest springing and footwear.

Verdict

From tyres to top, this may be an all-new car but there’s nothing resembling a sea change going on here … and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The neat mix of driver engagement and relaxed refinement that’s perennially seen the 5 carve out an appealing place in its segment remains, albeit in a slightly more honed manner. As a foil to the comfort-orientated Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the wonderfully solid but somewhat anodyne Audi A6, the 5 looks set to carry on the proud legacy where its forebear left off.

Comments

All information, pictures, colours, specifications or any other data contained within the www.carmag.co.za website are presented only as a general guide to products and accessories offered by motor manufactures. Although every effort has been made to ensure that all such information is correct and up to date, no guarantee is provided that all such information is reliable, complete, accurate or without error. In some cases pictures of various foreign models may be shown as a guide. All information should be verified by an official dealership.

www.carmag.co.za does not accept any liability for damages of any kind resulting from the access or use of this site and its contents.

If you do not wish to be bound by these Terms you may not access, copy or download any content on this Website as per the CARmag Terms of Use available at carmag.co.za/terms_of_use.html

0 vehicles to be emailed:
To !
From !
To !