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TMR Team | Feb 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

Even though your first grade maths teacher will say it's impossible, seven easily divides into five - at least that's the impression we got from our first drive of the 2017 BMW 5 Series.

BMW's propellorheads have made the 5 Series feels as though there is clearly defined formula that links the German brand's flagship limousine (the 7 Series) and its all-important, new mid-sized sedan.

The 5 Series arrives in Australian showrooms next month, with an initial four-model line-up that features an increased level of standard equipment, revised engines with more power and better fuel consumption and the latest, most advanced suite of active safety functions from the German brand.

Vehicle Style: Large Sedan
Price: $119,900 (530d), $136,900 (540i - both prices exclude on-road costs),

Engine/trans: 195kW/620Nm 3.0 litre 6cyl turbo-diesel (530d), 250kW/450Nm 3.0 6cyl turbo-petrol (540I) | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.5 l/100km (540i) 4.9 l/100km (530d)

 

OVERVIEW

Like its most direct competitor, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW has re-positioned the 5 Series to become the company's technology leader – giving it a clear point of difference between the affordable and popular 3 Series and the opulent 7 Series.

But prices across the range have been raised - by around $10,000 on average, with the entry-level 520d now starting at $93,900 (plus on-road costs) - although BMW Australia claims the additional equipment offsets the extra costs by offering more value.

The latest 5 Series, which runs under the G30 codename, is underpinned by an all-new platform that is stronger than its predecessor, although its overall dimensions remain largely the same, with the biggest difference being a slight extension to the wheelbase that liberates a little more room in the back seat.

 

THE INTERIOR

BMW has applied a familiarity philosophy to the 5 Series' cabin, which utilises an identical set of screens and controls from the luxurious 7 Series, including its fully digital instrument cluster, the high-resolution 10.25-inch multi-media screen floating on the top of the dash, the haptic touch controls for the heating and ventilation system and the latest-generation iDrive rotary controller.

It also picks-up the gimmicky gesture control commands, where front-seat passengers can control the volume, answer or hang-up a phone call or view around the car on the 360-degree camera by reading pre-determined hand movements.

But the multi-media screen is up there among the benchmarks, with crystal clear resolution and it now has touch screen operation (as well as through the iDrive) that allows the ability to customise its layout with app-style tiles.

The larger head-up display sets a new standard for clarity and the level of information it displays and the fact it uses GPS location and road-sign software to determine whether or not to activate the engine's stop-start function to save fuel is smart and convenient.

There's also wireless phone charging in the binnacle at the base of the centre console and the 5 Series is the first car in the world to offer Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring without a direct cable connection.

Like the 7 Series, the overall ambience is genuinely luxurious thanks to sumptuous leathers on all the tactile surfaces, high-quality plastics on other areas and deep piano black and brushed aluminium highlights throughout the cabin.

There was a noticeable difference in the levels of comfort and support offered by the sports seats that were fitted to the range-topping 540i and the regular seats in the next-level down 530d that we drove during the global preview. While both had plenty of adjustment to suit drivers of all sizes, the sports seat (which is standard on the 540i and optional on other models) had more lateral support that didn't seem to have any negative affect on its comfort over long-distances, whereas the standard seat felt noticeably flatter even with its adjustable side bolsters in the tightest position.

That aside, the 5's cabin is a nice place to sit with a great driving position, clear vision all round, decent headroom and adequate legroom in the rear seat for two adults to travel in relative comfort. And the boot offers plenty of space for luggage with a deep recess and a flat floor.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • Engine: 195kW/620Nm 3.0 litre 6cyl turbo-diesel (530d), 250kW/450Nm 3.0 6cyl turbo-petrol (540I)
  • Transmission: 8sp automatic
  • Fuel Economy claimed: 6.5 l/100km (540i) 4.9 l/100km (530d)

The 2017 BMW 5 Series is lighter than before (by up to 100kg in some variants) thanks to a greater use of aluminium, although it doesn't utilise the lightweight carbon fibre structural elements introduced on the latest-generation 7 Series as they are too expensive and cannot be manufactured in high enough volume for the 5 Series.

It doesn't have the 7's air suspension (even as an option) either, as BMW deliberately wanted to provide the 5 with a sportier driving character that makes it the most dynamic vehicle in its class.

But in all other regards, the 5 Series is essentially a smaller facsimile of its flagship big brother, which in one regard is paying it a pretty significant compliment but, on the other hand, there is also such an air of familiarity about it that you kind of wonder if BMW is pressing too hard on the cookie cutter.

On the road, the 5 Series has an all-round polished character that is as refined as it is dynamic. With only the top-level six-cylinder models available on the launch program we'll reserve judgement on how it drives in base-level specification until it lands in Australia but, from our first impression, the foundations feel pretty rock solid with exceptional insulation from road and wind noise at highway speeds, a compliant ride even on larger 20-inch alloys, well-weighted steering and sure-footed handling.

Both six-cylinder engines offer a creamy smooth power delivery in slightly different ways. The 530d's new-generation 3.0-litre turbo diesel, which generates 195kW and 620Nm while consuming an average of 4.9L/100km, offers a momentous mid-range that makes it effortless to drive at any speed.

The 540i is powered by an upgraded version of BMW's venerable 3.0-litre turbo petrol six cylinder that now punches out 250kW and 450Nm with a claimed average fuel consumption of 6.5L/100km. Likewise, it is strong at middle engine speeds but is more linear in the way it revs over a wider power band and has a throaty exhaust note under heavy acceleration, making it the more engaging car to drive when the roads turn twisty.

It is helped by the fact it is fitted with BMW's Adaptive Drive suspension system, which mates adjustable dampers with electronically-controlled anti-roll bars that help improve cornering ability without any negative impact on the compliance at each corner.

The 530d is hardly a slouch on a back country road either thanks to the fitment of four-wheel steering, which amplifies the initial turn-in response, makes it more stable at high speeds and tightens its turning radius for car parks and inner city streets.

BMW Australia has yet to confirm whether the Integral Steering (as BMW calls it) will be made available to local 5-Series models, but it is expected to only be offered on the 530i and 530d variants as it cannot be fitted on vehicles equipped with the Adaptive Drive.

At the other end of the driving spectrum, the 5 Series has all the smarts to drive itself (it can actually park in tight spaces without anyone behind the wheel) with a comprehensive suite of active aids that are linked to its radar cruise control and lane-keeping assistance functions. With both activated, it can stop-and-go within heavy traffic with little intervention from the driver while, at highway speeds, it gently keeps the car travelling in the centre of the lane (even around slight bends) and at a safe distance from the car in front.

It isn't as intrusive, or as binary, as earlier iterations but it feels like it's only a baby step closer to being a fully-autonomous car.

 

TMR FIRST DRIVE VERDICT

In the metal, at least at first glance, there isn't a striking impression that the G30 is an all-new BMW 5 Series. It is only when you line it up against its predecessor that the level of detail in how different it is becomes crystal clear.

Perhaps damning BMW for not stretching its boundaries too far is a little harsh as the mid-sized executive sedan segment is ultimately one of the most conservative in the industry, and the latest 5's familiarity could actually be a feather in its cap.

All in all, there's a lot to like about the seventh-generation 5 Series. It is a great car to drive in any event, whether it's pounding the city streets between meetings, leisurely cruising the highways to get out of the rat race or blowing the cob webs out on a back country mountain pass.

It has all the luxury and convenience of a limousine and yet the character and agility of a smaller sports sedan, making it a great all-rounder – and one of the smartest cars on the planet. Smarter than your first grade teacher perhaps...

MORE: BMW News and Reviews
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