Forget what you learnt in maths class because these days seven goes easily into five. Take this new-generation 2017 BMW 530d as a prime example of how and why.
At first glance this is a traditional full-sized sedan. Now more than ever, though, the new 5 Series offers among the most advanced technology found in any segment of vehicle at any price. Plus, there’s a hefty helping of old-school luxury items as well.
Yet it would still be calling it short to say that 5 Series now mimics 7 Series, because this vehicle is even more indulgent than its stretched sibling of only a few years ago.
There has, however, been a good reason why seven hasn’t always easily gone into five – this BMW has long been a driver’s car, not a chauffeur special. So has the new 530d’s character changed, and if so, is it for better or worse?
Vehicle Style: Large sedan
Price: $119,900 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 195kW/620Nm 3.0 six-cylinder turbo diesel | eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.7 L/100km | Tested: 8.2 L/100km
BMW believes the $108,900 (plus on-road costs) 530i with a 185kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol will be the most popular 5 Series. But surely the $11K stretch to this identically equipped $119,900 (plus orc) 530d appears even greater value, for the upgrade to the 195kW/620Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder alone.
Even claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption falls, from 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres for the 530i, to an astonishing 4.7L/100km here with this 530d. Meanwhile the respective 0-100km/h performance times are 6.2 seconds and 5.7sec.
While the standard equipment list is already indulgent, our test vehicle came with $20,000 of extra-cost options.
Even so, from massage seats, to the best 360-degree panoramic-view camera in the business, to the ability for the driver to stand outside the sedan and watch it park, to ears-crushing audio, this now looks like $200K-plus luxury for less than $150K.
- Standard Equipment: Active cruise control, Nappa leather trim with electrically adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, keyless auto-entry, four-zone climate control air-conditioning, head-up display, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto headlights/wipers, adaptive-auto high-beam and electric tailgate.
- Infotainment: 10.25-inch colour touchscreen with iDrive controller, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, wireless phone charging, digital radio, twin USB inputs, ConnectedApps functionality, 4G LTE connectivity, live-traffic satellite navigation, voice control and 600-watt Harman Kardon audio.
- Options Fitted: 1400-watt Bowers and Wilkins audio ($6400), sunroof ($2900), metallic paint ($2000), massaging front seats ($1800), Innovations Package (colour display key, gesture control for audio volume, remote driver-less parking – $1600), rear window blinds ($1600), soft-close doors ($1150), Apple CarPlay ($623) and heated rear seat ($700) and steering wheel ($500).
- Cargo Volume: 530 litres.
At first glance the BMW 5 Series cabin doesn’t appear as debonair as that of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The design seems a bit generic and formal in the face of its arch rival’s sweeping grace, S-Class-like circular airvents and widescreen displays.
Look closer, however, and this 530d offers richer leather trim and more consistent detailing. The door armrests, for example, are lushly padded; in the Benz they are hard with a thin layer of leather cloaking them. It might be a little thing, but it’s such little things that differentiate real luxury from a veneer thereof.
BMW’s iDrive system remains absolutely best-in-class. It’s a bit rich – so to speak – of the company to leave Apple CarPlay as a $623 option, but this is the only system that can perform smartphone mirroring wirelessly. Charging that device can be performed wirelessly too, while the voice control system is so good a driver can simply say ‘I feel like pizza’ and the sat-nav will list the nearest meatlovers-makers.
The high-resolution 10.25-inch screen is also home to a 360-degree camera with a panoramic-view function, allowing you to sweep around the car from above in real time. Most reverse-view cameras deliver less impressive graphics than what this system manages to display of the whole world around it.
All the controls on the steering wheel, or for the trip computer, are simpler than they are in an E-Class, but in this case it doesn’t translate into them being more simplistic. The whole wad of technology is simply intuitive and effortless to engage with.
Sink into the lush Nappa leather front seats, however, and old-school luxury takes over with full electric adjustment, massage functionality, and heating and cooling, all controlled by a colour four-zone climate control display on the lower dash.
There isn’t necessarily more rear-seat space than the old 5 Series, though, which means generous but not enormous space. Blame the thickly padded seats for intruding on room – but the bench is supremely comfortable back there.
Teamed with a 530-litre boot volume, this is 730d writ large. Yet slightly smaller, if that makes sense. Yes, the options list is extensive on the 530d above its $120K pricetag. But this is absolutely now the most limo-like cabin around for sub-$150K.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 195kW/620Nm 3.0 six-cylinder turbo diesel
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, RWD
- Suspension: Independent front and rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
Down narrow city streets the 530d might as well be a 730d. This new 5 Series is a seriously large car, and a reminder of its sheer width comes every time the parking sensors lose their marbles when wiggling in between parked cars on both sides of it.
Maybe thankfully, when parking, the driver can step outside and use the colour display key to park the BMW remotely, which mostly works a treat; except sometimes it demands standing beside the driver’s door to follow it into a space, which sort-of defeats the purpose. Or maybe this is just a gimmick to one-up Benz. Surely not.
There’s less debate about the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder which is an absolute sweetheart. Creamy, refined, intensely torquey (with 620Nm from 2000-2500rpm) and yet powerfully connected through the throttle, it’s virtually flawless. As is the eight-speed automatic.
Sure, the combined-cycle fuel consumption claim of 4.7 litres per 100 kilometres is fanciful, but with an average speed of 29km/h around town, this indulgent yet fast sedan managed to keep to 10.0L/100km. Double the combined claim, yes, but amazing for stop-start traffic. Getting it to fall to 8.2L/100km was too easy, as well.
With three-mode adaptive suspension as standard – including Comfort, Sport and Adaptive, which uses the stereo cameras to read the road – the 530d mostly rides to lush expectations. Comfort can be floaty over speed humps, but it works a treat on urban arterials and above; whereas Adaptive is best around town but jiggly at speed.
There is one sizeable problem, quite literally. Run-flat tyres can cause ride quality issues to begin with, but liquorice-thin 30-aspect 20-inch rubber is absurd for this type of sedan. The suspension delivers brilliant softness or control, but the banging and thumping of the alloy wheel rims is inescapable here. Other brands – such as Lexus or Porsche – manage to hide the effects of big tyres better.
Thankfully, 19s are standard and 45-aspect 18s – in a pretty multi-spoke design – are a no-cost option.
Otherwise the 530d is quiet and comes with automatic steering technology that allows hand’s-free driving for moments at a time; and it works just as fluently as the latest Benz systems, never allowing the sedan to run out of its lane. That said, a Tesla AutoPilot system is better again.
Teamed with auto high-beam that can block out individual traffic and leave the rest of the road flooded with light, though, and it’s difficult to expect more tech for this price.
But is this 5 Series now both Ultimate Tech Machine and Ultimate Driving Machine? Mostly, yes.
The steering is generally direct, though some oddly variable weighting can come to the fore when winding on lock from the feather-light centre position. The chassis feels lovely and light on its feet, thanks to a slim – for its size – 1640kg kerb weight. There’s agility to spare and, with rear-wheel drive, lovely thrust from corners.
But there are clues that maybe this BMW’s character is changing.
The Sport+ mode previously used has vanished, and in Sport the electronic stability control (ESC) feels more restrictive than it should in an athletic sports sedan. Switch the 530d’s engine off, and upon returning to the sedan it resets everything to Comfort mode, leaving the driver to then thumb through to preferred settings after each drive.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the BMW 5 Series scored 34.8 out of 38 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: 10 airbags, ABS and ESC, forward collision alert with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot and lane-departure warnings with lane-keep assistance, active speed limit information, front and rear parking sensors with front and rear cross-traffic alert and auto park assist, and surround-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: The 5 Series is covered by BMW’s Condition Based Servicing (CBS).
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The A6 is old, while the XF is expensive with options and awaiting new engines later this year. The V90 is competent and left-of-centre but the real challenger is E-Class … and the 5 Series might just have the edge.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
An over-arching question with this fully loaded 2017 BMW 530d is this: does it feel like a worthy sub-$150K luxury-to-sports large sedan? And the answer is ‘absolutely.’
The cabin and this particular drivetrain are virtually flawless in their velvety execution, while BMW has basically ignored the fact it has a 7 Series flagship in its lineup and given almost all of its technology goodies to the 5 Series for a six-figure-sum less.
Even in the fleeting agility of its chassis and its rear-drive configuration, this is still a driver’s car. However, we would love to try a 530d on smaller – read smarter – tyres because the 20-inch wheels remain a slight sore point. Likewise, the steering could be more incisive and a Sport+ mode would feel less restrictive in dynamic driving.
But that is to take little away from the bigger picture, because this BMW 5 Series is in most ways a beautifully complete large sedan.
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