RE: BMW 5 Series: Review

Friday 17th February 2017

BMW 5 Series: Review

It'll pretty much drive itself... but why miss out?



For purists, for people who became fond of BMW through touring cars, rear-wheel drive and straight-sixes, the introduction to the latest 5 Series will make rather uncomfortable listening. There's discussion of how BMW is now a tech company as much as car company, that this is the most connected car BMW has ever produced and, it feels like at least, only a token mention of that old 'Ultimate Driving Machine' adage.


We'll get onto how a 520d 'Business Athlete' (BMW's own phrase) can get you a pizza ordered, find you a parking space and get you to that powerfully built company director meeting on time soon, but it's worth beginning with the positive news around the 5 Series as a sports saloon.

It most certainly is one, put simply; beyond the gesture control and the smart key and the remote parking - because it's now bigger than an E38 (Tomorrow Never Dies spec) 7 Series - this seventh-gen 5er remains a big exec that you can enjoy driving.

Opening argument
It starts the moment you get in, the seat able to be dropped low and the steering wheel pulled right out - it's a driving a position that's both fantastically comfortable yet also sets a sporting tone. The digital dials are clear and the dash is still angled slightly towards the driver; while the steering wheel remains too chubby in that odd BMW way, you're immediately in the right frame of mind for the business of driving and not just, well, business.


While the vast majority - a predicted 75-80 per cent, in fact - of UK 5 Series are expected to be 520ds, the bulk of driving time here was spent in the six-cylinder 530d. This is PH, after all; if the launch is diesel-only we're going for the fastest one! It's a great fit in the 5 Series, smooth and refined with plentiful performance and a gravelly straight six growl that is actually quite pleasant. It's paired to the familiar eight-speed auto which now uses the nav data to predict driving, holding gears when it's aware that corners are imminent and spookily accurate in its shift strategy. The full Adaptive mode as seen in the M760Li feels less successful simply because it believes brisker driving requires additional, artificial steering weight. Which it doesn't. And while paddles are standard fit, they're often left unused because the software is so intelligent.

The gearbox is worth additional mention in fact, as it's now the sole gearbox option across the range. Yes, the manual 5 Series is dead. A sad fact perhaps, although just 10 per cent of previous 520d customers kept the standard clutch 'n' stick combo. In the four-cylinder diesel the gearbox is a fraction less effective, kicking down sometimes frantically in search of performance where the larger engine would ride out the gear with its 162lb ft torque advantage.


While the six-cylinder arguably feels the more natural fit, the 520d feels far less of a compromise against the 530 than a Mercedes-Benz E220d does to its six-cylinder E350d stablemate. Where the E-Class feels to lack a small bit of smoothness of mechanical refinement, the 520d is more hushed and feels a tad brisker too. Both are supreme on the motorway though; BMW is keen to point out a fractional drag advantage at 0.22Cd, but each delivers the sort of relaxing progress befitting of more expensive cars.

The old smoothy
On silky smooth Spanish mountain roads, the 5 Series really impresses and begins to eke ahead of the Mercedes. While there are a host of dynamic options - all test cars here had Variable Damper Control, which is above the standard and M Sport suspension, and can be had with electromechanical anti-roll control - it fundamentally feels like a very well engineered saloon. It steers better than an M3, precise and without the gloopiness that afflicts that car. There are still better electric systems out there, but the car can be placed with confidence. Even in the comfort damper mode the 5 Series never feels out of its depth, absorbing what imperfections can be found with resolute control and super compliance. Up it to Sport and you trade a bit of one for some of the other, but the compromise always feels very well struck. The testing miles in Wales have paid off.


The reduced mass - now up to 100kg less than an equivalent F10 - feels to be kept low and central, direction changes are dealt with swiftly and authoritatively and you soon find yourself driving the 5 Series like a much smaller car. Enjoying it, too. It will be worth of course investigating which options work best for you - don't forget there's four-wheel steer available as well - but where the 5 Series was once a befuddling array of options that quite distinctly affected the car, this one feels to be inherently very well set up regardless of extras.

All the while of course you're sat in a sumptuous cabin, perhaps less luxurious than an E-Class but a compelling combination of technology, beautiful materials, space and comfort. There's a problem though, with the 530d at least: a lot of it is optional. Indeed the M Sport as tested was £66,150. And yes, BMW will still charge you for split-folding rear seats. Furthermore, options like the head-up display and comfort seats are part of far more expensive packages additionally comprised of stuff you probably wouldn't use. The seats, for example, are part of a £2,170 premium package that also features a powered boot, automatic four-zone air-con, an Ambient Air package and a 'ceramic finish for controls'.


Opt out
While discussing options, the suite of semi-autonomous tech should be mentioned. As most of it works only in an emergency situation little could be thoroughly tested, although the car did feel comfortable steering for itself on a motorway. That nothing named 'active' or 'assistant' or 'warning' interfered unduly is probably an encouraging sign for how well integrated they are. On this experience the 520d didn't feel like less of a car for not having them. Again, it probably comes down to personal taste.

For this car the BMW Connected app has taken another step forward, customers now able track their vehicle location, send an image of the parked car, sync Microsoft Office 365 and work calendars plus pre-set the heating for cold mornings. Some of that can be done from the optional smart key if you wish. It can even communicate with your smart home - that word again - to prep the house before you arrive. There's such a wealth of features that BMW now employees 'geniuses' to explain and set up the car's technology for customers. That's before we're onto the range of Concierge services, integrated into the voice control to give you access to an actual person who can provide parking options, reserve a restaurant table or get takeaway ordered if you're feeling less social. The list of features is vast, way more than can be explored in a day's driving, although it's worth noting the voice control didn't always respond flawlessly to requests; best to use the very good iDrive or slick touchscreen instead.

What's key to the 5 Series' appeal though is that beyond the carapace of technology, or a few features that feel to be there for the sake of it, lies a saloon of real engineering substance and some considerable style as well. It feels to combine the best of BMW's myriad talents, where a few previous efforts have only brought a couple to the party. More than that it immediately ranks with the E-Class, a car that felt to have brought the executive game on several steps just last year. If outright luxury is your priority then the E-Class just about remains the best; if you enjoy driving though, or have to have the four-cylinder diesel version, then the BMW is certainly the one to have - it's excellent.


BMW 520D SALOON
Engine:
1,995cc diesel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive (xDrive four-wheel drive optional)
Power (hp): 190@4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@1,750-2,500rpm
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds (7.6)
Top speed: 235kph (232)
Weight: 1,635kg (to EU, including 75kg driver, 1,695kg for xDrive)
MPG: 68.9 (62.8)
CO2: from 108g/km (from 119g/km)
Price: TBC
(Figures in brackets for xDrive)

BMW 530D SALOON
Engine:
2,993cc diesel (single turbo)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive (xDrive four-wheel drive optional)
Power (hp): 265@4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 457@2,000-2,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds (5.4)
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,715kg (to EU, including 75kg driver, 1,770kg for xDrive)
MPG: 62.8 (56.5) NEDC combined
CO2: from 118g/km (from 132g/km)
Price: TBC
(Figures in brackets for xDrive)

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

CoolHands

Original Poster:

8,072 posts

123 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
Why is the centre tunnel so wide

GTEYE

1,088 posts

138 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
CoolHands said:
Why is the centre tunnel so wide
Its so you can keep your distance from passengers you don't like!

A lot of tech going on here...and as we all know, what's state of the art today will be obsolete tat in a few short years.

I also wince at mention of the Connected Drive App....because anyone who has used it will conclude that it is garbage. Slow, slow slow....and ultimately a pointless gimmick!

HardMiles

107 posts

14 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
Looks nice. If it had only Bluetooth, sat nav, ABS, cruise control & parking sensors, dump the rest of the electro shyte, it'd be contemplated. I simply can't abide new cars. They are predominantly overweight due to the masses that have no idea how to use them...

JMF894

2,402 posts

83 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
I guess if money isn't really an issue a car like this is understandable as a daily, as you would have something more focused/fun in the garage at home. It's people who purport to be enthusiasts by virtue of the fact they have the latest barge with all the latest tech that frustrates me if i'm honest.

Each to their own and all that but this leaves me cold.

kambites

53,910 posts

149 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
HardMiles said:
Looks nice. If it had only Bluetooth, sat nav, ABS, cruise control & parking sensors, dump the rear of the electro shyte, it'd be contemplated. I simply can't abide new cars. They are predominantly overweight due to the masses that have no idea how to use them...
Depending on exactly what you mean but it, I doubt the "electro shyte" weighs more than a few kg. I guess you could save a bit by ditching electric seat adjustment and electric windows, but I don't think that's what you meant?

It's a heavy car because it's absolutely enormous.

Edited by kambites on Friday 17th February 09:03

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gonzales_turbo

100 posts

137 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
Is it just me that finds the wide gap above the kidneys awful?
It seems to be due to the integration of the front radar but this is a horrible detail...

margerison

284 posts

178 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
I wonder how much BMW will charge you if you lose that key. eek

Jerry Can

2,024 posts

151 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
what is the nomenclature, or model code for this new 5er. My E numbers (28/34/39/60/61) I am pretty good at but when it got to F's I am lost ( and I say this as an ex BMW employee)

David87

4,735 posts

140 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
Jerry Can said:
what is the nomenclature, or model code for this new 5er. My E numbers (28/34/39/60/61) I am pretty good at but when it got to F's I am lost ( and I say this as an ex BMW employee)
This is the G30. F is so last-gen. biggrin

spikyone

159 posts

28 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
It's not a car for me - anything without a manual is not a car for me, but especially so a barge like this. But I will say that the gearbox tech sounds very clever. I had an auto/diesel W212 as a courtesy car a while back and it was never in the right gear. The worst of its traits was refusing to downshift as you approached a roundabout or junction, leaving you without any acceleration if it was clear to go and turning "plenty of space" into "oh st I'm almost stopped in the road with a white van bearing down on me". Anything that can make autos more intelligent can only be a good thing.

marcusgrant

738 posts

20 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
HardMiles said:
Looks nice. If it had only Bluetooth, sat nav, ABS, cruise control & parking sensors, dump the rest of the electro shyte, it'd be contemplated. I simply can't abide new cars. They are predominantly overweight due to the masses that have no idea how to use them...
10 years ago you were probably saying the same about all the above being ditched.

XMT

2,140 posts

75 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
Anyone who says this should be a manual please ps off further down the range.

Brilliant looking car.
Does everything you need everyday with ease with plenty of fun (all relative)

Love it - except for the price lol

hornetrider

63,161 posts

133 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
kambites said:
It's a heavy car because it's absolutely enormous.
Bigger than an E38! I didn't pick that up from the original bumf. That's ridiculously large.

MikeGoodwin

1,143 posts

45 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
A nice looking barge as before.... Lol at that plethora of tech that's in the car. It makes me appreciate the Megane RS I have. Simple fun.

je777

216 posts

32 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
I don't know how the tech works, but 'steering for itself on a motorway', apparently for up to 30 seconds - aren't a lot of people going to see that as 'just enough time to check that text'?

tankplanker

2,257 posts

207 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
XMT said:
Anyone who says this should be a manual please ps off further down the range.
Agreed, last thing I want in a barge is a manual. However it'll be a shame if the new M5 doesn't have a manual gearbox anymore, even though it will be significantly slower than the auto.

I'd be interested in how many people actually use all of the advanced tech on their cars, stuff like connected drive, lane keeping and so on, particularly for cars bought by older buyers like the 5 series.

CoolHands

Original Poster:

8,072 posts

123 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
Why have all the pictures changed. It was a cream interior earlier.

hornetrider

63,161 posts

133 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
hornetrider said:
kambites said:
It's a heavy car because it's absolutely enormous.
Bigger than an E38! I didn't pick that up from the original bumf. That's ridiculously large.
Have done some googling and I think the article is incorrect.

G30 length - 194 inches
E38 length - 201 inches

Widths are similar though at 73 inches.

tankplanker said:
However it'll be a shame if the new M5 doesn't have a manual gearbox anymore, even though it will be significantly slower than the auto.
The M5 hasn't been a manual in the UK since 2003 hehe

CoolHands

Original Poster:

8,072 posts

123 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
je777 said:
I don't know how the tech works, but 'steering for itself on a motorway', apparently for up to 30 seconds - aren't a lot of people going to see that as 'just enough time to check that text'?
Most modern VAG etc now have lane assist. They read the white lines and keep you in lane by automatically adjusting the steering.

Oddball RS

1,755 posts

146 months

Friday 17th February 2017
quotequote all
tankplanker said:
XMT said:
Anyone who says this should be a manual please ps off further down the range.
Agreed, last thing I want in a barge is a manual. However it'll be a shame if the new M5 doesn't have a manual gearbox anymore, even though it will be significantly slower than the auto.

I'd be interested in how many people actually use all of the advanced tech on their cars, stuff like connected drive, lane keeping and so on, particularly for cars bought by older buyers like the 5 series.
The first comment is just daft, the auto option doesn't suit the smaller capacities so well (Most popular), and then to agree with wanting autos only, but I want a manual M5 in the follow up comment................ wtf?