The new 5-series, F10, as it is codenamed, is a sharp aberration from its predecessor in terms of design. In its newest avatar, the 5-series has turned to its tradition as far as the aesthetics go. With the inclusion of a fully electric power steering the car has embraced technology more than ever, but has been criticized by some purists who think that the new inclusion had bereaved the legendary label of its most likeable aspect, a connected driving feel. But is that really the case? We found out with a comprehensive road test review which spanned more than 600km. Read on…
To be very honest, I absolutely loved the previous generation 5-series for the sheer rebel it was aesthetically. I am a diehard fan of Chris Bangle’s adventures with automotive design, and always thought that the previous generation 5-series was one of the best exponents of his flamboyant, unconventional design philosophy.
The latest version, designed by BMW’s current design head, Adrian van Hooydonk, takes the car back to a more conventional track, making it fall more in tune with BMW’s traditions and heritage. The new 5-series may not have the ‘devil-may-care’ attitude of its predecessor which looked sinister with its twin front moustache lights and twin rings surrounding the main illumination units, but it looks mean and sharp enough from plenty of angles. It looks longer, lower and leaner than the earlier version, and when you look at it in profile, that snout does seem to have a really mean and evil air about it. We drove the car to Mahabaleshwar along with a Skoda Superb. The length and presence of the 530d easily overshadowed the Superb which is quite a long and spacious car itself.
The trademark BMW kidney grille is pretty wide, and the Hofmeister kink at the rear window, another BMW design signature, is also quite pronounced. Creases in the bonnet, and on the sides remind us of some older BMW 5 series models, and clearly point towards a deliberate effort to take the car’s design back to its roots.
The sharp, tapering headlamps of the new 5 series may look slightly conservative when compared with the earlier 5 series, but in the RVM, a 5-series will definitely make you quiver with its sharp eyes. It really appears to be a wicked, incredibly potent beast when looked upon head on. Some may call the new 5 series conservative, but start appreciating the details, and you’ll fall deeper and deeper in love with its form. Just as is the case with A R Rahman’s music, it grows on you, the more you look at it, just the way the master musician’s melodies cast a spell on you as you listen to them over and over again.
The 530d is powered by a 3.0-liter straight six diesel, which incidentally is the same unit as found on the lower spec 525d. On the 530d, however, the engine is tuned to deliver reasonably more power and torque. Peak power is rated at 245 BHP @ 4000 RPM while peak torque of 540 Nm comes between 1750-3000 RPM (40 Ps and 90 Nm more than the 525d).
For all those who have been driving modern diesels, it wouldn’t be very difficult to understand why diesel cars are more fun to drive in the real world. Unlike petrol engines where you have to shift a cog or two down to build up revs and gather speed, with a good diesel, all you need to do is bury the pedal, and the car will simply surge towards the horizon. The feeling gets pronounced multifold when you are driving the 530d. Imagine three full liters of cubic capacity on a diesel engine built by BMW, without doubt the best engine makers in the world today – the end result is nothing short of orgasmic. 0-100 km/h comes in a very quick 6.3 seconds and 200km/h shows up before you could even start appreciating the acceleration fully. Things get slightly scary beyond that point as the world around you turns into a motion blur. The 530d will go all the way up to an electronically controlled top speed of 250km, but you’d most likely lift your foot up much before reaching that scary speed as the central screen starts asking you to slow down.
All that firepower from the engine is mated with an eight speed automatic sports transmission with Steptronic. There are flappy pedals behind the steering wheels to shift gears with the right pedal meant to upshift and left side pedal meant for downshifting.
The 530d comes with BMW EfficientDynamics which uses clever tech such as brake energy regeneration for better efficiency and less emissions.
Driving dynamics, handling and ride
From the moment you get into the new 530d’s cabin, you feel at home, if you have driven a BMW earlier that is. Controls fall within easy reach of hands, and the visibility through the windscreens and windows is good. Push the ‘Start’ Button, and with the very first inch the car moves you realize that there is something different about the steering wheel. Not just is the steering wheel all new in terms of design, but it is first ever fully Electric Power Assisted unit here. It feels lighter and should I daresay slightly less connected to the road initially when compared with the previous 5 which ran a hydroelectric unit. The good news, however, is, that you don’t need to wrangle with the wheel anymore while trying to maneuver your way out of small streets which abound in India.
The steering wheel firms up nicely as you gather speed, with more tactility and feel coming in as they are needed. It didn’t take much long before I felt completely at home with the new setup. I drove through a variety of twisties including the stretch on the Mumbai Pune highway, and the winding roads leading up to Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. Never did I find the new setup lacking in terms on feedback or control. While it may not match up with the ultimate tactility of its predecessor, this steering doesn’t take away the fun to drive factor by any measure. It’s a lesson on ‘how to do your car’s EPS’ for all other carmakers, who just bereave the wheel of its feel the moment they turn to the electric unit.
The new 530d breaks new grounds in terms of in-cabin noise insulation, comfort, space, ride quality and smoothness. The 5 series has traditionally been known mainly for its impeccable handling with naysayers having criticized it many a times for its skittish ride. With the new 5 series, BMW has made the new 530d one of the most smooth riding premium luxury sedans out there. The car delivers the best of both worlds – a glide of a ride and a body behavior which makes you push it through corners at crazy speeds with disdain. The 530d never loses it poise, and clearly exhibits that it’s capable of going much faster without raising any strands of your forehand hair.
The diesel unit powering the car is a cracker of a performer. Power builds up in the most linear fashion ever seen on a diesel mill. The acceleration is quite savage, but never lets its ferocity become evident as all those German horses get laid down on the tar in a bafflingly progressive manner. There’s no jerk, no banging against the seats – just a gentle push, potent enough to thrill, but never delivered in an uncouth manner.
Worth a compliment also is the brilliant eight speed automatic which shifts gears seamlessly, and with great urgency. As you accelerate up or decelerate hard, gears change quickly, and without any perceptible snatches. There are three drive modes to choose from. Normal, Sport and Sport +. While normal mode lets the suspension be soft enough to devour even the slightest undulations on the road, gliding the car through inconsistencies on the surface, Sport mode tightens the affairs a bit. The suspension gets a little tauter to let you attack corners with less body roll. While the normal mode also responds appreciably to abrupt throttle inputs, understanding the urgency to accelerate suddenly, and holding onto a gear (or downshifting) as required, in usual circumstances it shifts at around a sober 2500 rpm to keep things both sprightly and efficient. In Sport mode, however, the ECU allows the engine to rev harder, acceleration gets more manic and the car feels more ready for action. The Sport + mode is essentially the same as the Sport mode, but with the ESP turned off. This makes sure that the electronic nanny doesn’t interfere when the driver wants to play with the car on a racetrack.
While brilliantly smooth and quick in its own right, the eight speed transmission of the 530d feels slightly slow in terms of gearshift speeds when compared with the DSG. Although it’s sufficiently well sorted to tackle any situation from intelligent single carriageway downshifts to racetrack violence, we wouldn’t a bit more swiftness as the cogs get swapped.
Interiors and features
The 530d is the top of the line BMW 5 series available in India. It’s loaded to the gills with features, and no other 5 series model in India boasts of as much technology and as many toys as the 530d. Quality abounds everywhere, and the BMW template for the interior is consistent as ever. However, truth be told, even with all the quality and functionality of it all, we are beginning to get a bit bored with seeing similar interiors on all BMW cars.
The driver oriented center console has a huge 10.2” screen allowing the front occupants to control all the functions associated with the car through the iDrive interface. The Full black panel display below the analogue speedo-tacho combo allows the driver to change the tracks playing on the music system or switch radio stations. The car also comes equipped with a MapMyIndia GPS Sat-Nav unit. While the unit is excellent in terms of the detail of the maps and the way it directs the driver, addresses and landmarks are not as prominently marked as on, say Google Maps. As a pure navigational device, however, it is leaps and bounds ahead of Google maps.
The 530d comes with a reverse video camera which not just lets you see what’s behind the car, but also shows how close or far you are from an obstacle using a grid. The grid essentially fills up a path represented by two parallel curvy lines which suggest the course you should take to reverse the car. The distance of the objects in your way is represented by colors, with green colour for safe distance, yellow for close, and red for very close.
The 530d, as we stated earlier, has innumerable features, all of which we will duly list in this section of the review. One feature, however, which needs a special mention, is the Head Up Display. The fighter aircraft style display on the windscreen lets the driver keep track of certain critical information without having to take his eyes of the road. The HUD which projects the data on the windscreen directly in the line of driver’s road vision is sufficiently bright and is visible only to the driver, owing to its narrow viewing angle. The default data shown on the HUD is speed and Navigation. While the speed is displayed in km/h on the front windscreen, the Navigation data is shown in the form of the distance to the next turn and a small but relevant map of the area you are traversing. HUD can be customized, and you can see what you want on the HUD using the iDrive interface. The system can also be turned on and off using a button.
Here’s the list of features of the 530d (click to expand)
Luxury never comes cheap, and the BMW 530d takes the statement to a new extreme. Loaded with features and technology, the 530d is the most expensive 5-series saloon you can buy in the country. With its explosive engine, unmatched features and phenomenal driving experience, the 530d does look and feel like a complete premium luxury car which doesn’t try to cut any corners. The 530d may sound like an expensive proposition to a few when compared to the 535i and even more so when compared with the lower spec 525d. But BMW has left the option open for such customers. The 530d is a superlative variant, and it does feel like one the moment you step inside.
The 530d is a no-compromise luxury car which is capable of delivering the best of both worlds. Looking at the performance and the toys you get with this one, if you have the money, there is no reason why you should be buying any other variant. The 530d absolutely defines what a luxury car in its segment should be like. Two thumbs up from Motoroids!
- 3.0 liter engine is a true performer
- Quality of the interior, more space than the previous gen car
- Ride quality much better than the outgoing 5 series
- Great NVH insulation
- Loaded to the brim with features
- Styling not as bold as its predecessor
- EPAS may not be to everyone’s taste, especially the hardcore BMW ‘heavy steering wheel’ fans
- Run flat tech is good, but a spare tyre doesn’t hurt
Here’s a detailed image gallery of the BMW 530d