Buy it: it is fun to drive, well-appointed and big on presence
Don’t buy: It is too wide and has bad ground clearance
Mercedes has played on the traditional strengths of the E-Class by making it longer and softer while BMW has done the same with the new 5 Series by making with faster, wider and lots of fun to drive. It’s always been the go to car for those who have the cash, but want to get behind the wheel themselves. How does it perform then? Well we got behind the wheel of the most powerful diesel model available, the 530d M Sport and here is our experience.
The 5 Series is a large car and there is no dearth of detailing to ensure you pay attention to it. The face is dominated by the large signature BMW kidney grille and LED head lamps while the visible metal work behind the M spec bumpers lend a nice air of sportiness to the car. In profile you can see the typical BMW front leaning stance and large brake discs behind the five spoke M spec wheels. Surprisingly, despite appearing so wide and low, the rear profile looks quite compact. The front quarter displays to advantage the car’s overall aggressive stance while the rear quarter profile highlights its muscular lines.
Details, details and more details and we say it thrice because that what’s BMW has really gone into with this new generation 5 Series. The cabin has a layout very similar to the previous generation model and is a three tone affair of black, beige and brown. In touch and feel, everything feels like top quality, right down to the plastics of the door compartments. We particularly liked the fish scale graining of the plastics on the dashboard and four doors as they lend a unique feel and look to the overall appearance.
The electrically adjustable leather front seats offer really good support all around. Its bag of tricks includes a new system to adjust side bolstering to the exact setting that you want. The iDrive system is all-new and is a touchscreen unit but can also be operated from a dial on the centre console. This new iDrive also introduces gesture control which has preset actions for various commands. A word of warning though - it is easy to get carried away when the system doesn’t respond to your actions the first time as the sensors are located in an odd place on the dashboard. Other than that, the graphics are crisp, comprehensive and ties in very well with the showboat nature of the car.
The rear seats are quite luxurious too and you get dual zone vents, centre arm rest with cup holders and dual screens with remotes to control various functions. A mobile app is offered for a similar purpose in global markets, but it is unclear if the same can be used on the India spec car.
However, the space at the rear feels inadequate and this is down to the latest generation E-Class. Mercedes-Benz had launched the car earlier this year, but only in an LWB form for India. This has raised the game in terms of pampering the occupants at the back and this is a tall hill for BMW to scale. With the front seats adjusted to the driving position for a large person like me, the legroom feels inadequate and this is further enhanced by the sloping roofline which forces you to sit kind of low in the seats.
Finally, as expected, the boot is pretty wide and is easy to access, but loses out on capacity thanks to the intrusion of the massive spare wheel. Despite that you definitely get more useable space than what’s available in the E-Class.
Ah…this is where the 5 Series comes alive. In this 530d model you get a twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six engine producing 262bhp and 620Nm of torque with power going to the rear wheels via a ZF eight-speed AT.
Mash the throttle and you get an instant response and after a certain point, a nice punch in the back as the car goes from squabbling for grip to setting off in a great big huff of diesel power. On the go, the shifts are smooth, quick and happened at different RPMs depending on which of the three modes you are in. In the comfort and eco pro mode you get dulled responses and the gearbox shifts to keep you at a point of balance between efficiency and ease of driving.
You can customise the response from the eco mode but in essence, it is all about maximum efficiency. The comfort mode is a balance of the eco and sport mode, but it cannot have any of its characteristics changed.
However, if you want exciting then click on the sport mode button and the car changes into a different beast. The steering and suspension tighten up while the engine lets you freely rev its guts out all the way to the 5500rpm redline and even stays there if you are in manual mode. There is no lack of show as you get shoved into your seat when the beast sets off with a sweet, albeit slightly muted, six cylinder sounds for the soundtrack.
You can feel all the action from the massive tyres through the steering and it is as accurate as things can get especially in sport mode where it takes little more than a twitch on the wheel to switch lanes and just a bit a more to get it around a corner.
Despite the massive size, it feels planted at speed with a minimal amount of roll when you show it a bit of apex. We expected all this driving ability to affect ride quality and to a large extent, it is visibly on the stiffer side. However, there is a plushness to the way it takes on our bumpy roads at slow speeds and for most city driving conditions the 5 Series will do quite well.
Something that managed to put us off was the width. It easy to judge width when you are in a high riding vehicle but sitting low down in the 5 Series, everything becomes cut-to-cut and this is despite the very visible edges. What’s more, you really have to completely slow down for most speed breakers and even do the wheel-to-wheel dance when the speed breaker is really high.
|Variant||530 d M Sport|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||262 @ 4000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||620 @ 2000|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||78|
|Tyre size||245/45 R18 (Front) , 275/ 40 R18 (Rear)|
|Dual screens for rear passengers||Yes|
|Touchscreen infotainement system with gesture control||Yes|
|4 Drive modes||Yes|
|Electrically adjustable front seats||Yes|
|M Sport body kit||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||E - Class||530 d M Sport|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||255 @ 3400||262 @ 4000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||620 @ 1600||620 @ 2000|
|Gears||Nine||Eight - Speed|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||80||78|
|Tyre size||245/45 R17||245/45 R18 (Front) , 275/ 40 R18 (Rear)|
Among the current crop of mid-size luxury sedans, this new 5 Series has managed to carve out a niche for itself. It is not an all-out driver’s car but for our roads conditions (tarmac, people and fuel cost) this 530d is more than sufficient to let you have fun but at the same be comfortable when the going doesn’t need to get tough or crazy. What’s more you get an auto park function with fancy key fob that lets you navigate the car out of tight spaces. The BMW 5 Series range is priced Rs 52 lakhs to Rs 63.8 lakhs (ex-showroom including GST) for this top-of-the-line 530d variant.
Photos: Kapil Angane