Close on the heels of the ‘tarmac-burner’ BMW 330i returning to BMW after being at the hands of our testers, it was a pleasant surprise to have its elder sibling, the 530i, (with the same engine) roll in for a review. The air about this car, however, is a whole lot different and I’m not talking about size here. The 530i is all about being an entry level ‘5’, since its merely available in the basic trim ‘Sport Line’, and the performance-oriented nature of the motor is exceedingly muted (compared to the 330i), but we shall get to that later.
As we’ve already reviewed the exteriors of the 5 in its 520d and 530d avatars, we won’t get into the details. A short glance is more than enough to reveal the baby-7 Series body style. Then there’s the familiar kidney grille which is flanked by the well-detailed and sharp LED headlamps. These are complemented by pronounced creases, an aerodynamic silhouette, wide tracks and large wheels which convincingly give it a strong stance.
Then, there’s also plenty of horizontal design lines at the rear that accentuate the ‘width’ of this luxury sedan. And what helps this even further, are the long tail lamps with LED internals. Since this is the base Sport Line version, BMW has ditched chrome for glossy-black trim, to highlight the exteriors of the 530i.
The basic layout of the 530i’s interiors is also designed on the same lines as the 520d and the 530d. So, there’s the dual-tone beige-black dash with equivalent door pads that look plush. Ergonomics are spot-on since everything that needs to be accessed on the go is smartly tilted towards the driver. Plus, the feeling the space is accentuated by the light cabin colours, large glass area and the glaring sunroof.
Our only gripe in this cabin is the extensive use of glossy black trim surrounding the switches/buttons which made reading them on the go a bit challenging in bright sunlight. And, not to forget, the obvious lack of features which we’ll highlight in a bit. Now, let’s get to the front seats. They are wide and comfortable, with great levels of lateral support on both the backrest (electrically adjustable) and the seat squab. We also enjoyed the ample knee room, headroom and the manually adjustable thigh support which makes for a tailor-made fit.
That said, the rear bench is a comfortable place to be, thanks to the favourable contours and the well-judged back-rest angle. However, on the flip side, we would have liked some more thigh support. Plus, we couldn’t help but virtually compare it to the Mercedes E-Class’ extravagant knee room being a LWB (long wheel base). With a boot that can swallow up to 400-litres, it can be a squeeze for suitcases, but soft bags is the way to go. Also, it needs a mention that unlike the Mercedes E-Class’ spare wheel taking up a lot of the useable space, this spare is neatly placed and covered.
On the features front, the 530i (offered only in Sport Line variant) skimps quite a bit. You will miss having functions such as the adaptive LED head lamps, keyless entry, four-zone auto-air conditioner, front seat lumbar adjustment and the rear 40:20:40 split folding seats. Plus, absence of the heads-up display, Harman Kardon music player, parking assistant, remote control parking (the ‘Display Key’ is still offered), rear seat entertainment package, the 360-degree camera and wireless charging capability will have you scratching your heads.
The 530i makes do with the 252bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged motor with 350Nm of torque that is mated to an eight-speed gearbox (from the 330i). And, as much as the motor is hungry in the 330i to unveil all of its potential, it behaves quite tamed in the 530i. Owing mainly to the fact that this car needs to haul around a lot more weight. On first impressions, the motor is even more silent in the 530i, and it isn’t until you reach the higher revs that you actually hear it humming. This is also partially due to the superb insulation that prevents most NVH from entering the cabin.
When on the move, we instantly noticed the muffled performance (vis-a-vis 330i). In stark contrast, we found it interesting that the same motor which makes the 330i a premium proposition makes for a very subtle offering in the 530i. Having said this, it doesn’t mean that this 5 is slow by any standards. There is more than enough performance on tap at any given point, and the only difference would be the absence of an aggressive edge to the overall power delivery.
To explain more on h
ow this motor behaves, let’s talk about the driving modes offered to aid the driver extract the best out of this motor. There's Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Adaptive. Eco Pro allows for best possible efficiency while the responses are mild. This essentially means that the transmission is eagerly on the lookout to make multiple upshifts, and coasts too when you get off the accelerator pedal. Comfort mode, on the other hand, is markedly more responsive than Eco Pro primarily due to the fact that the transmission isn’t as eager to upshift like the latter.
This brings us to the Sport mode which essentially makes the gearbox hold lower gears for instant thrust, and is the ideal mode if you're looking at maximum performance. What’s even better is that this mode is also customisable. So, the engine, transmission, damping and steering characteristics can be toggled between Sport and Comfort. This makes for a tailor-made drive since you can mix and match the settings. Like for example, slot the engine/transmission in Sport while leaving the damping and steering in Comfort. For all our lazy-fingered drivers, the adaptive mode reads your driving style and automatically sets the parameters.
On the whole, the steering on the BMW 530i makes driving the car increasingly effortless, despite the size. It feels extremely light with slower inputs in Eco-Pro/Comfort mode, while Sport makes it appropriately heavier with quicker responses. That said, there’s no denying that the 5 is a huge car and it does roll a bit on tight bends. But it is predictable, and never gets to a point where it becomes unnerving. In terms of ride, the adaptive suspension setup with the rigid frame gives the 530i excellent overall damping characteristics with great stability, regardless of the speed.
In Eco-Pro/Comfort mode and at low speeds, most bumps are conquered with hardly any NVH transferred into the cabin. But that said, there is some slight up and down motion over bumps and undulations at higher speeds. Although in Sport mode the suspension gets firmer, the slow speed manners surprisingly don’t suffer as much as you’d expect. And it’s only while traversing over the sharp bumps that some can be felt within the cabin at slow speeds. But pick up the momentum and the ride gets noticeably flat.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||252 @ 5200rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||350 @ 4800rpm|
|Gears||Eight - Speed Auto|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||68|
|Tyre size||245/45 R18|
|18-inch double spoke alloys||Yes|
|LED head lamps||Yes|
|ABS with brake assist||Yes|
|Park distance control - front and rear||Yes|
|Rear view camera||Yes|
|Cornering brake control||Yes|
|Dynamic Stability Control with Dynamic Traction Control||Yes|
|Hi-Fi loudspeaker with 12 speakers||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||252 @ 5200rpm||181 @ 5500rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||350 @ 4800rpm||300 @ 4000rpm|
|Gears||Eight- Speed Auto||9G-TRONIC|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||68||80|
|Tyre size||245/45 R18||245/45 R17|
We have already talked about how the 5 Series has fared in the 520d and 530d reviews. For now, ‘5’ lovers who revel at having a petrol motor under the hood, for all the performance/refinement oriented reasons, need to know that the 530i is just about there, with its adequate performance and the ‘5’ starting price of Rs 62.55 lakhs (on-road Mumbai). However, it doesn’t tick most of the ego boxes when it comes to being loaded with features - something that a buyer will obviously take notice of ultimately. Or, is BMW toying with the idea of leaving that space for a more sporty option (read 540i 340bhp/450Nm) eventually? Only, time will tell.
Pictures by Kapil Angane