The latest BMW 5 Series saloon is brilliant in almost every regard and still gives the best drive in its class.
TYPE Inline-6, 24-valves, turbocharged CAPACITY 2998cc
BORE X STROKE 82mm x 94.6mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11:1
MAX POWER 340bhp at 5500-6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 450Nm at 1380-5200rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 213.2bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select
DRIVEN WHEELS Rear
0-100KM/H 5.1 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.4km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 149g/km
FRONT Double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar
REAR Five-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs
TYPE Michelin Primacy 3
SIZE 225/55 R17
TRACTION AIDS ABS, DSC
KERB WEIGHT 1595kg
TURNING CIRCLE 12.05m
PRICE INCL. COE To be announced
WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km
+ GADGETY ENOUGH, EFFORTLESSLY NIMBLE AND QUICK, COMFIER AND CLASSIER INTERIOR
- DERIVATIVE STYLING, RIDE IS LESS SUPPLE THAN MERCEDES-BENZ E-CLASS WITH AIR SUSPENSION
GERMAN automaker BMW may well have unearthed a new target audience for the brand – the geek market.
Because its latest 5 Series, the seventh generation of the marque’s longest-running model line, is so packed with electronic technology that you wonder if it needs its own substation to power it all.
It has all the now-familiar driver aids like Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assistant, collision warnings and Active Cruise Control. Essentially, it can drive you down the motorway on its own.
To these it adds Lane Change Assistant, where the car changes lanes for you when instructed to (by your holding the indicator down for two seconds in the desired direction).
Working in concert, these systems let the new 5 Series steer, brake and regulate its own speed in all traffic conditions from standstill up to 210km/h.
For legal reasons, BMW refuses to tout this capability as autonomous driving (yet), and as a precaution, the car still requires the driver to keep his hands on the wheel.
In addition, the fuel-saving automated stop-start function is now more discerning, drawing inputs from the navigation system, cameras and radar so it knows not to shut the engine down at inconvenient moments, such as when you are momentarily stopped at a roundabout or junction waiting to merge into traffic.
The new 5 also offers the Remote Parking feature first seen on the 7 Series flagship, which allows you to manoeuvre the car remotely into a tight lot from the outside.
Another trick borrowed from the 7 limousine is Gesture Control, where you change the volume or radio channel, answer or reject calls, and operate the navigation by a twirl or wave of the hand, or a pinch or jab of the fingers.
Smartphone integration has been improved, too, with Apple CarPlay (fully wireless, for the first time in a car) and inductive phone charging.
Headlights are now LEDs as standard, with adaptive LEDs optionally available – these can vary the light distribution according to circumstances and needs, including angling the throw when cornering or to avoid dazzling oncoming cars.
All that tech is contained within a body which, while handsome, is evolutionary rather than groundbreaking.
The styling draws strongly from the looks of its 3 Series and 7 Series brethren, as well as those of the outgoing 5 Series.
A slight pity, because the derivative looks do understate the magnitude of the advance over its predecessor.
The shape does cleave the air very cleanly, though, with a class-best 0.22 drag coefficient. Active louvres in the front kidney grille and lower air intakes, which remain closed for aerodynamic efficiency unless cooling air is required, help achieve this.
The new 5 does not boast the advanced (and expensive) part-carbon body structure of the 7 Series flagship, but despite having grown a few millimetres in every direction, model for model it still weighs up to 100kg less than before, thanks to more use of aluminium, high-strength steel and even magnesium. Handling, performance and efficiency all benefit as a result.
The biggest effect of the marginally larger body is felt by rear passengers, with the wider, flatter backseat now fitting three abreast comfortably, where it was previously shaped for two.
There is a tad more rear legroom and headroom, too, and overall the cabin feels airier thanks to a lower dashboard.
ENGINE 1998cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 252bhp at 5200-6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 350Nm at 1450-4800rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 163.6bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select0-100KM/H 6.2 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 18.2km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 126g/km
PRICE INCL. COE To be announced
The driving position is great – in a slightly retro touch reminiscent of BMWs of the ’80s and ’90s, the centre console is angled towards the driver so that the controls fall easily to hand.
It says something for the magic of modern-day saloon car performance levels that even the base petrol model, the turbocharged 2-litre 4-cylinder 530i, boasts 252bhp and hits 100km/h in 6.2 seconds.
And the bigger-engined petrol variant, the 540i with a 3-litre turbocharged 6-pot, has 340bhp and storms to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds.
The standard gearbox in both variants is the familiar, excellent 8-speed ZF automatic already found across BMW’s entire model range.
The 540i is effortlessly quick, its 3-litre engine spinning easily to its 7000rpm redline, responding keenly to throttle inputs, and delivering generous wads of torque at all rev levels.
The 5 Series has always been the luxury saloon that thinks it is a sports car, so agile handling is a given. But what really impresses is how much better the new 5 is on this front than its predecessor, which was already the class benchmark.
The new car optionally offers rear-wheel-steering, a class first (our test car was so equipped).
It is hard to tell how much of the improved nimbleness is down to the rear-wheel- steer and how much to other chassis developments, but the big saloon tackles the endless sweeps and switchbacks of our hilly route with astonishing ease and composure.
BMW has always done excellent steering, and predictably, the quick-geared helm of the new 5 is linear, well- weighted, and directs a sharp, keen front end.
Roadholding is great, and body roll is very well resisted, much credit for this going to the active anti-roll bars (now electrically rather than hydraulically activated), which only come into play when cornering forces are detected, and otherwise remain passive so they do not interfere with the suspension’s bump- absorption functions.
Slightly wider tracks front and rear, and an unsprung weight reduction of over 9kg thanks to weight-paring in the brakes, wheels and tyres, all help improve handling as well as ride.
And the 5’s ride is indeed excellent – cushioned and composed over all manner of undulations and surface flaws, if not quite as incredibly supple as that of the air-sprung versions of its Mercedes-Benz E-Class rival.
All this while the cabin remains an insulated cocoon, with wind, road and engine noise all kept well at bay. In particular, soundproofing integrated with the headlining material has trimmed the decibel count at the critical area around the occupants’ head-level.
By diving headlong into the technological arms race with its new 5, there was a real risk that the car would have been a mere exercise in gadget overkill.
So it is great to see that BMW has stayed true to its core brand values and that the new car is brilliant in almost every regard.
It may be a geek’s delight, but the new BMW 5 Series is still the ultimate driving machine in its class.