Can this, the seventh generation 5-series deliver on its promises of unrivalled comfort, luxury, technology, efficiency and driving pleasure? I got behind the wheel at the launch to find out.
The looks department
To be honest, I think BMW have played it safe when it comes to the design of the car. At first glance, it looks very similar to the model it replaces. On closer inspection, I did notice some new design features which I really like.
For starters, the front end features new headlamps that merge with the large double kidney grille, and, like the 7-series, feature active louvers which open and close depending on the temperature. When viewed from the side, I noticed that the car brings together two traditional BMW design elements which are normally separate from one another.
The swage line turns up as it heads rearwards, moving from shadow to light and sweeping up the Hofmeister kink in its path rather than continuing into the rear. This upwards motion lends the car a forward-surging character, and the expressive, swooping surface imbues it with an undeniable muscularity.
For a brief moment after getting in, I thought I was in a 7-series. Not only because of the overall design of the dashboard, but the quality of materials as well as the technology throughout the cabin which is miles ahead of the previous model, as well as some competitors. Things like the gloss black elements coupled to brushed aluminium, the wood trim and the TFT dials, all work together to enhance the luxury feel of the spacious interior.
There is so much technology on offer that I did not get to play with it all. I did get the gist of the important bits, one being the new iDrive system. A new high definition 10.2-inch touchscreen incorporates the new look system.
It is more visually appealing than before. Functions such as gesture control, swiping, tapping and pinching gave me the feeling as if I was operating a tablet instead of a car’s infotainment system. If it sounds too complicated then stress not because BMW has retained the rotary dial which features a touch pad.
The first thing I noticed was that the cabin is almost perfectly insulated from the outside world. The Five is bereft of wind noise thanks to special acoustic glass and aerodynamic body structure. It also shares its basic platform with the 7-series, minus the carbon core. The use of aluminium in the panels, underpinnings and suspension has resulted in the car being 100kg lighter than its forebear.
That may sound insignificant to some but it ultimately aids with agility, performance and efficiency. The safety side of the drive is also well catered for with niceties such as Active Lane Keep Assist and Active Cruise Control all helping to keep you safe. When you want to liven things up a bit, the 5-series is ready for the task. It offers a sporty drive with impressive steering feel, agility and balance.
Two engine derivatives really caught my fancy, the 540i and 530d. The new 540i is more the performance offering of the two, producing 250kW/450Nm from its turbocharged 3.0-litre inline-six. It sounds incredibly sporty and it’s quick too. That, together with the quick-shifting eight-speed Steptronic gearbox, will allow it to reach 100 km/h from standstill in 4.8 seconds.
However the model I really enjoyed the most was the 530d. It features a heavily revised 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine which employs an uprated turbocharger system that’s good for 195kW and 620Nm of torque. The sizeable torque figure is available from as low as 2000 rpm; ideal for negotiating the mountain roads of the Western Cape. It’s also pretty fast, not as fast as the 540i, but good enough to reach the 0-100 km/h in just 5.7 seconds, while returning a claimed fuel consumption figure of around 4.9-litres/100km.
There are two familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged engines in the range too. A four-cylinder petrol in the 530i which offers 185kW and 350Nm of torque with a claimed fuel consumption figure of 5.4 litres/100km, and a four-pot diesel in the 520d offering 140kW and 400Nm of torque.
The new BMW 5-series has undoubtedly moved the goal posts in terms of refinement, comfort and performance. Has it got what it takes to champion the executive saloon segment? Quite possibly yes. In the past you bought a 5-series because you wanted a bigger 3-series, now though, you buy a 5-series because you want a smaller Seven. This new model should make the competition very nervous.
520d Steptronic - R770 500
530i Steptronic - R838 700
530d Steptronic - R952 500
540i Steptronic - R995 300