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First drive: 2017 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.

First drive: 2017 BMW 5 Series
The 'G30' BMW 5 Series arrives in the UK this spring, matching its rivals' tech while adding more dynamism.

 



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2017 BMW 5 Series

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BMW has thrown the kitchen sink at its new 'G30' 5 Series, arriving in the UK this spring. It's lighter than before and hence more efficient, yet BMW reckons it's more agile and fun to drive than its predecessor, too, while retaining that car's comfort. On top of all that, there's a bewildering array of new technology on board, even more than in the BMW 7 Series the new 5 takes so much inspiration from.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW 530d xDrive
Pricing: 530d xDrive from 45,965
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: from 132g/km (VED Band E, 130 per annum)
BIK rate: 27 per cent
Combined economy: from 62.8mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.4 seconds
Power: 265hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 620Nm at 2,000- to 2,500rpm
Boot space: 530 litres

Model tested: BMW 540i M Sport
Pricing: 540i from 46,645 (xDrive only in UK)
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: from 159g/km (VED Band G, 185 per annum)
BIK rate: 29 per cent
Combined economy: from 39.2mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Power: 340hp at 5,500- to 6,500rpm
Torque: 450Nm at 1,380- to 5,200rpm
Boot space: 530 litres

What's this?

Arguably the most important new BMW to launch this year; it's the seventh generation 5 Series Saloon, codenamed 'G30' and tasked with, among other things, surpassing its archenemy, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, in every conceivable way. To help with that, the new 5 Series is crammed full of technology, from its LED lights to its large head-up display, gesture control for the wide infotainment touchscreen, remote parking capability and, of course, a degree of autonomous driving to assist with monotonous motorway work.

On sale now, for spring 2017 delivery, the new 5 Series line-up kicks off with 520d and 530d diesels, plus 530i and 540i petrol models. The 530i (powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine) is the only variant not offered with xDrive four-wheel drive in the UK, while the 540i (powered by the company's latest 3.0-litre straight-six with turbocharging) is the only one solely offered with xDrive. Other models will arrive in time, including a 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid and 520d EfficientDynamics. Trim lines are simply SE or M Sport.

That new focus on xDrive is accompanied by seemingly limitless customisation. Buyers can pair Integral Active Steering (four-wheel steering in BMW-speak) with it for the first time, with or without the lower M Sport suspension. The front steering system is an electromechanical affair with a variable ratio and while the core suspension design has not changed, it has been finessed for reduced weight and increased torsional stiffness. Overall, weight is down about 100kg. Adaptive damping is on the options list and there's a new Adaptive mode in the driving settings to let the car's computer choose the best set-up for any given situation. Just to confuse things, Adaptive Drive is a separate option that uses quick-acting electric motors to alter the stiffness of the anti-roll bars, supposedly allowing rock-solid body control in the corners without compromising comfort.

The 5 Series SE comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, leather upholstery, Widescreen Navigation with Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI), 20GB Hard Disc Drive (HDD) memory and BMW ConnectedDrive services (BMW Emergency Call, BMW Online Services and BMW TeleServices), heated front seats, cruise control with braking function, DAB, front and rear parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers.

While BMW doesn't want us to call its new driver assist functions 'autonomous', it's certainly the company's next step toward that future. Driving Assistant Plus bundles Active Cruise Control, Crossing-traffic warning, Crossroads warning, Evasion Aid, Lane Change Assistant, Lane Keeping Assistant with active side collision protection, Steering and Lane Control Assistant and Wrong-way warning together to allow you take your hands off the wheel for up to 30 seconds at a time on the motorway and at speeds far in excess of the UK national speed limit.

How does it drive?

We tested two examples of the new 5 Series at the international launch in Lisbon. The first, a 540i M Sport, has little relevance to the UK market, sadly. Not only will petrol-fuelled 5 Series be a rare sight in Britain, we tested a rear-drive version where it's only offered with xDrive four-wheel drive in the UK. Saying all that, this was a good early chance to try the rear-drive chassis at work, and the signs are promising. Albeit, all test cars were loaded with chassis options such as adaptive damping and rear-wheel steering, so we don't have a very clear picture yet as to how, for example, a standard 520d M Sport, will behave.

Going on the information we have, the rear-drive chassis seems well-judged, with exceptional body control whether you're carrying out quick direction changes while barrelling down a well-sighted mountain road or braking hard into a blind bend with a little lock on. The chassis is composed and forgiving. The steering isn't full of feedback, but it's wonderfully free of slack and perfectly weighted. Likewise the firm brake pedal in terms of weighting, which also allows you precise modulation of the considerable stopping power. When the chassis was provoked, we discovered unseemly scrabble from an inside rear wheel, but the traction control is quick-witted and unobtrusive.

No such untidiness from the other car we drove, a 530d equipped with xDrive. In spite of the 3.0-litre diesel's huge torque output, the four-wheel drive system makes for fuss-free, impressive progress. Be a hooligan when exiting a junction and there's a hint that the rear steps sideways before power is sent to the front axle to tidy things back up, but otherwise it's a polished system that somehow allows the 5 Series to feel like a rear-drive car while having the security of all-wheel drive when needed. During one photography session we drove back and forth through the same tortuous sequence of corners in 'Comfort' mode, intent on making the 5 Series appear on its limits for the camera. The surface was, admittedly, perfect, but there was no margin for error in terms of the width of the road and yet the 530d was sublime. It allowed for inch-perfect placement, controlled deceleration time and again and impressive grip throughout. Even getting on the power earlier and earlier elicited no more than mild slip at the rear requiring the minutest tweak of the steering. Understeer was never on the cards. As ever, the eight-speed automatic transmission is nigh on perfect, with plenty of modes to choose from and tactile steering wheel mounted paddles as standard.

Through all this, the one thing that impressed us the most about the new BMW 5 Series was its refinement. It's a very quiet car. The larger wheels and tyres of the M Sport vehicle did transfer more road noise to the cabin, but the 530d, on modest wheels and tyres, was extraordinarily quiet, even isolating rough surfaces from those within the car. Wind roar at speed and even the grumble of the 3.0-litre diesel were also kept at bay. It bodes well for the four-cylinder 520d that'll sell in such high numbers.

Verdict

As fab as the 530d and 540i are, they're not the most important models in the line-up, and loaded up with options it's not easy to work out how a 'normal' car will drive, but first impressions suggest that the 2017 BMW 520d could indeed be a five-star car. Until we drive that, we'll give the new 5 Series an optimistic four stars. Mercedes should certainly be worried.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Shane O' Donoghue - 5 Dec 2016









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2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.

2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.2017 BMW 540i M Sport. Image by BMW.








 

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