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Week at the Wheel: BMW 530d. Image by Max Earey.

Week at the Wheel: BMW 530d
Sportiness has been ditched for the new 5 Series. Luxury is king. Just bought a 7 Series?

 



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| Week at the Wheel | 2010 BMW 530d |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

Alright, it's a bit predictable; and it's a lot like the 7 Series. But the new 5 is handsome and classy where the outgoing model is conspicuously awkward. And that's from someone who reckons the old 5 Series still looks the business.

It probably tells you something that the new car's most striking trait is its size. It hides its bulk well, but some might find it slightly generic. Anodyne, even. But there's a useful interior augmentation that gives front and rear passengers loads of head- and legroom.

Inside, BMW resorts to the sort of Russian doll approach Volvo's exterior stylists once used. Fortunately the basis is spot on, and this car's 'junior Seven' ambience is peerless in the class; it exposes the Mercedes-Benz E-Class interior as slab faced, while having all the build integrity of anything from Audi. And having hit a usability peak with every revised iteration, iDrive is starting to seem complex again in the face of more modern touch screen systems - though the smudge-free and gloriously panoramic hi-definition display arguably makes up for that.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

You hardly need any more power and torque than the 245bhp and 398lb.ft mustered by BMW's 30d straight-six diesel. You might want more drama, but pace? Nah. It's the effortlessness with which the 530d snowballs into illegal territory that is startling. It might not quite feel like it's tearing to 62mph in about the same time that the petrol-engined 535i does (6.3 seconds), but it never relents. The standard eight-speed automatic means that it's pulling low revs in top gear at very high velocity.

And that gearbox is a lovely thing. Are eight ratios too many? On paper, perhaps. In reality, no. It's smooth of shift and alarmingly competent at jumping into the optimum rev plateau, never bumbling while it works out what the fast pedal is doing. In Sport mode it'll stick with lower gears; in Normal, it's all about economy so it'll find eighth ASAP. Both are programmed convincingly. (A 'sport' version with paddles is available too, if you're so inclined.)

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

BMW has taken the brave step of risking the wrath of corner-mongers by eschewing firm sportiness in favour of cosseting compliance this time around. But how many people really care about on-the-limit feel in a diesel executive saloon? It's you, the regional manager; you on the motorway; you with hundreds of miles a week to do; you with two kids to transport at the weekend; you who doesn't care about limited-slip differentials on a wet Tuesday morning. You'll be living with the Five every day.

BMW has set the car up for you. The Five is no longer a grown up 3 Series; it's a grown down Seven. It rides beautifully, with a suppleness that takes most road nuances and hides them from you. It deals with tarmac like Jack Charlton circa 1966 dealt with his alopecia: brushes over it. Of course, that's to the detriment of outright cornering feel; there's obvious weight transfer during acceleration, braking and cornering. There's still a very talented, balanced car here, it's just one that you must dig a little deeper to find and enjoy.

We discovered that over a 1,200-mile Southern France to Northern England odyssey. Not once during those two days did the Five ever get uncomfortable. Our car sat on standard springs with a standard steering rack, which has switched from hydraulic to electric assistance for economy's sake. It shows. The steering is direct but lacks positive feedback, and combined with the woollen ride it's fair to say the Five has gone a little soft. That said, the options list contains adaptive damping, which can firm things up a good whack, and 'active steering', which counter steers the rear wheels at low speeds for better manoeuvrability. Try those if the standard setup is too normal for you.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

At 37,100 before you've even added the good stuff all thrusting executives crave, the 5 Series isn't cheap. However, it's only slightly more costly than the outgoing car, but now comes with leather and a couple of other things as standard that weren't before. In real terms it's better value now. The wildly popular 520d is only 130 more than the outgoing E60 5 Series, yet it has about 2,300's worth of extra stuff inside.

On the economy front, nobody is doing work as impressive with the compression combustion engine as BMW is right now. Consider the 530d's performance, then that it returns 44.8mpg combined and emits 166g/km of CO2. It's more efficient than all its German brethren, and performs better. Enough said.

Overall: star star star star star

Without quite the dynamic involvement that BMW is famed for, the new Five still manages to be a superb car. It's just so complete. It offers luxury car levels of comfort, quiet and refinement, while the build quality and cabin flair are absolutely top rate. The standard steering and suspension setup will suit most just fine, but it's a shame that those who do want a bit more driver engagement will have to fork out a premium for the drive-enhancing adaptive chassis and steering. BMW has shifted the goalposts for this 5 Series, but it's still scored a screamer.

Mark Nichol - 26 Mar 2010









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2010 BMW 5 Series specifications: (530d SE saloon)
Price: 37,100 on-the-road
0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Combined economy: 45.6mpg
Emissions: 162g/km
Kerb weight: 1715kg

Full technical specifications

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.



2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Max Earey.
 

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Max Earey.
 

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Max Earey.
 

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Max Earey.
 

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Max Earey.
 

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Max Earey.
 

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Max Earey.
 

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Max Earey.
 






 

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