After spending the weekend tooling around in the new, seventh-gen BMW 5-Series, I really don’t know if I like it. I need to think about it more. According to BMW, compared to the outgoing model, the new one has improved performance and dynamics, better steering feel, the latest iDrive … BMW says the new design is “mature” and “confidently stylish,” adding the cockpit has been moved back slightly. The new car is 1.2 inches longer, 0.3 inch wider and 0.6 inch taller. The 117.1-inch wheelbase is 0.2 inch longer too. I say unless I park one side by side with an old one I really don’t know if I could tell the difference. Talk about evolutionary. It’s up to the customer whether that’s good or bad I suppose.
It’s fast but not quick. In other words, when you tromp the gas pedal from a stop, it ain’t that exciting. In fact, it’s a bit dull. Once up to speed, though, it’s better: good passing power and quick lane changing. The overboosted steering doesn’t make the driving experience any more exciting. You can also get this turbo four in a Mini. Oh, the shame. I need to try the turbo six and twin-turbo V8. I have a feeling the six is the sweet spot…
The ride is mostly fine. Not as good as the E-Class, but I blame BMW’s run-flat tire choice. The car is a little crashy over potholes, more so than the E, but generally rides calmly and drama free in comfort or sport. Doesn’t really matter what mode is chosen.
The evolutionary look continues inside -- it’s all familiar. Quality is fine. The center screen now sits more on top of the dash than did the old car’s, adding a sense of extra space. I found the seats comfortable and supportive. All good.
The 5-Series is the heart of BMW’s lineup. More than 7.6 million have been sold worldwide since 1972 -- since 1975, more than a million in the U.S. alone. There’s a lot riding on this new one. So far, not so good: Sales are down 47 percent so far this year compared to last. Maybe it’s model changeover.
OTHER VOICES: Hmm, I found this 530i surprisingly powerful with the 2.0-liter four. I wasn’t expecting turbo-six speed, but for the average driver, I think this is plenty quick. I suppose it could be a little quicker off the line, but like Wes said, passing and expressway speeds are plenty. In sport mode, it’ll rev to six grand without complaint. The four might sound a little whiny through the firewall, but I would never say it struggled. The eight-speed automatic is super smooth, with barely noticeable gear changes. I didn’t really mess with the paddle shifters, but I did notice they were rubber on the back and metal on the front, better to slap them at speed I guess.
I too didn’t notice much change in suspension or steering through the different driving modes. It did bang over potholes a few times and yes, the run-flat tires are a big part of that. I drove either an M3 or M4 with normal, not run-flat tires recently, and I found it way, way more livable than our old long-term M3 with the run flats. When anyone asks me about BMW, I say sporty, fun, but don’t get the run flats.
The interior is way nicer than the last one I was in. The seats are wider and more comfortable than the last too, with better knee support. And I love how they cradle/bolster you more when you hit the sport button.
The iDrive system is easy to use, though it took me a few minutes to find the audio equalizer function; the bass was turned way up, drowning out the treble. Otherwise, my iPhone connected immediately and the rearview camera is great. Oh, and I put the kiddo in the back with the car seat and base, and there was still an acceptable amount of room for front passengers.
This 5-Series has 23 grand in options, or as young Wes would say, “that’s the price of a Honda Civic!” I could easily ditch the Bowers and Wilkins radio upgrade and maybe the premium package or two, but I’d still be looking at $65,000 or so. And that is a little tough to swallow with a four cylinder. For reference, the cheapest one you can get with that stellar I6 is $58,000 or so, including destination charges.
The new, seventh-generation BMW 5-Series arrived earlier this year burdened with meeting high luxury and sport sedan expectations. Its styling meets the mark, sitting low, squat, understated and ...
I have to admit, I'm not sure when it happened; it might’ve been during the last refresh that the change was made and I either failed to notice or somehow managed to miss driving anything wearing a roundel, though neither seems to true. In any case, it did not escape my notice in this 530i—it actually struck me.
The turn signal and wiper stalks both, they click into place and don't immediately snap back to a neutral position. One BMW bugaboo in a sea of them—each an example of the company thinking the wheel (and stalks and shifter and other really basic controls) requires reinvention—now rolled back.
One might think such a retreat would inspire a bit humility, perhaps the tiniest acknowledgment that they got it wrong, but I get no sense of that in poring over the BMW literature, no admission of a mistake made, no recognition that, in fact, some things are designed a certain way not just because of tradition, but because yeah, sometimes it serves a real function. My hope against hope is that all the automakers now relying on haptic-feedback controls—where real, physical switchgear is swapped out for slick, flat surfaces and points of interface are indicated simply by backlit graphics—get kicked in the teeth (metaphorically speaking, of course). Like stalks that stay where you click them, there's a real reason why things like the knob work so well: As you "tell" it what to do, i.e., turn it, it's telling you back what it's doing, i.e., turning a specified amount. It's an actual example of two-way communication, which is lost with stalks that return to center and things like slide-your-finger-to-increase-volume functions.
No, the car featured here is not a BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo. That car is gone. This is actually the new 2018 640i Gran Turismo that's replacing it for 2018, meaning the newest 6-Series ...
The 5-series should cut right through BMW’s sometimes baffling model lineup clutter. It’s a solid midsize executive sedan. What’s not to like?
Well, the $74,160 price tag, for one. That feels high -- although once the sticker shock wore off, it’s neither unprecedented nor particularly out of line with the rest of the industry. You can spend a boatload of money on a Teutonic luxury car, and you’ve been able to do so for decades. In any event, I didn’t look at the sticker until after I had spent a few days driving, and I had no real gripes about the fundamentals.
If you’re not familiar with BMW’s periodic renaming schemes, the 530i now means … a two-liter turbo four. It’s not enough to really launch the nearly 3,750-pound sedan with exceptional gusto, but it’s got enough gas to pass without breaking a sweat at expressway speeds.
That’s fine here, because this particular tester is built like a nicely trimmed commuter-spec car. The pricey driver assistances packages give you enough semi-autonomous tech get you to work through heavy traffic; I tried the adaptive cruise control and, as with the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, it’ll do nearly all the driving to and from work for you, including slowing you to a stop and getting you going again.
Of course, with all of the fancy tech comes a new slate of potential annoyances, including an anti-collision system that engaged itself every time I slowed to a stop sign and refused to be permanently disengaged. This isn’t the first time this happened to me on a BMW this season, and it was annoying as hell -- until I got out and kicked a glaze of ice off the front sensors. Then it worked great. So expect future robot cars to come equipped with built-in front fascia heaters.
Ah, but the pricing. Strip the 530i down to its base price and it’s competitive with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class -- no accident, and reasonable as far as German midsize sedans go. The E-Class wins on interior looks and torque, but I’d rather drive the BMW I6 than the Benz V6, which isn’t even offered on the standard-series E-Class sedans.
As Jake notes, a base 540i runs about $58,000, and that’s a lot of cash. But, looking back at what a 5-series cost in (for example) 2000, it’s not really out of line with inflation, and you’ve been able to load up BMWs with tens of thousands in options for decades now. So I’ll concede that the high price of this particular tester is a poor reason dislike the car.
A more biting criticism is that, onboard tech aside, it doesn’t strike me as an all-new vehicle. The most recent E-Class looked and felt new inside and out when it was introduced; the 5-Series, while solid, could pass as a comprehensive refresh.
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