Is BMW’s diesel-drinking large sedan the most appealing model in the range? If you’re looking to travel huge distances in top comfort, the answer appears to be an emphatic ‘yes’.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
Launching earlier this year, the new-generation BMW G30 5 Series took the German carmaker’s stalwart large car to new levels of finish, size and technology when it took over from the outgoing F10. However, it’s lost some of the sporty edge of its ancestors thanks to less engaging steering.
But how does it go as a long-distance cruiser? We took an optioned-up 530d on an extended trip away from the big smoke with four adults aboard to find out.
A classy interior is one of the major drawcards of the 530d, and the perforated and quilt-stitched white Nappa leather upholstery of our test car was especially nice – though you’d hope it was, being a $1300 cost option. Material quality is excellent and matched by tight-fitting plastics and trim, flashy ambient cabin lighting and an air of opulence that wasn’t there in the previous generation.
There’s loads of cool tech to enjoy, with one of the slickest 360-degree camera views available in a luxury car, a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones, rear climate control switches, a colour head-up display and a 10.25-inch colour screen that runs BMW’s excellent iDrive infotainment suite. Tick a $1600 option box and you can also enjoy remote parking, gesture controls for the infotainment system and a screen-equipped smart key.
Noise suppression is fantastic. BMW’s efforts to insulate the 5 Series’ cabin from the outside world result in an interior that doesn’t feel much noisier than that of a 7 Series. Wind noise is low, tyre noise is far from intrusive and the engine is no clattery diesel – if anything, it’s a sweet-sounding six that’s almost petrol-like in its refinement. As a result, conversation between the front and rear occupants is blissfully easy.
Although 195kW may not sound like the most impressive power output in this day and age – especially when a Toyota Aurion flexes 200kW – it’s the 530d’s huge 620Nm torque figure that has the biggest impact on how it drives. With so much torque – and much of it available from just above idle – it doesn’t take much throttle to get the 1.6-tonne 530d moving smartly. BMW claims it accelerates from 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds, which is faster than most hot hatches.
Highway ride comfort is great, and long stretches of open, gently undulating road is where the 530d feels most at home. In Comfort mode there’s a slight floatiness to the ride that is comfort-enhancing rather than stomach-churning, and during our test drive the 530d ate up hundreds of kilometres with no complaints from its four occupants. It’s worth mentioning that our car was shod with 19-inch wheels – expect a sharper ride on bigger rolling stock.
The 530d makes an outstanding long-distance cruiser. The combination of all of its above virtues (especially its excellent seat comfort, hushed cabin, relaxed powertrain and supple ride) makes it the perfect thing for eating up many highway kilometres. If you have to spend hours behind the wheel or seated in the back seat of a car, this is one of the best ways to do it.
Integral Active Steering is a $2250 option, but it doesn’t necessarily make the 5 Series a better car to steer. It shrinks the wheelbase by slightly turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels at low speed, but the variable-ratio steering rack up front delivers an inconsistent feel to the wheel and, in combination with the four-wheel steering, can sometimes result in the car turning in far more quickly than you may have intended.
Option pricing can see the dollars stack up at a rapid rate. Our car was admittedly specced to a very high level, with features like soft-close doors ($1150), remote parking/gesture control/display key ($1600), Nappa leather ($1300) and a high-end Bowers & Wilkins surround sound audio system ($6400). Even metallic paint costs and extra $2000, which stings a little considering the 530d’s $119,900 base cost. All up, the as-specified price tag was $139,300 for the car we drove.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The Mercedes-Benz E350d, Jaguar XF 30d S and Audi A6 3.0TDI are all worthy rivals, with the E-Class being the freshest and most impressive product among them. If diesel isn’t a rigid requirement, the Lexus GS 450h petrol-electric hybrid is worth looking at, too.