TEST DRIVE: 2017 BMW 530d

Test Drives | December 12th, 2016 by 14
2017 BMW 530d xDrive 3 750x500

BMW’s 3 and 5 Series are synonymous with the brand’s success over the last few decades. Customers often identify the blue and white roundel with …

BMW’s 3 and 5 Series are synonymous with the brand’s success over the last few decades. Customers often identify the blue and white roundel with either the 3 or 5 Series business sedan, so it’s only natural that BMW has put all of their resources and technological prowess into the development of the two.

Since 1972 BMW has sold around 7.9 million 5-Series over six generations, and next in the development cycle in Munich was the seventh generation 5 Series sedan, a car that is by far the most impressive piece of technology ever delivered by BMW.

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With winter upon us in most regions of the world, the new 5 Series found a home in Portugal, at least for a few weeks. BMW has baited us with a trip to Lisbon to test the new business sedan, an offer that you can’t refuse when your home city Chicago is buried in snow.

In the last decade, Portugal has been a darling for automakers, offering a beautiful landscape, silk smooth roads and  little to no traffic. Which for the new 5 Series makes more sense than ever. While in the past the driving experience was all the about curvy roads and tight corners, the new age of driving involves things like autonomous driving and safety assistance systems, which are better tested on long, straight lines and smooth pavement.

EVOLUTIONARY DESIGN

2017 BMW 530d xDrive 3 750x500
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But first things first. Its design – often the most important thing in the buying process. BMW styling traditionally favors revolution with one generation, and evolution for the next. So with the F10 5 Series moving away from the controversial, yet very successful E60 design, the G30 was in line for an evolutionary design.

The kidney grill is far more impressive in flesh than in the official photos, portraying an image of luxury and sportiness.

Despite seeing numerous photos of the G30 5 Series and its facial resemblance to the current generation 7 Series, it still takes you by surprise when you look at it for the first time. No one can argue that the new 5 Series is not a mini-7, and that’s not a bad thing. The high-end limousine has one of the most balanced designs we’ve seen in years, even though some may call that boring.

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Fans of Bangle design and his flame surfacing will find the new model’s design unadventurous, but a closer look, one can only appreciate the fine details sculpted onto the car. The new 5 Series has a sleeker, tauter look with modern detailing. The character line on the side stands out especially on darker-colored models, while the iconic Hofmeister Kink has been reinvented for the best.

Just like most of the new BMWs, the long, low profile headlamps with optional LED lights now meet the front grille on each side help to give the car its wider, sportier stance. The kidney grill is far more impressive in flesh than in the official photos, portraying an image of luxury and sportiness.

TECHNOLOGY POWERHOUSE

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But the story lays somewhere else. Like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW aims to position the G30 5 Series to become the company’s technology leader by offering the latest and greatest tech to ever emerge from Munich. And that transformation comes from within the cabin which uses an identical set of screens and controls from the luxurious limousine, including its fully digital instrument cluster, the high-resolution 10.25-inch multimedia screen floating on the top of the dash, the touch controls for the heating and ventilation system and the latest-generation iDrive controller. Even the gimmicky, yet cool gesture controls – and a 360-degree camera – have made their way into the 5 Series’ cabin.

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Extensive user interface work has been done on the multimedia screen which now lets you customize its layout with information tiles. Fans of geeky things will be even more impressed with the new 5 Series, especially when you get to use the wireless phone charging or the Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring via Bluetooth.

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But the story goes further. The technology powerhouse embedded in the 5 Series’ cabin has been paired with equally impressive finishing and upholstery. Like the 7 Series, the overall ambience is genuinely luxurious thanks to sumptuous leathers on all the tactile surfaces, high-quality plastics on other areas and deep piano black and brushed aluminum highlights throughout the cabin.

Flashy extras include the Display Key and Bowers & Wilkins audio system, luxury features which have been historically reserved for flagship models.

BMW’s award winning Head Up Display has also seen significant improvements over the previous generation. One very welcome change is the 70% larger graphics making the information such as road speed and navigational directions much easier to assimilate under all weather conditions. It also uses GPS location and road-sign software to determine whether or not to activate the engine’s stop-start function to save fuel.

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Interior space has not been sacrificed though, on the contrary. The 30mm longer wheelbase helps to provide more rear cabin room, and the new interior offers enough space for someone of as tall as 1.90 meters, whether you’d be sitting upfront or in the back seats.

Flashy extras include the Display Key and Bowers & Wilkins audio system, luxury features which have been historically reserved for flagship models.

SEMI-AUTONOMOUS DRIVING

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The new 5 Series also debuts BMW’s new Driving Assistant Plus package, including a whole suite of semi-autonomous aids. One of the new features BMW introduced with the 5 Series is an autonomous lane-change feature. If you have the active cruise control on, simply press and hold the indicator in your desired direction and the BMW will change lanes by itself. It takes a bit of time to trust the system, but once you do, it works flawlessly and you forget about having to turn the steering wheel.

BMW’s option Driver Assist Plus package also comes with Lane Keeping Assistant. This can monitor the lanes in the road and help keep the driver safe by adding corrective steering in three different situations. If the car recognizes that you’re veering out of your lane or off of the road, it will add corrective steering to bring you back in. If you’re making a lane change and there’s a car in your way that you haven’t seen, it will bring you back into your current lane. Or, if someone else is cutting into your lane and about to crash into your car, it will provide corrective steering to avoid the collision. All of these lane departure assistants work at speeds up to 70 mph.

BMW says that the Driver Assist Plus package is about 18 months ahead in development, compared to the new 7 Series.

One of the more impressive parts about all of the driver assistance systems is the evasive maneuver function. Part of the Driver Assist Plus package, the evasive maneuver system can actually quickly steer around a dangerous obstacle in the road if you haven’t seen it. Maybe you take your eyes off the road for a moment and something rolls into the middle of there road, the 5 Series can actually attempt to swerve around it. It can do this at speeds of up to 99 mph.

BMW says that the Driver Assist Plus package is about 18 months ahead in development, compared to the new 7 Series, which by-the-way, will receive the upgrade in the near future. The hands-free time has also been increased in the 5 Series, and it’s based on a series of factors, from speed to traffic and road conditions. We’ve rigorously tested the system and it was both a joy to use and safe. Same as the other semi-autonomous features, the Lane Keeping Assistant takes some time to get used to it, but once you trust it, the comfort in driving is enhanced. The self-correcting turns of the steering wheel are smooth and precise, and not even once we felt being in danger.

With all these driving assist feature, BMW is taking yet another step in vehicle autonomy. The 5 Series can now basically drive itself on the highway, it can follow the lanes and maintain its speed to either a set point or to the car in front.

MARVELOUS POWERTRAIN

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Most of us here at BMWBLOG are huge fans of BMW diesel engines. Despite their low popularity in the U.S., the diesels continue to play an important role in other markets of the world, and especially in Europe. Likely one of the best sellers for BMW in Europe will be the 530d model, one that offers the perfect combination of fuel efficiency, power and starting price.

The 530d’s 2,993cc TwinPower Turbo diesel develops a healthy 265hp at 4,000rpm, along with a thumping 620Nm of torque between 2,000 and 2,500rpm. With the xDrive system always optimizing available grip, this smooth oil burner shoves you hard in the back on its way to 100km/h in 5.4 sec, yet overall consumption is a frugal 47 mpg, with C02 emissions of just 132g/km.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

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But that’s really only half the story when it comes to the driving experience of the G30 5 Series. BMW engineers in Munich have listened to their F10 5 Series customers, and especially to the extremely critical automotive press who has often complaint about the lack of steering feedback in the previous 5er. Taking a proactive step, BMW has held a series of test drives earlier this summer, featuring pre-production 5 Series model equipped with all the necessary tools to capture the journalists’ feedback. A BMW representative has told us that the steering has been further optimized upon the completion of the pre-production test drives.

Since it doesn’t have the 7 Series’ air suspension, the 5 Series has – on purpose – a sportier driving character that will make it compete for the title of the most dynamic business sedan.

Speaking of steering, the 530d is equipped with an option BMW calls Integral Active Steering (IAS), aka a four-wheel steering system, which for the first time can be paired with xDrive. Instead of following a set radius, the rear wheels live a life of their own, offering higher cornering speed, more agile handling, quicker feedback, and enhanced grip.

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After driving the new 530d over a distance of 200 kilometers, we can safely say that the new steering system has been far improved compared with the F10. BMW has managed to find the difficult balance between ride comfort and dynamic performance. The steering is extremely responsive and engaging, offering that extra sportiness when requested. It is also helped by the fact it is fitted with BMW’s Adaptive Drive suspension system, which mates adjustable dampers with electronically-controlled anti-roll bars that help improve cornering ability without any negative impact on the compliance at each corner.

Since it doesn’t have the 7 Series’ air suspension, the 5 Series has – on purpose – a sportier driving character that will make it compete for the title of the most dynamic business sedan. Part of the improved ride quality comes down to the fact that rather than impose runflat tires on all models barring the M cars, BMW now gives buyers the choice of normal ties as well.

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But the 5 Series will not always live on the highway or the Autobahn, so we’ve decided to conquer some of the backroads surrounding Sintra. If you’ve ever been to that area in Portugal, then you’re likely accustomed to the beautiful scenery and the extremely tight corners which require not only a great driving car, but also some decent skills. And as expected, the 530d is hardly a slouch on those roads. The four-wheel steering amplifies the initial turn-in response, makes it more stable at high speeds and in tight corners.

Just like most BMWs, the character of the 5 Series changes from one driving mode to the next. In Comfort mode the low speed secondary ride is nicely compliant, while Sport mode offers increased body control without the ride becoming too firm.

CONCLUSION

All in all, there’s a lot to like about the seventh-generation 5-Series. It takes all that was great in the F10 5 Series and enhance it to a new level, both in sportiness and luxury. It achieves that perfect balance between superior driving dynamics and comfort, one that has been previewed by the G11 7 Series. It’s also a proper luxury car, with an interior that finally takes the fight to its competitors.

It’s a great car to drive in any event, whether it’s your daily driver or your luxury cruiser, the new 5 Series has all the luxury and convenience of a limousine and yet the character and agility of a compact sports sedan. While looks are subjective, it’s the technology powerhouse of the 5 Series that’s hard to ignore.

BMW's 3 and 5 Series are synonymous with the brand's success over the last few decades. Customers often identify the blue and white roundel with either the 3 or 5 Series business sedan, so it's only natural that BMW has put all of their resources and technological prowess into the development of the two. Since 1972 BMW has sold around 7.9 million 5-Series over six generations, and next in the development cycle in Munich was the seventh generation 5 Series sedan, a car that is by far the most impressive piece of technology ever delivered by BMW. With winter upon…
All in all, there's a lot to like about the seventh-generation 5-Series. It takes all that was great in the F10 5 Series and enhance it to a new level, both in sportiness and luxury. It achieves that perfect balance between superior driving dynamics and comfort, one that has been previewed by the G11 7 Series. It’s also a proper luxury car, with an interior that finally takes the fight to its competitors.

2017 BMW 530d xDrive

Exterior Appeal - 9
Interior Quality - 10
Steering Feedback - 9.5
Performance - 9.5
Handling - 9.5
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 9.5
Price Point - 9.5

9.5

All in all, there's a lot to like about the seventh-generation 5-Series. It takes all that was great in the F10 5 Series and enhance it to a new level, both in sportiness and luxury. It achieves that perfect balance between superior driving dynamics and comfort, one that has been previewed by the G11 7 Series. It’s also a proper luxury car, with an interior that finally takes the fight to its competitors.

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