With a new platform and new engines, the 2017 BMW 5 Series looks to reaffirm its standing in the midsize luxury sedan segment. It distinguished itself decades ago as a driver’s car and has since evolved into a sophisticated, comfortable sedan that attempts to be all things to most people. In the process, the 5 Series traded some of its driver’s car chops for a more isolated feel. The 2017 model doesn’t stray far from this contemporary vision of the 5 Series. And despite being a hair larger and bringing an arsenal of technology to bear, the new car manages to avoid the weight bloat that afflicts many such attempts.
BMW didn’t take any chances with its successful product. The new 5 Series grows in length by 1.2 inches and stands 0.6 inch taller than the outgoing model, while the wheelbase and width are nearly unchanged. The updated cabin primarily benefits backseat passengers, who gain 1.2 inches of legroom. These modest changes to its footprint, combined with the evolutionary styling, mean the new car is readily familiar.
EXTERIOR AND LOOKS
BMW has always taken it easy when it comes to exterior changes on their facelift models and the 5-Series isn’t any different. The 2014 BMW 520d gets very minor cosmetic tweaks including new front and rear bumpers which now get metallic accents, new slimmer headlights with a re-shaped LED layout, silver finish on the front grille of this trim (the M Sport gets black finish on the grille) and 18-inch alloy wheels (Turbine design), instead of 17-inchers found on the pre-facelift 520d. The overall result is the 5-Series now looks a bit fresh but nothing in the design strikes you immediately.
INTERIOR AND CANIN
On the inside, the 2017 BMW 5 Series has some design elements from the 7 Series. In fact a lot of features have trickled into this sedan. This is a good combination of sportiness and luxuriousness. There is Active Cruise Control, Steering and lane keeping assistant, iDrive controller with 10.25 inch screen, BMW Heads Up Display, Adaptive LED Headlamps, Gesture Control and wireless charging. The Heads Up display is now 70% larger and there are large screens for the rear passengers as well.
The cabin looks plush and premium. It does feel a lot like the new 7 from the inside. The company claims to have improved the knee room for rear passengers. Then there is the massage function and the seat can be operated with gestures. There is even a Special Synergy Thermoacoustzic Capsule that reduces the outside. This enhances the cabin insulation. One can park the car by using the car key system called as Remote Parking. There is Apple CarPlay and even WiFi hotspot for up to 10 people. The Remote 3D View allows drivers to see the 360 view of their parked cars. Microsoft 365 users can sync their emails, calendar entries and contacts and edit them in the car itself.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
The BMW 520d uses a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder engine which belts out 184 BHP of peak power at 4000 RPM and 380 Nm of peak torque between 1750 – 2750 RPM. While this might not sound much for a car of this size, performance is ample. The 5-Series performs brilliantly, the engine revs cleanly to the redline and power delivery although linear, is smoothly transferred to the rear wheels via a fantastic 8-speed ZF gearbox. The transmission is the high point of the package, it shifts cogs with butter smooth precision and is very quick too. In Sport mode, the autobox holds the gears till the redline and you have the option of upshifting using the steering mounted paddles or the fantastic to hold gearshift selector.
Other modes include Comfort and Eco Pro, the former not letting you know about gear shifts while the latter doing its very best to save fuel by keeping the revs as low as possible. There is also an ECO start/stop function. The only downside of this 1995cc mill is the refinement, it’s too audible inside the cabin and the clatter is quite evident at idle. Even when you floor the pedal and whizz past 3000 RPM, you can hear the growl from the motor. 100 km/hr comes up in fourth gear, signifying the shorter gearing. You can comfortably cruise in top gear at 100 km/hr with the RPM needle ticking in at just 1500 RPM. Our VBOX run showed that the 520d is a reasonably quick car, doing the 0-100 km/hr sprint in a 8.60 seconds. Fuel economy is good with city mileage being upwards of 10 km/l.
RIDE AND HANDLING
Now let’s delve into the details of the driving modes. There are four of them – eco pro, comfort, sport and adaptive. I started off with the eco pro and understood that the leisurely power output was due to the system trying to extract the maximum fuel efficiency from the powerplant. The comfort mode, on the other hand, ensured a better throttle response. This got sharper in the Sport mode. The best part of this mode, is that it lets you rev till 4,000rpm before automatically shifting gears. And all of this is quick, but still in an unhurried manner and without jerks. Then the adaptive mode, as the name suggests, did a good job in adjusting to the throttle responses. A gentle tap on the gas pedal is all that’s needed for the car to easily gather speed.
The steering on the 520d feels light while cutting through traffic, and also responds quickly to steering inputs when you’re going fast around bends. This luxury sedan comes with an adaptive suspension with independent damping for each wheel as standard. As a result, the suspension adjusts itself in different driving modes. This is evident in the comfort mode as broken roads and rough patches were taken into the car’s stride easily. The soft tuning also meant that there is some slight side-to-side movement of occupants, but not to discomforting levels. The damping is good and felt similar in the adaptive mode too. At higher speeds there is some floating motion which immediately disappeared with the sport mode on. The car felt more composed and was fun to chuck around corners with the increase in pace. And thats impressive for such a long car. The Pirelli tyres offer superior grip which in turn gives the user more confidence to go faster. Braking power, too, felt sufficient enough to stop this 1690kg car.
Not surprisingly, the new 5 Series is packed with safety features. The package includes airbags for driver and front passenger, side airbags for driver and front passenger, head airbags for front and rear seats, three-point inertia-reel seat belts on all seats with belt latch tensioner and belt force limiter at the front seats, crash sensors, and tire defect indicator.
The sedan also comes with semi-autonomous drive. The feature is part of the Driver Assistance Plus II package, which also includes, Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Active Lane Keeping Assistant with side collision avoidance, Traffic Jam Assistant and Active Lane Change. The bundle is optional on all four models, but it could be standard on the more expensive trims set to arrive at a later date.
We Indians are not brand loyalists and will go wherever we get a good deal and so it seems that BMW has upped the ante by offering more as standard equipment. The 530d is priced Rs 4 lakh more than its closest rivals but for this amount there seems to be a fair bit more in the offering and so seems like a value proposition for those who can afford a car that costs as much as a 1BHK in Navi Mumbai.
Each of the Beemer’s rivals is known for a certain trait. The Audi A6 is all about technology while the Volvo S80 is all about super high levels of safety. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class (for India) is not on the same ground in terms of this engine but has gained the reputation of a large luxurious tank. The Jaguar XF-S does the best job of combining sportiness with luxury but is down on the feature list not to mention interior space, and so allows the BMW 5 Series to crown itself the ‘sportiest diesel executive sedan’.