With the arrival of the new BMW 5 Series, its clear that executive motoring has never been better served.
The Mercedes-Benz E Class, the Irish Car of the Year in association with Continental Tyres, is a technological tour de force as is the imposing Volvo S90. Both five seaters have headline grabbing semi autonomous driving capabilities. There are also less technical but also impressive machines in the sector from Jaguar, Lexus and of course Audi’s A6 – always a firm favourite.
The new BMW 5 Series now gets to outshine the Merc and Swede with Munich’s most technologically advance model yet. BMW says it is now a technology company – much like Ford has recently said it is now a mobility company. New technologies are advancing safety for drivers, occupants and other road users and these life-saving elements feature high on the new 5’s agenda.
First things first, while the new tech is a big part of the 7th generation 5 Series, it continues where it left off and is a great saloon to drive. Dimensions have grown and now the mid sized saloon, that has sold over 7.6 million examples since 1972, is larger than a 2001 7 Series! New 5 Series is very aerodynamic with a new under floor and a drag figure of just 0.22cd.
Styling wise the twin headlight theme continues but you’ll notice a new active ‘airstream’ grille and air breather vents on the flanks but other wise you have to look closely to notice the finer lines and creases in the metal that are easy on the eye. Round exhaust pipes feature either side of the rear bumper, on higher trims levels they are trapezoidal shape. The car’s exterior is a conservative design that will please most buyers. If you squint at it you could mistake it for a 3 Series it looks that lean and sleek. Weight has been reduced by up to 100kgs (the body is 70kgs lighter).
Inside the cabin features a lower dashboard with ‘Digital Cockpit’, improved leather, tighter shut lines and an overall sleeker design. The main dials at digital and there is a beautiful, large centre touch screen. Our test cars featured gesture control from the 7 Series along with generation 6 of iDrive and an intelligent voice system that understands more common parlance requests. Connectivity is very impressive and night classes traditionally would be needed to understand how it all works but BMW has a solution, more on this in a bit.
The traditional RWD rear wheel drive 5 Series will always be popular and competitively priced with the 520d starting from €52,800 and the 53od from €65,710. But at this particular launch event I focused on BMW’s answer to all weather driving enjoyment with its xDrive AWD models.
I tested the 530d xDrive (from €69,480) and 520d xDrive (from €56,340) in Southern Spain and as a result Am convinced that even in fine weather the Bavarian’s four wheel drive on demand system is the only way to go. Rear wheel drive 5s will continue to be the volume sellers variants but the sure footed nature of XDrive and its driving dynamic is really the only way to go.
Gone is the manual gearbox option and all new 5s will feature an excellent 8-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters. The new car corners with real sharpness with a definite turn in when demanded. In the corner the xDrive system can shift the power distribution between the front and rear wheels by up to 100 per cent. xDrive 5 Series simply loves getting you through twisty turns with gusto. You can get the power on at any stage of a bend and instantly sense the car are finding where the grip is. The sensation is like having a really good differential when exiting a corner. The 530d has just the right amount of power and it pulls really well. The 520d (108g/CO2) is no slouch either and most buyers will be quite happy with its blend of power and fuel economy. If you can, get the upgraded LED Headlight option, it throws light 500 metres down the road as opposed the standard LED’s 330 metres.
Semi autonomy is something you can quickly become at ease with. 5 Series uses cameras and sensors to allow ‘Co Pilot assist’ function. Clear indicators on the dash let you know when the car is able to read the road well enough via cameras and radar to control the steering to stay in your lane and via the adaptive raise control your speed and distance to vehicles in front. Later in the year lane change assistant will allow autonomous lane changing if you activate the indicator.
Via the car’s in built data SIM card you are fully connected. Through BMW’s connect app you can use your 5 series in loads of cool ways that when I was a kid were pure science fiction. For example if you have ‘smart’ domestic devices like a kettle in your home you can control it directly from your car!
BMW has made Microsoft Office 365 available in the new car. This is a first and allows business users to stay connected with emails, calendars, contacts and the like… this is not always a good if you like the sanctuary of a drive away from the real office to clear your head. BMW knows that so much productive time is lost sitting in traffic and with this advance it wants to make driver’s time more efficient. Through the app on your smart phone the car can tell if you need to get in the car and depart early for a meeting because it’s navigation system has spotted a delay on the route! It can also send text messages to those attending the meeting informing them if you are running late.
As with the 7 Series gesture control features and via your smart phone you can also move your 5 in and out of parking spaces if someone has parked too close to allow you get in.
BMW is working on car to car communication to alert drivers to potential unseen hazards ahead. It is doing this in partnership with Audi and Mercedes-Benz who are working on a highly detailed navigation mapping network. Volvo is doing its own version of car to car alerts that is currently on trial in Scandinavia.
A 70 per cent larger HUD head up display area features on the highly recommended option. The amount of technology available is astonishing in the new 5 Series and while I just about understand it (it’s my job after all) customers can avail of explanatory videos and one on one digital chats with a BMW ‘On Line Genius’ much like those wonderful geeks we love to chat to in an Apple Store.
Ireland will be a 520d market but the 530e looks very interesting. A 530e PHEV (plug-in hybrid) was on display at the launch centre and its figures are impressive. 0-100kph takes just 6.2 seconds, CO2 emissions are just 49g and it can return an average fuel consumption 141.2mpg. It takes 3 hours for 16 Amp charging and 4 hours for 10Amp. The 5 Series is on sale now in Ireland with prices ranging from €52,800 (520d SE) to €82,760 (540i xDrive M Sport) on the road.
The bottom line is that the new 5 Series regardless of all the new technology continues to be a great car to simply… drive!