BMW 530d car review
Thursday 19 July 2007
Ten Point Test
Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 88%
The BMW 5 Series is the standard which all other large executive saloon cars are judged. It has managed to blend comfort with the kind of driving dynamics which shame some so-called sportscars.
This, the fifth generation of 5 Series, has been criticised for its radical looks in a market where sobriety often wins the day. But should you look closer and try to love those looks, or pass on by?
We drove a hot 530d M Sport for a week to find out.
1. Looks 8/10
There’s no doubting the presence the 5 Series offers – it still looks striking long after its 2003 launch. But the radical appearance has put some buyers off, opting for more conservative styling from Audi and Mercedes. Whatever your opinions are on the overall effect there are some wonderful styling features, like the row of five LEDs in the trailing edge of the headlights (an intricate wonder themselves) and the shark fin aerial on the roof. We opted for the M Sport version of the 530d, which offers a pretty bodykit and huge alloys as standard – well worth the extra cost.
2. Looks inside 9/10
This generation of Five was the first to shun the dashboard layout which almost wraps around the driver. In fact, it does the opposite, with it bowing out in the centre of the car and sweeping back on either side. But like every other 5 Series, the controls are laid out intuitively and the dials are among the clearest to read on the market. BMW’s controversial iDrive system (a huge rotary dial behind the gearstick) controls the functions on the colour screen which is installed in the centre of the dash and was intuitive to use, contrary to other reports. The seats on our M Sport test car were light beige which although pleasant to sit on, proved prone to getting dirty.
3. Practicality 8/10
The 5 Series is a big car, so it should come as little surprise there’s a great deal of space. The cabin is roomy in every dimension, and rear leg and headroom along with the 500-litre boot are certainly worthy of note. Sadly (and unusually) the rear seats don’t fold, which compromises total practicality, especially as through the saloon’s bootlid (rather than hatch) means there’s less access to all that space. Owners can specify a ski hatch, which opens when the rear armrest and trapdoor are folded down. They can be retrofitted to cars without one. There’s not a huge amount of cubbyholes around the cabin, although cupholder fans will be pleased to see a pair of soft-opening pop-out ones on the dash.
4. Ride and Handling 9/10
The 5 Series handles better than any large saloon car has the right to. Its front engine/rear wheel drive layout improves weight distribution and with the power being sent rearwards, the front wheels only need concern themselves with turning and providing feedback through the steering wheel. Our test car was fitted with the M Sport pack, which includes sports suspension. Despite the stiffened ride (coupled with the less forgiving low profile tyres), the 530d had an excellent ride. Having said that, those seeking an even more smooth drive may want to forgo the Sport pack. The 530d M Sport dispels the myth once and for all run flat tyres ruin the car’s ride – they don’t.
5. Performance 10/10
The 530d we tested has a staggering turn of pace, particularly through the gears. Even accelerating from A-road speeds in sixth left the passengers pressed against the seat backs. The headline power output is 235bhp, but it’s the 369lb/ft at 2,000rpm of pulling power which accounts for the ferocious in-gear acceleration. This adds up to a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds and an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph, making the 530d’s engine one of the most powerful high-performance diesel engines in the world. At low speeds, the engine is superbly refined, free from the classic diesel clatter, but under hard acceleration it turns into a muscle car-like growl. Very impressive.
6. Running Costs 8/10
Its £36,000 price tag puts the 530d we tested up against some serious opposition, but few offer the driving thrills the big BMW can. But despite its size, it was returning more than 38mpg on average, and if the driver can avoid being carried away on a crest of pulling power on every journey, the official 44mpg figure could easily be reached. Considering its size and performance, fuel economy is excellent. Its emissions of 170g/km of CO2 place it in tax band E, which costs £165 per year at time of writing, while its insurance group 18 will hurt for higher risk drivers.
7. Reliability 9/10
Some cars feel solid – and then there’s the 5 Series. The quality of the materials used and the care taken in the way its build are both superb. It scores well in the Reliability Index which tracks the cheapness and rarity of breakdowns.
8. Safety 8/10
Many of the 5 Series’ safety systems are controlled via BMW’s Advanced Safety Electronics (ASE) system. This regulates the operation of the airbags, seatbelt tensioners and active headrests. There are front, passenger, front side and head airbags which activate through the headrests (which also move in the event of a collision to prevent whiplash). The steering column collapses to avoid head injuries too. But despite these features, the 5 Series failed to achieve a full five star rating in the EuroNCAP crash tests, scoring four for both adult and child occupant protection.
9. Equipment 9/10
All 5 Series come well appointed, with the iDrive system controlling the stereo, CD player, air-con and traction control. Steering wheel-mounted audio controls and electric seats are also standard. The high-spec 530d M Sport we tested also featured a brake drying feature, along with brake fade compensation which keeps the brakes working hard even after a long, fast drive. Cruise control, hill start assistance, front and rear park sensors, tyre puncture warning system, heated windscreen washer jets, headlamp washers and a socket to attach an MP3 player also featured in the lengthy equipment list.
10. X-Factor 10/10
The 5 Series has been the benchmark for a quality executive express for many years, and the latest model does plenty to keep it ahead of the pack. The 3-litre diesel in the 530d is a sensational powerplant, making it one of the best drives available at any price.
Model tested: BMW 530d M Sport
On the road price: £36,015
Price range: £27,000 – £67,180
Date tested: July 2007
Road tester: Stuart Milne