BMW 530d SE 17 | 08 | 2010Scotcars rating

    BMW takes a smooth and traditional line with its executive express and produces a winner

    OK, INDULGE ME here. Imagine you’ve just come into a pile of money — no, not a supercar budget — and you just have to buy a car. You’re finally able to nip out to your local dealer and buy the car you’ve always hankered over. Likelihood is, it’s German; probability is, it’s a BMW. If that’s the case, then your timing is perfect.

    BMW has just introduced the first models in its brand new 5 Series range and, as you would expect, they lift the bar in terms of refinement, build-quality, prestige, emissions and fuel economy. Oh, and they tick the box too when it comes to performance.

    First there’s the 535i, with 306bhp on offer from its 3.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine. It’s a stonking piece of kit which will blow your socks off. But given that BMW expects 90% of new 5 Series sales to be diesel, I think it makes more sense to spend the bulk of my time driving the car at its launch in the French Pyrenees in the new six-cylinder 530d.

    Before we go any further, the bulk of 5 Series diesel sales will be harvested by the 4-cylinder 520d. In typical car manufacturer mode, it’s generally the higher-end, more expensive models which hit the showroom floor first, hence the 535i and 530d.

    But let’s deal with many of the facets and styling issues which are common to all models in the range. The good new for those people who disliked the controversial exterior appearance of its predecessor — despite it’s questionable combination of convex and concave surfaces, the old 5 Series ultimately became the most successful model in the car’s illustrious 38-year history — is that the car’s lines are smoother and more traditional.

    It’s intended to promote an intimacy with the machine

    Newcomer is a joy to drive

    That said, the new model’s more homogeneous shape does carry the generic necessity required of all modern day cars; in order to minimise damage to pedestrians in the event of a collision, it has a high, bluff front. The new 5 Series is also longer than its immediate predecessor, and it comes across as a bulkier car than any 5 Series since the original was launched in 1972.

    Don’t though let that observation put you off. The newcomer is a joy to drive, rarely feeling as big or as large as it actually is. But we’ll come back to that later. Inside the cabin, it’s clear the designers have upped their game. Where the previous generation could be described as slightly dull, the new version has gone for a more sophisticated and elegant layout.

    Gone are the double humps over the dashboard to be replaced by one sweeping dash which now sits above a very driver-focussed cockpit. Not only is there an added feeling of bulk and solidity, but it’s immediately noticeable the main instrument and switch panels are angled a little towards the driver in the way they used to be in BMWs.

    The design bods told me “it’s intended to promote an intimacy with the machine.” Intimacy may be, but there’s certainly nothing intimate about the hefty information screen which dominates the centre of the new dashboard and delivers information from the iDrive control systems – sat-nav, stereo, phone, computer, suspension settings and more. Initially, to be honest, iDrive is a pain. Persevere with it though and live with the system for a few days, and you’ll find everything becomes quite intuitive.

    Auto 'box is 1500 quid

    As you’d expect, from a tactile point of view everything you touch oozes quality, durability and Teutonic solidity. There’s also more space in the cabin and, thanks to the fact the car’s longer, rear passengers have almost as much room as those in the front. It’s a very relaxing place to be.

    The serene atmosphere is further enhanced by the reworked suspension. With the variable dampers set in ‘Comfort’ mode the 5 Series is sufficiently supple to soak up the most uneven road surfaces you’re likely to find in most parts of Scotland. It’ll also glide over nasty expansion joints on sections such as those you find on the Forth Road Bridge.

    The 530d is terrifically composed and has an unerring ability to gobble up the miles. Though the car comes with manual as standard, the car is best when mated to BMW’s optional eight-speed auto ’box. And here’s where things begin to start stacking up against the 5 Series. Options. Yes, the car is ‘best when mated to BMW’s optional eight-speed auto ’box’. But that’s a £1500 option.

    The range starts at £31,360 and rises to £67,300, it’s not difficult to find yourself adding anything between £5000 and £15,000 as you start customising the car to your needs and preferences. Actually, remember what I said at the beginning that you didn’t have the budget for a supercar; well maybe it’s time to make sure you do your ticket for the EuroLottery after all.

    Jim McGill

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £38,090 /£46,670
    Engine / Power: 2978cc / 241bhp
    How fast?: 0-60 mph 6.4secs, Max 155mph
    How big/heavy?: H1464mm W2094mm L4899mm / 1905kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 44.1mpg / CO2 169g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 40 /
    Alternatives: Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6

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