The 530d remains a real stalwart of the BMW 5-Series range. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the revised, more powerful version.
Ten Second Review
The 5 Series remains at the pinnacle of the executive car market and this improved 530d, Power is up from 242 to 258bhp, yet economy and emissions are also better. How does an average of 55mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 134g/km, yet 0-62mph in just 5.8s sound? There are also more hi-tech features and a slightly smarter look. What's not to like?
The range of different cars with BMW badges that buyers can now lay their hands on is quite something. Not so long ago, the marque was content to tempt the public with a bijou model line-up consisting purely of executive and luxury saloons. Model range expansion like this is a sign of the times and BMW's spreading of wings has been mirrored by its rivals but some things don't change. As before, it's the mighty 5-Series that lies at the heart the BMW offering and at the heart of the 5-Series range? That'll be this improved 530d. The practice of platform sharing is a key reason why car manufacturers have been able to assemble such vast product ranges in so relatively short a space of time. Beneath the surface, many modern cars have the same core underpinnings and this is very much the case at BMW, which now has 7-Series, 5-Series and others riding on the same basic big-car platform. As well as facilitating growth in the BMW range, platform sharing has triggered growth in the 5-Series itself. The car is now more capacious than ever but the remarkable six-cylinder diesel engine in the 530d has become more powerful to cope.
BMW's straight-six diesel is one of the great modern car engines and a process of continual improvement has kept it consistently ahead of the game. The latest version develops 258bhp and a huge 398 Ib ft of torque that's on demand from 1,750rpm through to 3,000rpm. That's the kind of muscle that could almost make a three-speed gearbox viable but all 530d buyers get a wonderfully smooth eight-speed automatic which varies its shift pattern and speed according to your driving style. Electric power steering comes as standard and brings rewarding levels of weight and feel to the helm. Progress in the 530d is serene when you're not pushing on. Gearchanges from the auto 'box verge on the imperceptible, engine refinement is superb and there's very little wind noise. The suspension can clunk and bump over sudden undulations in the road surface but this is solved to a great extent by an upgrade to the DDC (Driver Dynamic Control) system which features adaptive dampers. When asked to, the 530d can really show some teeth. The wide power band means next to no delay while the turbo gets into its stride and that makes for powerful acceleration, constantly on tap. The standard 0-62mph sprint is all done in 5.8s (half a second faster than the original version of this car could manage), accompanied by a muted growl from the engine and the car takes less than 5.0s to lurch from 50mph to 70mph in fourth gear. This Five displays great balance and control through corners, with the accurate steering helping to disguise its bulk. Perhaps the sporty side of the standard 530d isn't as overt as in previous generations but options like the M Sport package, DDC and four-wheel-steering should put that right.
Design and Build
You'll need to look quite carefully for the cosmetic updates to this latest car and believe me, that's a good thing. There's a maturity and elegance to the F10 generation 5 Series, a certain understatement that speaks of confidence. It's not the attention-seeker its predecessor was and it's all the better for it. Styling changes to the 5 Series saloon and 5 Series Touring estate models include a revised front air intake in the bumper and sharper-looking tail lights, while the 5 Gran Turismo hatch variant gets an improved tailgate design which helps increase boot space from 440 to 500-litres. The interior hasn't changed dramatically but then it didn't need to. It was already one of the best in class and BMW has updated it with a few equipment changes. If you're not familiar with the post-2010 'F10' generation 5 Series model, a seat in the rear will quickly reveal where its design priorities lay. There's significantly more leg and shoulder-room than the previous generation E60 series could offer and were it not for a prominent central transmission tunnel, you'd probably have reasonably comfortable room for three adults. At the wheel, there's a high dashboard angled slightly towards the driver and dominated by a large information screen which serves the iDrive infotainment system and its functions for the control of sat nav, stereo, 'phone, trip computer, suspension settings and much more. Pay a little extra and you can get a touch-pad on top of the rotary dial. This can be used to input letters or numbers without having to scroll through the seemingly endless on-screen menus. Yes, Audi got there first with that trick but sometimes a good idea is too tempting not to adopt.
Market and Model
In the 5-Series range, those after optimum economy can choose the four-cylinder 518d, 520d and 525d variants, while anyone wanting an even more potent diesel has the six cylinder 535d. The 530d also has six cylinders and sits towards the top of the diesel line-up representing a fine compromise between the two extremes. Saloon and Touring estate models are supplemented by the unusual 5-Series GT executive hatchback which is more appealing than it sounds. Prices for the saloon start at around £40,000 and there's a premium of around £2,300 if you want the Touring estate variant. Transmission is 8-speed automatic only. SE is the standard trim level including 17" alloy wheels, DSC+ stability control, leather seats and Bluetooth connectivity. Above that is the M Sport with various styling add-ons and sports suspension. The options list is brim full of desirable extras. The rivals for the 5-Series aren't hard to predict, with Audi's A6, the Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar's XF being the leading contenders. The 530d stacks up extremely well on paper compared to equivalent models from these ranges and while the Mercedes might be more comfortable, the Audi's interior more impressive and the XF a more polished driver's car in basic form, the 5-Series is hard to beat as an all-round ownership proposition. The differences are slight between these excellent vehicles and personal taste may well be a bigger determining factor in many buying decisions.
Cost of Ownership
The running costs associated with the 530d should bring little cause for complaint with combined cycle fuel economy of 55.4mpg and emissions of 134g/km with the saloon variant. How does BMW do it? Aside from the advanced combustion systems whirring away within the engines, there are a number of clever features grouped under the EfficientDynamics banner. There's an optimum gear shift indication with all the manual models, brake energy regeneration recovers kinetic energy to charge the battery and active aerodynamics help with the car's efficient movement through the air by sealing off the front grille at speed. Low rolling resistance tyres also play their part.
BMW models come in a vast array of different shapes and sizes these days but the 5 Series still stands out as an example of the marque doing what it does best. This top class executive saloon is bigger and better than ever in its current form, particularly in 530d guise with the outstanding six-cylinder diesel engine installed. Where else in the executive segment can you get a car that manages to return over 55mpg on a regular basis, yet can accelerate to 62mph in less than six seconds. Only here. Can this car be faulted? Perhaps. Some might feel that it's not quite the 'ultimate driving machine' that it was in previous generations - but you can accentuate that part of this car's personality by carefully choosing from dynamic features on the options list. Do that and you might well end up with a car that's state-of-the-art in its segment. Just as 5 Series models always have been.