BMW has set the new 5-series a formidable challenge by making it much more of a luxury car
BMW’s new 5-series shares much of its platform with its larger sibling, the 7-series. The car features the same ‘back to its roots’ styling and you can honestly recognise this as a BMW, even without the badges. The wide kidney grille, the double-barrel headlamps, the long bonnet, the tight-fitting roof, the kink in the rear door and the wide but subtly flared wheel arches – it has them all. The multiple surfaces on the bonnet and the flanks really lend the design an edgy air.
While the new Five is built on the same platform as the 7-series, the wheelbase is shorter by 100mm here. At 2968mm it’s still very long though, probably the longest in its class. BMW has also transferred a whole bunch of high-tech stuff from the 7-series to this car. Stuff like Dynamic Driving Control, which allows you to choose between Normal, Sport and Sport+ and alter throttle responses, steering feel and automatic gearbox operation. But some of the best bits are missing on the Indian 5-series, such as the Variable Damper Control (VDC), Adaptive Drive (active anti-roll bars) and Integral Active Steer (rear-wheel steering).
Unlike the earlier 5-series which used a hybrid space-frame front, this car uses a conventional monocoque chassis. However, you still get plenty of aluminium bits in the front of the car to help it maintain its 51/49 percent front-rear weight distribution. In fact the doors, for the first time, are made of aluminium and as a result lack that impressive solid ‘thud’. BMW’s front suspension has also been specifically designed to allow the dampers to function without having any negative effect on the location of the front wheels on the road. The biggest change, however, is that this car gets an electric power-steering system in an effort to improve the overall efficiency of the car. Run-flat tyres remain, and you still don’t get the extra security and peace of mind that comes from having a spare.
BMW breaks no new ground with the interiors of the new 5-series. The design is so similar to the Seven, it’s actually difficult to tell them apart. Still, there is a plush feel to the insides and though designers have shown a considerable amount of restraint for new shapes and forms, elements like the joystick-style gear selector and the iDrive dial make things interesting.
The steering and instruments retain BMW’s sporty air. The wheel on this version of the new Five is chunky, the round dials are clear and there is an interesting horizontal display screen at the bottom of the instruments. Information here is displayed in a very modern and graphic format – a nice touch. The design of the central console can be slotted seamlessly into any large BMW from the last decade and, as ever, the horizontal buttons look good. However, they are a touch too small and can be fiddly to use when the car is on the move. The quality of plastic used is as impressive as any and functionality of the buttons and even the iDrive is first-rate.
The 5-series’ cabin, however, lacks the solid build of the E-class and though the central console is wide, the storage areas are too shallow. Seat comfort is fantastic, though. The front seats are large, thigh and shoulder support is very good and you could be well over six feet and still be very comfortable. Space on the rear seats is even better, and the large seats add to the comfort. The new Five, however, lacks the phenomenal thigh support of the earlier 5-series and the large front seats obscure the view ahead as well. And some may find the seat backs a bit too reclined for comfort.
Performance & Economy
The new three-litre straight-six under the hood is a collection of some of BMW’s best high-tech features, all roped together in one fine package. This engine features Valvetronic, direct injection and a new high-tech twin-scroll turbocharger. There’s a new Valvetronic adjuster that reduces inertia and reaction times to one-tenth of what they used to be, direct injection allows the motor to make simply huge amounts of torque at absurdly low engine speeds, there’s 41kgm of twist from just 1200rpm, and BMW’s use of a single turbo divided into twin scrolls delivers instant responses.
Caress the throttle and the motor feels as smooth and as well-balanced as only a straight-six can. The hard-working ZF eight-speed auto clicks up a couple or three gears as soon as you lift off the throttle pedal, and the battery gets topped up on overrun, indicated just below the tachometer. But flatten the accelerator after you’ve made sure you have a big enough gap ahead of you and the gearbox snaps the motor to attention, the tachometer needle popping up like a jack-in-the-box. Take-off is very strong, the rear wheels spinning all the way in first, even with traction control on, BMW allowing for a little slip to improve traction of the line.
Acceleration from rest takes you to 100kph in one seamless rush. Three seconds, 7000rpm, second gear, count to three again and you’re past 100kph. Yes, that’s 100kph in 6.1 seconds. Keep the throttle pinned down another six seconds and you’ll snarl past 140kph! The pace is devastating – you go from a cruising speed of 110kph to 150kph in under seven seconds if you flatten the throttle.
What makes all this power so accessible is that this car comes with the sport version of the automatic, which is even faster in Sport and Sport+. And the lovely paddle shifts help you chop up the power in an instant. While very high gearing and regenerative braking help, this is still a 300bhp motor. However, 6.5kpl is not bad in the city, though you can expect things to go swiftly south if you begin to use the throttle indiscriminately.
Ride & Handling
Light on its feet and willing to change direction, the new Five is a car that likes to corner too. The brakes have tremendous stopping power, feel from the brake pedal on turn-in is good despite the regenerative brakes, and the big Five sheds speed rapidly.
It rolls a bit on turn-in initially, but quickly settles down and then grips and goes. The steering has a reasonable amount of weight and accuracy is pin-sharp, but there is some amount of artificial feel in the system. Though this is an impressive driver’s car in its own right, it doesn’t drench you in feel and involvement like the earlier E60. It lacks the fabulously planted feel of the old car and you can’t feel what all four contact patches are doing through the palms of your hands. The new 5-series is still a fantastic handling car, just not to BMW’s standards.
Ride comfort though is shockingly good. The suspension is supple over bumps, it remains almost silent over even the worst ruts and holes, and road noise is very hushed as well. Has BMW been taking ride and handling classes at Rolls-Royce? It does own the company, after all. There is, however, some amount of bobbing at high speeds and the Five does not ride as flat as an E-class. And the long wheelbase and relatively low 141mm ground clearance mean you do have to take a bit of care over large bumps.
BMW has set the new 5-series a formidable challenge by making it much more of a luxury car. No longer compromised by being both a good luxury car and a great driver’s car rolled into one, the new 5-series now genuinely appeals to a much wider base of owners.
People who want a plush ride, those who want acres of space for rear seat passengers and owners who want very high levels of refinement will all be thrilled with the new Five. It feels, for the most part, like a mildly shrunken 7-series. On the other hand, despite the lighter electric steering, this is also one of the best driver’s cars in its class and comes powered by one of the finest engine and gearbox combos we’ve tested. Performance is strong enough to embarrass a sportscar, handling is crisp and the car is fun to drive as well.
But make no mistake — it’s nowhere near as good a driver’s car as the earlier Five was. And BMW owners will miss that.
What it costs
Ex-showroom (Delhi) 245bhp Rs. 45.90 lakh
Compression ratio 10.2:1
Valve gear 4 valves per cly, DOCH.
Power 306bhp at 5800rpm
Torque 40.78kgm at 1200-5000rpm
Power to weight 181.60bhp per tonne
Torque to weight 24.20kgm per tonne
Type Rear-Wheel drive
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Chassis & Body
Construction Four-door saloon, monocoque
Wheels 8jx18 inch
Tyres 245/45 R18
Front Independent, double track control arm axle with separate lower arm level,anti-dive
Rear independent, integral-V multi-arm axle, anti-squat, anti-dive
Type Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric
Turning circle 11.95m
Front 348mm ventilated discs
Rear 345mm ventilated discs