Just a little more manic

Sumant Banerji, Hindustan Times
First Published: 13:13 IST(1/11/2013)
Last Updated: 13:28 IST(1/11/2013)
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BMW 530 D M Though the form is mostly unchanged, the performance quotient has gone up. But does it match up to peers?

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In recent times the luxury segment has expanded to include big hatchbacks such as the Mercedes A and B Class and BMW 1 series and compact crossovers such as Audi Q3 and BMW X1. These models have brought the benchmark price for owning a luxury car significantly lower, but, not surprisingly, the `50 lakh saloons such as the C class, E series and A6 continue to bring in the largest volumes. The reason is simple. While the others are perceived as compromised by luxury car standards, these saloons bring the best of what the Germans have to offer. And competition is so tough that the life cycle of these cars is getting shortened. Close on the heels of the launch of new Mercedes E class, comes a facelifted BMW 5 series. Does it have enough to answer critics?

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

In BMW parlance, ‘M’ stands for outright agression and sportiness. In the new 5 series the top of the line 530D gets that badge of honour. In effect it is an attempt to enhance the appeal of a car that is already quite sporty. Other than the badge, changes in the exterior are largely cosmetic. At fist glance you will not be able to tell the difference but the signature kidney shaped grille is more pronounced, the fog lamps get chrome surrounds and the tail lamp cluster is now sharper and sleeker. Also the turn indicators are now integrated with outside mirrors. But the new E class continues to hold the aces in the looks department.

INTERIORS

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Changes in the interiors are also subtle. The dashboard retains the old simple look that reeks of quality. The storage space inside the cabin has been increased which makes it more practical for daily use. For a change BMW has paid attention to rear seat passengers, and introduced tablet-style screens for the entertainment system. The seats are big and supportive all around but rear legroom is still not at par with peers.

FASTER, YET MORE ENJOYABLE RIDE

In each segment where it is present, a BMW is known for the joy of driving that it offers. The 530D M, takes the bar higher. Though it retains the same 3-litre diesel inline 6-cylinder motor, the car now has 5% more power. Turbo kicks in early, so the car is quick off the block and the 8 speed transmission does well to conceal any lag. The famous BMW acceleration is even more pronounced in this car. At any speed, floor the pedal and be prepared to let the law of inertia push you a few inches deeper into the seat. Changes to the suspension mean that the ride quality is better and not as bumpy as in the outgoing version. That means a compromise on the cornering abilities of the car: body roll is now significantly higher but one would not race in a sedan all the time. What also makes driving this car more involving is the introduction of varying graphics and colour scheme in the instrument panel that change with the mode in which you are driving. The most exciting is the sports mode, in which the panel turns blood red with the speed displayed digitally in one counter and the gear engaged in the other. Kid stuff but quite exciting.

VERDICT

There is a fatigue factor setting in with BMWs in India. Maybe it is because they have been so successful and there are so many on the road now. There is a need to break away in terms of design, and the facelift disappoints by its cosmetic changes. That is not to say that the car does not look good. Just that it does not look different enough. It does enhance the pleasure of driving and is more agile and fast than before. Even as a sedan meant for coasting, this remains a true driver’s car. The order then, remains undisturbed. The E class stands for outright comfort while the 5 series for sheer performance. The A6 strikes a balance somewhere in between. Just that the performer turned a little more manic.

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