Around this time a year ago, BMW’s recently-launched 520d began scything its way through the Indian luxury car market. The considerable appeal of the 5-series, its very aggressive price and the fact that the car was diesel made it a phenomenal success.
It also gave Mercedes a good run for their ‘best selling luxury brand in India’ tag. Then Merc launched the new wedge-shaped W212 and knocked the wind out of BMW’s sails. As far as BMW is concerned, the new 5-series or the F10 can’t come a day too soon.
For a start, the car looks brilliant in the flesh and the drool factor is significant. There’s a lot of 7-series in the design and the sharp cuts in the body and the details give it a lot of the same muscular, sinuous character you see in the 3-series.
There’s no mistaking this car for anything else, that’s for sure. Initial impressions from behind the wheel are that this is a scaled-down 7-series.It is a bit softer around the edges and more rounded in its character to broaden its appeal. The chassis is a mammoth 55 per cent stiffer and that really helps give a fantastic ride quality despite the run-flat tyres.
Ride comfort in the car is phenomenal. A large part of this stems from the fact that you can now choose from different suspension settings, the first time such a feature has been made available on a 5-series.
Head inside the car, and you’ll find that the sense of a scaled-down 7-series continues even when it comes to the proportions and legroom. The space in the rear is a huge improvement over the current avatar. Even though you still sit a bit lower in this vehicle than you would in a Mercedes E-class, the seats are very comfortable.This is now, in fact, a genuine five-seater car, able to sit adults in comfort.
Head to the front, and you’ll find that the dashboard looks very familiar, also reminding you of the 7-series. The basic design is similar and the insides have a very modern and contemporary feel to them. They’re not as blocky as the new E-class but classy and very up-to-date. The high-grade trim and quality are top class.
I have no complaints about the engines either, especially the turbocharged 535i that puts out a lusty 306 bhp. It’s easy to get enthralled by the silky low end, the huge midrange punch and willingness to rev. Also, does anybody make better diesels than BMW?
The straight six format gives it an advantage as far as smoothness is concerned — the diesel clatter is incredibly well suppressed and then punches really hard in the midrange. Also worthy of mention is the new eight-speed transmission on the range topper that could come to India eventually.
The gearbox unit on the new Five is an ultra smooth twin-clutch that will shift gears without any hassle. The paddle shifts on the steering work well, even when asked to downshift aggressively.
The steering is fairly accurate and direct, though there is some amount of inconsistency and I wish it would give more feedback than it does at present. Body control and grip are, however, phenomenal and the new Five can really surprise you with the speed it can carry into corners.
And the optional rear-wheel steering works wonders, keeping the car utterly stable. Even so, I do miss the super-precise and quick steering of the old 5-series that was responsive, gave zero slack on the straight road and felt connected to the tarmac.
It’s not clear which of these two models BMW will launch first in the Indian market. Do, however, expect the new 520d (which has 7 bhp more than before) and the 535i to be the key models in the upcoming 5-series range.