ALL THOSE PURISTS WHO loved BMW’s outlook on all things automotive can take a hike. If change is a way of life, the Munich carmaker sure is living it up. And making sure more buyers step in with an aim to enjoy motoring.
But this is not a complaint. It would be wrong to write off the new 5 series because it is no longer a limo that lets its hair down and parties at the drop of the proverbial hat. The typical city businessman might buy a BMW and yearn for weekend drives to the mountains; not because of the beautiful destination but because of those tricky roads that bring every ounce of driver and car capability to the fore. Thankfully, all is not lost yet.
The 5 series has been one of the major success stories for BMW about 55 lakh units have been sold worldwide ever since the name first surfaced in 1972. And the German carmaker continues to bank on the 5 for raking in the moolah to stay at the head of the premium car market race. It’s an ‘economic necessity’ for the company, said one of the top bosses of BMW Germany while unveiling the car prior to its official launch this March. That’s in Germany. It is slated to reach India later this year, probably by July.
The last time we drove a 5 series, the smile was plastered on our faces even before we set out. BMW has a reputation of making driver-centric cars, and their owners have traditionally been the kinds who are willing to sacrifice comfort for handling. Bur as we mentioned earlier, change was imminent. And the change we were expecting was a mushy limo that will make the owner hand over the keys to his chauffeur. Thankfully, it’s not come to that yet.
However, the luxury saloon market has been leaning towards comfort over outright sporty. It’s like the soft-roading effect with traditional SUV designs. We guess there’s no point playing techno when the mood says lounge. As is the trend, the new 5 is bigger than the earlier car. Overall length has been increased by about 5.Bcm but wheelbase has gone up by Bern. So clearly, it takes the 5 away from the 3 series and more towards the 7 in terms of sheer street presence.
The front is where all the action is. And unfortunately, much of the ‘mean’ look of the current 5 has given way to more maturity with the kidney grille getting wider and lower. Thankfully, the twin ring headlamps add some sharpness. The eyebrows on the headlamps try to give it sharper eyes but isn’t as effective as the current one. Just as in the 7 series, the grille and BMW badge now protrude ahead of the bonnet line. There’s a seam line running throughout the length of the car, which adds to the long limo look.
The rear is more acceptable, with flatter tail lamps to keep in sync with the design and the eats’ overall wider stance. BMW claims to have run through a total of 128 designs for the new 5 before settling on this one.
The chassis is all-new and makes judicious use of steel with the aluminum bits restricted to the bonnet and doors. Surprisingly
Weight is down by roughly 50kg compared to the earlier model. The front has a double wishbone setup and the rear gets an integral V axle, which improves the ride substantially. Typically the chassis is designed in such a way that it isn’t overly hampered by transverse forces while cornering.
BMW had the guts to let us loose with the car on Portugal’s Estoril racetrack. It’s not a very tricky circuit except for Turn 3. The 5 is one of the few exec limos that give you the confidence to push it around corners. The optional eight-speed auto transmission
effortlessly prances through the slots to put each of the 306 horses to good use when called upon.
The new 5 will debut globally with three diesels and four petrol variants. So the line-up goes like this: 550i (V8 petrol), 535i, 528i and 523i (inline 6cy!), 530d and 520d (inline 6) and 520d (inline 4). The petrol flagship has been ruled out for India, but the rest are scheduled - although in a phased manner. The higher-end 535i and 530d are most likely to be part of the initial lot to come here.
The 3-litre twin-turbo unit of the 535i is a sweet little machine. It’s got a nice throaty note on the boil, with the piston and exhaust note complementing each other for an aural delight. The steering is uncharacteristically light but there’s enough feedback to keep you interested. Active electromechanical steering is now carried over from the 7, which ensures minimal steering effort. There are other 7 series gimmicks too, such as rear wheels that turn slightly in the opposite direction of the front wheels to aid maneuverability. This alone reduces turning radius by 0.5m. At speeds of over 60kph, however, the rear wheels turn in the same direction to help you go through a corner quickly.
The longish bonnet and smooth ride almost fool you into believing that you are in a 7. The classy interior layout has to be one of the best ever in a 5. There are a few hundred buttons to play around with, but nothing that can count as clutter.
There are four drive settings to choose from. Sport+ is the most punishing, with BMW insisting that it cancels all driver aids. But don’t try this on a public road because the 5 can be a handful around a tight corner. But if you have the space it is easy to get it back in line with help from the active steering - which makes you wonder if the driving aids are really off.
The Sport mode has to be more fun then, with just the right amount of aid to make you feel like a driving god. Perfect for the time when you’re alone in the car. And of course, there’s no golf bag in the boot.
Thanks to the twin turbo, peak torque hits the roof as early as 1200rpm. And it stays in the limelight till 5000rpm before easing off. But by then, the horses come into action and quickly hit top form with just another 800rpm more. It all makes for an impressive 0-100kph in G.l seconds. The variables are all quite usable on the move with 80-120kph coming in 5.9 seconds even while in fourth gear. Top speed is electronically limited to 250kph.
There is an impressive list of equipment as well. But prices are expected to go up - reasonably - with the 535i pegged at an estimated Rs 55 lakh (ex-showroom). The base 520d should start at around Rs 42 lakh. Which means the new 5 will remain a desirable saloon when it hits BMW’s Indian showrooms by mid-20 1 o. There’s an intentional shift to a more user-friendly steering and a more passenger-friendly ride which might take it slightly away from what hardcore BMW fans would love. But at the same time, it makes the 5 even more appealing to a chunk of people who have so far been avoiding it because it was not considered plush enough. We hear that’s a more sizeable chunk. And no carmaker can avoid the prospect. Not even BMW.