The people pleaser
I'll start this review with a bit of a confession: I absolutely adore the BMW 5 Series line.
I love them so much that I've owned two for the past couple of years, namely an E34 and an E39. But just because I'm a fan of the car (and the brand) doesn't mean I like every model of them. After all, the biggest fans can also be the harshest critics.
Case in point: the previous generation 5 Series. Known as the F10, it just didn't drive as well as Bimmers of yore, making me feel like BMW has lost a bit of their magic touch. Then came the front-wheel drive 2 Series Active Tourer, which is a rant for another day.
But back to the 5 Series and BMW is keen on winning back fans with the current model, the G30. They say it's sharper to drive while retaining the comfort levels of the past model. Will BMW keep up that promise?
First, the looks - I actually wasn't a fan of it. I felt that it was too much of a derivative of the F10 model and that BMW played it a little too safe for this redesign. But seeing it in the metal, that opinion changed. It's more defined and chiseled than before, as it if hit the gym and got a more toned body. It's subtle and handsome in my book, thanks to larger headlights and that bigger grill. The sides meanwhile are as minimalist as they come, with just a bit of brightwork for some contrast.
Now, this is the M Sport model which adds a bit more sporting trinkets. I'd normally stick to non M Sport models for the sake of practicality, but this is well done. The corner air intakes are large but not garish, and the apron isn't perilously close to the ground either. I even like the special rear bumper, which adds a bit of flair to the otherwise sober looking back end. The 19-inch alloys bode well with the rest of the car's design. But the clincher for me is the brilliant paint which they call Carbon Black. It's actually dark blue when the light hits it, showing off its metallic flakes. If anything, the car's making me miss my E39 quite a lot.
Before I get too sentimental about days gone by, let's move inside. The first thing that strikes you isn't the design; it's the space. There's acres of it now both at the front and rear. BMW owners of yore would know that room was always a bit of an issue in the previous models, even in the bigger 5 Series. Now, there's room for five with legroom to spare. If you're still unsatisfied with the space of the new 5 Series, only the 7 Series (and its contemporaries) will please you.
As for design, it's an exercise of function over form. Nothing really pops out at you or immediately grabs your attention. If you're looking for flair in your car, you won't find much in the big Bimmer, save for the rather cool looking M Sport trimmings. Yes, there's real aluminum trim inside and ambient lighting to suit your mood, but it can be a little cold for people looking for something out of the ordinary. That being said, it is a cohesive design that will be appreciated by minimalists and by those who value ergonomics, and boy does it feel good to be inside it. It's pretty much like the old 5 Series models and, personally, I like it.
Then there's the infotainment system. The iDrive system has been simplified and, if you don't want to use the scroll wheel, you can use it as a touchscreen too. It reacts well to a fast inputs without a hint of lag. And then, there's Gesture Control which allows you to use your hands to, well, control the infotainment system. For me, I could do without that feature, mainly because my short reach doesn't always activate the system, and iDrive has become so easy to use that you don't really need a third way to go about the infotainment.
Growing up, I always had the notion that a BMW sedan should have a six-cylinder, but times are changing. Yes, you can still have a six in the 5 Series in the form of the 530d, but what we have here is the 520d. That means a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter turbodiesel with 190 PS and 400 Nm of torque. It's then paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, like most BMWs. For those who really insist on a six, you can be reassured that it makes heaps more torque than old 523i and 525i models.
It may be a four-cylinder but it feels punchy from the get-go. It pulls strong when overtaking too, regardless of the revs. So while 190 horsepower sounds conservative for a big luxury sedan, the torque makes you feel that's there's always a reserve of power when you need it the most. It's a sipper too with average fuel economy in the city showing 10.4 kilometers per liter at 18 km/h. On the highway, it goes up to 20.6 kilometers per liter at an average of 90.7 km/h.
And now, the moment of truth: Can the new 5 Series, at the very least, come close to the days of 'The Ultimate Driving Machine'? Short answer: It's very close.
These days, we have to accept the fact that steering feel is just not as connected as before, but the car puts out a good effort nonetheless. In comfort mode, the steering is as light and inert as they come, although it weighs up at higher speeds. Put it in sport and it's much better. It's still in need of a bit more feel, but as far as electronic power steering systems go, it's on the good side. My personal setting? Put the steering in sport and the engine management in comfort. In those modes, it's as close as you can get to a 90's BMW, which some enthusiasts say is the zenith of the marque.
But I'm glad to report that the new 5 Series drives and rides beautifully. Take it out on winding roads and the chassis can be best described as unflappable. You feel what the car is doing, which was something lacking in the previous-generation 5 Series. Yes, this is the M Sport model but it's nice to know that, even on passive suspension, the 5 Series handles the way a BMW should: secure yet engaging. Being rear wheel drive, you get the sensation that you're being pushed out of the corners, rather than just dealing with a turn; it's an experience you have to feel first hand.
The sport suspension isn't even harsh either; surprising considering it's on low-profile 40-series rubber. Having owned an E34 525i M Tech with a similar setup, it was nice not having fits of anxiety the moment I saw potholes in the new M Sport. That makes it great for the daily drive too as it soaks up bumps without jolting anyone on board. The sport seats complemented the supple ride too, meaning you won't get backache after a long drive.
A package this well balanced doesn't come cheap, though. In M Sport trim, the 520d starts at Php 5,390,000. That's a lot of money, but you do get a lot of car in return. It drives well, rides well, spacious, and it's easy on fuel. There's a lot to like about the new 5 Series and it does a mighty good job trying to please both the head and the heart.
Of course, it's not perfect, as I mentioned with Gesture Control and the steering. I could also do without the self-parking function and the engine, while quieter than before, is still a touch on the noisy side. There's also a hint of wind whistle around the side mirrors but that's just really poking holes at an otherwise great car.
To sum up, the new 5 Series is a consummate all-rounder, ticking most boxes for both enthusiasts and the casual (luxury) car buyer. Sure, it won't be all things to all men and women (not with that price), and some people just won't like it. It won't please everybody, either. After all, that's an impossible task. But with its scope of abilities, I reckon it can make a whole lot of people happy. If the new 5 Series were a person, it would be a people pleaser - self assured and confident in itself and its abilites.
If you have the means to buy one, go right ahead and enjoy it. As for me, I'll be lurking around the second-hand market again for another 5 Series.