The luxury midsize saloon is something of a goldilocks zone for the premium automobile marques.
Cars that are one step lower on the premium rung tend to cater to a certain type of successful individual. Cars like the BMW 3 Series, the Merc C-Class, the Lexus IS, the Jag XE, and the Audi A4 are all great cars, but clearly they're meant for people who want to drive, rather than be driven. Cars that are one step higher on that same ladder tend to be for statesmen, dignitaries, or CEOs. You have the 7 Series, the S-Class, the LS, the XJ, and the A8; all great automobiles, but their long wheelbase configurations and premium appointments make them a dream to be driven in, no matter how good they feel behind the wheel.
That's what makes the category in between so interesting as these are automobiles that are just as fantastic to drive, and great to be chauffered in too. And that's what the BMW 5 Series is all about.
For six generations since 1972, the 5 Series has been the standard-setter, offering a balance between the driving performance of the 3 and the luxurious ride of the 7. This seventh generation model has been around since last year, and we're going to find out this 530d Luxury version carries the torch further.
For looks, I have to say, the new G30 5 Series could take a while to, uh, take. The proportions, stance, and overall silhouette doesn't appear to have changed much, so much so that if you happen to glance at one as it passed you on the road, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's still the F10, albeit with a facelift.
That's because this new G30 doesn't look as revolutionary a departure from the norm the way the Bangle-era E60 was compared its predecessor, the E39. Only when you look closer do the devils in its details show that the G30 could well be more revolutionary than the E60.
The clearest change is in the front. The dual kidney grill that we've known is now larger, and no longer framed by the plastic bumper; the chrome now connects directly to the headlights on either side. There are two crease lines on the side of the new 5 Series, and one of them even makes the Hofmeister kink -long a signature of BMW- to stand out even more. They have a new rear end, and the tail light assemblies have been stretched to occupy a bit more of the quarter panels. Still, the most striking thing about the new 5 is the new design for something pioneered by the E39: the angel eyes, or in BMW speak, the Corona rings. Yes, it sounds like a beer.
Being a Luxury line variant, this 530d does not have the meaner, leaner appeal of its M Sport brethren; instead it wants to be statelier and more mature, something echoed by the use of chrome, the V-spoke alloy wheels, and that shade of white, among others. There's a measured way about how the 5 Series achieves its look.
BMW's designers didn't really make obvious or massive changes, but they did make some strides in the details to give off an air of luxury like a Zegna suit... or something from Hugo Boss, if we want to be more geographically accurate.
If there's one aspect where the 5 Series -particularly this Luxury variant- levels up, it's the interior. Of course there's still that inherent BMW-ness about it. The design of that dash looks so much cleaner, the feel (and smell) of the materials they used inside are hugely improved, and there are plenty of high tech toys to get used to... and play with.
In the driver's seat, the first thing you'll notice is that big wheel with a fantastic feel to it. More importantly, there are no actual gauges in front of you; instead of a classic analog or hybrid cluster with a display screen, this BMW's gauges are all digital.
At the center of the dash is a 10.25 inch screen which, unlike before, juts up on top of the dash and not recessed into it. The iDrive controller allows you to select and activate the many functions such as the Harman Kardon audio unit, the Bluetooth telephony, and many more. It does come with gesture control, but that's more of a party trick you can show off to your friends than something you'd use on a fairly regular basis.
The back seat is a great place to be in; there's a good deal of legroom to go around. While the room in the back is a perfect place to get comfortable, particularly with the center armrest down and all the privacy sunshades up, the front seats are actually much better.
Yes, that's an odd thing to say, but the driver and front passenger seats have this soft padding (wrapped in Nappa leather) akin to a mattress, including the headrest. So if you want to be driven aboard the 530d Luxury, don't sit in the back; sit in front. The only thing missing is the massage function; it's available internationally, but for some reason, BMW didn't equip this for the model we're driving.
Europe may be shying away from diesels, but we still like what makes the 530d go: a 2993cc, straight-six turbodiesel. BMW brands it as a TwinPower turbodiesel, but it does not have two turbos, as the name might suggest. Instead, it's a variable geometry turbo that give the 530d its 265 PS of power and 620 Nm of torque.
Not only that, together with the new 8-speed automatic gearbox driving the rear wheels, this 530d can sprint from a standstill to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds. An all-wheel drive version can go 0.3 seconds quicker, though we don't get that in our market.
As a drive in the city, dare I say, the 530d Luxury exhibits all the qualities I expected of it and then some. The fuel economy is superb; normal city driving (traffic yields an 18 km/h average) is at 9.8 km/l, and that could even be better if I used the Eco-Pro driving mode. The outside world is a gentle, muffled hum. The rutted concrete so common in our metropolis feels like its been paved with far smoother asphalt. And anything else, the chassis or suspension or noise deadening can't take care of is handled by these soft, mattress-like seats.
On a highway, this 530d is simply exemplary. Yes, it can get up to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds, but I prefer to get to that cruising speed as smoothly as possible, something the gearbox and the torque make so easy to do. And very efficient too; don't be surprised if you get highway fuel economy figures well north of 15 km/l. There a bit of wind noise from the mirrors, but its very minimal; you have to be a bit nitpicky to even notice it. That audio system is great too, regardless if you want bass for your dose of EDM or clarity for the classics.
The new 5 Series isn't perfect. I fail to see the usefulness of the gesture control; it can be rather annoying if you like to move your hands around as you talk on the phone, often sending the volume to max. The spec sheet says this comes with navigation, but it doesn't seem to work; perhaps the maps weren't loaded up. And then there's the reverse camera and the 360-degree parking assist system; great for preventing your wheels from getting scratched on the curb, but they only seem to work when they want to. Perhaps there's a setting I needed to activate if I had time to consult the manual or the onboard computer, but really, the parking assists should work every time you pop it into reverse.
Regardless of those niggles, I still like the 530d Luxury simply because of how it drives on the limit. We know BMW has their driving dynamics down to an art form, and that's something you can enjoy on a fantastic mountain road, even in the bigger 5. And with the nanny aids fully deactivated, it's actually easy to get the rear to step out and do it all yourself. And even with its size and heft, the steering, suspension, and throttle are easy to manage and balance for some fun with slides.
The only thing that could really hold back the 2018 BMW 530d Luxury is the SRP. Specced like this, this great, white luxury saloon retails for PhP 7,390,000. Pre-excise tax, this model was at PhP 6,390,000 when BMW launched it last year.
Yes it has a hefty price tag, but reports indicate that dealers are very willing to move stock with discounts, so if you want a luxurious cruiser for the city, something you can enjoy on the highway, and something with the makings of a sport saloon (despite its luxury) on a winding road, the new 5 should be on your shortlist.