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BMW 5-Series Saloon 530d and 535i road test report

530d and 535i

BMW’s 5 Series could quite justifiably be described as a business tool for successful executives. Large numbers are sold as company cars, their existence pointing to the status of the driver. And because of their use for business purposes, the vast majority of 5s are powered by diesel engines. The 520d is the biggest seller, but the range-topping oilburner, the 530d, is ideal for those executives who don’t mind paying the extra tax to show that their car’s extra power is symbolic of their own position. So is the latest 530d worth paying a bit extra for in order to show who’s the corporate top dog?

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
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Performance Performance - 5 stars

The latest 5 Series will eventually be available with a choice of three diesel engines, but at launch there’s just the range-topping oilburner, the six-cylinder 530d with 242bhp and 39blb-ft of torque. It’s a superb unit: very quiet and refined, at idle you can barely tell that you’re sitting in a diesel-powered car. When you give it its head, there is a gruffness as the needle rises through the rev range, but that’s just the sound of its power being unleashed, and is worlds away from the harshness traditionally associated with diesels. It feels powerful, too, with real urge from low down as it hits peak torque at 1,750rpm and retains it until 3,000rpm. This helps the 530d complete the 0-62mph sprint in just 6.3 seconds, which is some achievement for a 1,715kg diesel car. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual unit, but or test car was fitted with the optional (£1,495) eight-speed auto ‘box. It’s certainly very smooth and doesn’t feel as uncertain in its gear selection as the comparable eight-speeder in Lexus models: however, eight gears is still overkill in our opinion – if well ratioed, six would be plenty.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

The 530d has a longer wheelbase than the previous iteration and a suspension taken from the latest 7 Series, which means that the ride has noticeably improved. This is especially true when the Drive Dynamic Control (DDC) chassis configurator is fitted, which give drivers the choice of four chassis settings (Comfort, Normal, Sport, Sport+). The 530d’s handling is impressive, as you’d expect from a BMW, but can be affected by the choices you make when speccing the car. For example, the DDC controls not just the suspension settings but also dynamic systems such as throttle response and the level of steering assistance. On the subject of the steering, it lacks a little feedback and the Active Steer option (which turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels to increase stability) is probably not going to be a vital option for potential buyers to choose. Those caveats aside, it is a hugely composed, agile and well balanced car that is still involving enough to satisfy any potential owners.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

The new 530d is, as we’ve come to expect from BMW, a top-quality car. Robust and sturdy, it’s well-built and uses some of the best materials available to the modern carmaker. The cabin is particularly good, and is a marked improvement on that of the previous generation, having a more welcoming and less clinical ambience. Leather upholstery comes as standard and the fit and finish is superb, with great attention to detail. In terms of mechanical reliability, we don’t envisage any problems, as BMW has a very good reputation. The most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey placed the company in equal ninth place in the league table of manufacturers and the previous-generation 5 Series was placed in 17th in the table of the top 100 most reliable models.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

Euro NCAP hasn’t yet crash-tested the latest generation of the 5 Series, but we expect it to do well, thanks to a passenger cell made from high-strength steel and a raft of safety features incorporating new technologies. There’s a plethora of active and passive safety equipment, including front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, head airbags for front and rear seats; seatbelts with pre-tensioners and belt force limiters at the front; crash-activated headrests; a collision warning system that uses crash sensors to sound an alarm and activate the brakes if it detects that an impact is likely; Side View cameras that give a better view of traffic at T-junctions and project them on to the screen in the centre console; lane change and lane departure warnings; adaptive headlights including cornering lights; Night Vision and a head-up display. In addition, there are electronic systems such as dynamic stability control with ABS anti-lock brakes and dynamic traction control; plus cornering brake control, dynamic brake control and a dry braking function.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 5 stars

The latest-generation 5 Series uses a shortened version of the current 7 Series platform, so the wheelbase is now 58mm longer than before. This has resulted in plenty of room in the cabin especially in the back, where extra legroom now means that adult passengers will no longer feel cramped. The front seats are also very comfortable and the driving position is exemplary. Bootspace hasn’t suffered either, with a cavernous 520 litres on offer, enough to swallow up plenty of luggage. The dashboard is well laid-out, with all the dials and easy to see and the controls easy to reach, including the controller for the iDrive infotainment system. We’ve previously found this system to be over-complicated, but it has been tweaked over the years and is now more intuitive and easy to use. The head-up display is also very useful, supplying much of the information that a driver needs without them having to look away from the road ahead.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 5 stars

For a car with such impressive performance, the 530d is remarkably frugal. Owners will have BMW’s EfficientDynamics programme of energy-saving measures to thank for what will be very manageable running costs. This 530d features energy-saving measures that have appeared in other BMWs, such as an optimum gearshift indicator, brake energy regeneration and active aerodynamics. The one disadvantage of the 530d compared to the four-cylinder 520d that will go on sale later in 2010 is that it won’t have the stop-start technology of the smaller-engined variant, but it still returns fuel consumption of 44.8mpg on the combined cycle and has CO2 emissions of 166g/km, placing it in Band H for road tax (£175 a year). The 530d’s initial purchase price of £37,100 isn’t cheap – and that’s before you get to work on the extensive options list – but you can console yourself with the knowledge that residual values hold up very well, thanks to the desirability of the 5 Series.

Performance Performance - 5 stars

BMW will eventually offer a range of four petrol engines with the latest 5 Series, but to start with there’s just the 302bhp, six-cylinder 535i. But for now, the 535i offers plenty of fun and involvement: maximum power is available at 5,800rpm, at which point the engine is making a roaring, wailing noise that’s almost impossible not to smile at. However, when cruising steadily on the motorway, there’s very little sound. This duality is the perfect shorthand for the 535i’s nature: refined when it wants to be, but with a slightly wild edge that it enjoys revealing every now and again. The 535i is available with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with an eight-speed automatic transmission available as an option for £1,495. Our test car was fitted with the auto, which is very smooth, but we reckon the manual will be just as good and driver involvement in changing cogs should be highly rewarding with this engine.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

A longer wheelbase than the previous 5 Series and a suspension taken from the latest 7 Series mean that the ride in this sixth-generation 5 is noticeably improved. This is especially true when fitted with the Drive Dynamic Control (DDC) chassis configurator, which give drivers the choice of four chassis settings (Comfort, Normal, Sport, Sport+). The 5’s handling is, as you’d expect from a BMW, also impressive, but can be affected by the choices you make when speccing the car: for example, the DDC controls not just the suspension settings but also dynamic systems such as throttle response and the level of steering assistance. The latest 5 Series does feel a little less involving than before, with the steering lacking a little feedback, but that aside, it is a hugely composed, agile and well balanced car that will still push the right buttons of most owners.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

The new 5 Series is, as we’ve come to expect from BMW, a top-quality car. Robust and sturdy, it’s well-built and uses some of the best materials available to the modern carmaker. The cabin is particularly good, and is a marked improvement on that of the previous generation, having a more welcoming and less clinical ambience. Leather upholstery comes as standard and the fit and finish is superb, with great attention to detail. In terms of mechanical reliability, we don’t envisage any problems, as BMW has a very good reputation. The most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey placed the company in equal ninth place in the league table of manufacturers and the previous-generation 5 Series was placed in 17th in the table of the top 100 most reliable models.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

Euro NCAP hasn’t yet crash-tested the latest generation of the 5 Series, but we expect it to do well, thanks to a passenger cell made from high-strength steel and a raft of safety features incorporating new technologies. Active and passive safety equipment includes front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, head airbags for front and rear seats; seatbelts with pre-tensioners and belt force limiters at the front; crash-activated headrests; a collision warning system that uses crash sensors to sound an alarm and activate the brakes if it detects that an impact is likely; Side View cameras that give a better view of traffic at T-junctions and project them on to the screen in the centre console; lane change and lane departure warnings; adaptive headlights including cornering lights; Night Vision and a head-up display. In addition, there are electronic systems such as Ddynamic stability control with ABS anti-lock brakes and dynamic traction control; plus cornering brake control, dynamic brake control and a dry braking function.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 5 stars

As this latest generation of the 5 Series uses a shortened version of the current 7 Series platform, the wheelbase is now 58mm longer compared to the last iteration. This means there’s plenty of room in the cabin especially in the back, where extra legroom now means that adult passengers won’t be as cramped as they were in the past. The front seats are also hugely comfortable and the driving position is excellent. Bootspace hasn’t been compromised either, with a cavernous 520 litres on offer, enough to swallow up plenty of pieces of luggage. The dashboard is well laid-out, with all the dials and read-outs easy to see and the controls to hand, including the large rotary knob for the iDrive infotainment system. We haven’t always been a huge fan of this system, thanks to its numerous menus and sub-menus, but it has been tweaked over the years and is now more intuitive and easy to use. The head-up display is also very practical, supplying much of the information that a driver needs without them having to look away from the road ahead.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 3 stars

The 535i isn’t a cheap car to buy, with an initial purchase price of £37,090 – and that’s before you start ticking the boxes on the extensive options list. Running costs won’t exactly be low either, what with a 3.0-litre petrol engine. Not even BMW’s EfficientDynamics programme of energy-saving measures - which is leading the way in the car industry in an creating more efficient and frugal cars - will help you escape the high running costs. A fuel consumption of 33.2mpg on the combined cycle will mean that a lot of money will be handed over at petrol stations and CO2 emissions of 199g/km will see owners forking out £215 in road tax. The upside, however, is that residual values for 5 Series models tend hold up very well, although the 535i won’t have the strongest because of the high running costs.

The latest BMW 5-Series Saloon deals on our sister site ContractHireAndLeasing.com (links open in a new window)

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