What is it?
Many years and generations back, the BMW 5 Series 528i was the turbine smooth, six cylinder pinnacle of the mainstream 5 Series range. It last appeared in the E39 5 Series two generations ago, and today has re-emerged in the middle of the F10 current line-up. But not as a 2.8 litre, nor even a six, the down-sized 2.8 now a 2.0 litre turbocharged four. It looks downsized when you open the bonnet too, there being a sizeable void between the nose of the engine and its radiator, yet it generate a promising 238bhp. Economy and emissions gains are the object of this cylinder shrinkage, the 528i propelled by BMW’s new, British-manufactured N20 four pot.
It’s offered in addition to an upgraded six cylinder 268bhp BMW 530i, and yields a 13 percent reduction in fuel consumption to 43.5mpg and a 14 per cent gram cut in Co2 emissions that trims it to 152g/km. Despite improvements, however, the 528i stays in tax band G, missing out on F status by just 2g/km Co2.
Performance improves on the old 530i despite a five percent lower power output, the 0-62mph sprint improving by six percent for a 6.3sec time while top speed is a limited 155mph. These figures are for the eight speed auto tested here – there’s also a six-speed manual, which is actually thirstier and only 0.1sec faster to 62mph.
What’s it like?
A 2.0 litre masquerading as a 2.8 with a two cylinder deficit would have been a recipe for disappointment a few years back, but clever management of this motor’s turbo and extensive refinement of its digestive process produce a car that’s impressively brisk and civilised with it.
True, you’ll unearth some off-boost indolence if you deliberately drop the revs below 1500rpm with the paddle shifts, but eight speeds and the way the blowers spool up over the next 500rpm soon get this 5 shifting, and by the time 3500rpm is on the dial it’s charging like the sporting saloon you expect, the pace lifting briskly all the way to 6500rpm, at which point the engine sounds a slightly harsh.
It doesn’t produce the turbine whine of a BMW six, but the smooth, light hammer of rising revs is pleasing, and few straight sixes can generate the fat stream of torque that this engine can muster.
Should I buy one?
It’s hard to make a case for this 5 Series as a company car when the new 182bhp Efficient Dynamics 520d goes briskly enough and saves you a bundle on tax payments and tank replenishment. Which is why BMW isn’t expecting to sell so many. But, the 5 Series feels more of a sports saloon with this powertrain, and more convincing still if you order it with the £985 variable damper control that provides the dynamism and back road entertainment that this car ought to have as standard.
BMW 528i SE
Price: £33,610 (price as tested: £49,055); Top speed: 155mph; 0-62mph: 6.3sec; Economy: 43.5 mpg (combined); CO2: 152g/km; Kerbweight: 1695kg; Engine type, cc, installation: 4 cyl, 16V, petrol, 1997cc, longitudinal; Power: 238bhp at 5000-6000rpm; Torque: 258lb ft at 1250-4500rpm; Gearbox: 8-speed automatic