Turbocharged 5 Series feels more like a sports saloon than you'd expect and is impressively brisk yet civilised

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

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Pugmeister 28 October 2011

Re: BMW 5-series 528i SE

People are sheep. I understand why reps need diesels but why do private buyers on 6k a year? One of my neighbours bought a brand new Merc 220 CDI and then just drives his wifes Matiz in the week and the Merc at weekends. What the frig is the point of that!! I really hope this car succeeds because I think its sad how 90% of all non M badge Beemers are now diesels and if we are going to lose the straight six, we may as well have a decent turbo petrol car. The 528i will be brilliant, because it will be much lighter in the nose than the 530d, will offer comparable performance, is 5 grand cheaper and wont be miles off the MPG rating of the big diesel. I also find all these torque monstering diesels ahave turned Audi and BMW drivers into even more aggressive tailgaters than they were before. A turbo petrol tends to have a more linear delivery and encourage a more relaxed driving style...I know as I changed from a TDI VAG car to a Petrol turbo and am quite hapy to pootle in my new car, whereas it was 90 MPH on every motorway all the time in the TDI.

jer 26 October 2011

Re: BMW 5-series 528i SE

gazza5 wrote:
I do tiny mileage and 5 miles a day to and from work - diesel just doesn't make sense and I wish the diesel brigade at times will go away - diesel is good for some people - but petrol like this 5 - are perfect for other people - wonder how much extra the 530i is though?
Not only the DPF but my experience is petrol engines reach optimum temp quicker ironically because of their worse thermal efficiency. Diesel engines take longer even with the various flaps to get their optimum temperature and until then the fuel consumption is poor. I can't prove this scientifically just from experience and I don't own the latest 5 series but my 530d does 17 mpg on a cold day for the first couple of miles. It takes 10 miles to get to ~28 mpg. On a long run it eventually gets to 38-40.

brakedwell 24 October 2011

Re: BMW 5-series 528i SE

If you are after a really expensive four pot buy an Evoque. If you don't want the hassle of a PDF buy a 528i. I deserted BMW when Chris Bangle ruined the marque, but I must admit I do like the new 5 Series, especially the interior.