From £29,250
Diesel 5 Series offers a significant step rather than a giant leap forward
Andrew Frankel Autocar
16 January 2010

What is it?

Perhaps it would be more relevant to ask in this case what it should be, which is a strong contender for being the best car in the real world.

This is an all-new version of the car that has been our favourite mid-size executive for over 20 uninterrupted years.

And with BMW’s 3.0-litre diesel providing sparkling performance and bewildering economy, the stage is set for the same kind of class-crushing performance we now expect from each successive generation of the 5 Series.

Based on a shortened version of the 7 Series platform, the new 530d offers significantly improved interior space, mild improvements to power, economy and emissions, and the option of an eight-speed automatic transmission that will be taken by 19 out every 20 buyers.

Unsurprisingly given its origins, 7 Series suspension is used front and rear, while driving aids of disputable value, such as dynamic drive and active steering, rest firmly on the options list. However electric steering is now standard.

Performance is as strong as ever; 0-62mph takes 6.3sec regardless of which transmission you choose, a fact those planning on buying the more powerful, less torquey and all-but-identically priced 535i should bear in mind. It will only get you to 62mph 0.3sec quicker, but return just 33.2mpg instead of the 530d’s outstanding 44.8mpg (45.6mpg with the auto).

What’s it like?

The good news is that the 530d feels more complete and capable than its predecessor; it would be strange were that not the case. After all BMW, a company not known for sitting on its hands, has had seven years to make its improvements.

The driving environment is more grown-up, the living space more equitably apportioned between those in the front and those in the back, and more roomy for all.

Out on the road, the ride quality is impressive but still not exceptional despite all-new aluminium suspension, but when you start to seriously fling it around you can tell why BMW set it up this way: for a large four-door saloon, its composure under pressure is genuinely outstanding.

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And as for that engine, it was the best in its class throughout the previous generation and so it remains. A Mercedes equivalent might be a little quieter, a Jaguar motor a touch smoother, but there’s not much in it, and nothing like enough to counter the BMW’s advantage in power, economy and emissions.

And the eight-speed auto that almost all will have is a triumph. While the Lexus eight-speeder simply feels like it has too many gears (as can Merc’s seven-speed unit), the BMW’s just feels perfect, offering the right gear for every occasion without feeling the need to hunt perpetually through its ratios to find a better one.

But for all its has gained, so too has the 530d lost a little, and you only need to look at the car to suspect what it might be. The new shape is far less distinctive than its predecessor; you might even call it bland by comparison, and it’s an impression that penetrates below the skin of the car.

For all its extra ability, I didn’t quite enjoy this 530d quite as much as the last. With its new suspension and a sizeable 80mm increase in wheelbase, it sets new standards of stability for the class but in doing so a little agility has inevitably been lost. Likewise the electric steering is admirably precise and direct, but I’d have appreciated a touch more response through its rim.

Even so, if fun is not a top priority you will appreciate the car’s smoothness, quietness and driving environment thanks to a dash lifted almost but not quite entirely from the 7 Series. Most of all, you’ll notice the extra room in the back provided by that hike in wheelbase; for the first time in 5-series history, four decent-size adults will be able to sit in comfort.

Should I buy one?

If the BMW 5 Series had not been around as an entity for the last 38 years and this one landed on the market, we’d now be applauding a conspicuously able contender capable of taking the fight to very best cars in the class.

By any standards it is fine piece of work of which BMW can be rightly proud. All it is not is a class-buster, and that is what most distinguishes it most from generation after generation of hitherto matchless 5 Series.

But it seems that attaining such stratospheric standards for so long didn’t just make life difficult for BMW’s rivals; it created one hell of an act for BMW to follow itself. For BMW looking to preserve this track record, it’s hard to escape the feeling that in this case, even very good may not be quite good enough.

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Rover P6 3500S 2 April 2010

Re: BMW 5-series 530d

Rob Davey wrote:
By the way, I've read that the 530d 535d 540d and the 525d are all versions of the 3 litre diesel six cylinder just with different outputs (BHP)
So what are the mechanical differences ? can I buy a 525d and have it "Chip" tuned to a 540d power or would I need to change the turbo to the 540d "twin scroll"
does anybody know enough to advise. ?

I believe the x25/x30D have one turbo while the x35/x40D have two turbos.

EDIT: Even the 525D has 201bhp, so you're screwed for tax.

Rover P6 3500S 2 April 2010

Re: BMW 5-series 530d

fuzzybear wrote:
No, i have no antipathy for BMW,In fact i like most of them, as long as they are well kitted out and have a V8

Yeah, but the straight sixes are where it's at... the V8s are, if anything, too quiet, whereas the sixes howl wonderfully at high revs...

Rob Davey 2 April 2010

Re: BMW 5-series 530d

I think this New 5 is fantastic. have'nt driven it yet, but i plan on doing that today.

I've been wanting a "5" for the last 15 years, and now I think is the time.

I've seen the videos of the "Touring" and it will probably swallow all that my V70 does,
but the sedan looks great, and with an "M-Sport" pack will probably look even better.

I can't afford an M5 so a 535d if they are going to make one, or a 540d would do the trick.

By the way, I've read that the 530d 535d 540d and the 525d are all versions of the 3 litre diesel six cylinder just with different outputs (BHP)
So what are the mechanical differences ? can I buy a 525d and have it "Chip" tuned to a 540d power or would I need to change the turbo to the 540d "twin scroll"
does anybody know enough to advise. ?

I hear you ask, why don't you just go the extra, and buy the 540d when / if it comes.

Answer: in Belgium they tax you on BHP a 525d would cost 2500 to register, & 535 euros a year to tax, anything over 200 BHP will cost 5000 to register and they might also charge extra to road tax, although they are all 3.0 diesels so in theory it should remain the same.

and of course there will be a big Premium to pay for that "540d" badge which honestly I don't want, "just give me the Power"

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