From £35,8359
Arguably not the plushest executive car, nor the sportiest, but our UK drive shows a breadth of ability that defines the BMW 530d M Sport a class act

What is it?

When I were a lad, E-numbers were bad. I can still hear my mother telling my father ‘Don’t give him that, or he’ll be ripping down the curtains and setting the shed ablaze again’. Perhaps I was just a difficult child. 

Anyway, I was thinking: not all E-numbers should be avoided. In fact, some, such as E12, E28, E34, E39 and even E60, are well worth gravitating towards. These are model numbers for generations of the magnificent BMW 5 Series, so the new G30 – they’ve dropped the ‘E’ prefix in the model name now – has ‘H’ for heritage to live up to. 

Especially, as the previous 5 Series, the F10 was, well, a little unloved. It was a solid thing – perhaps too solid, as its portly kerb weight suggested – and arguably a little dour looking as well.

Apparently, BMW itself was aware of this, because the new car is visually slinkier, plus lighter – by up to 100kg. That decrease didn’t involve the fancy carbon-composite chassis implants that the current 7 Series employs, but instead was achieved using high-strength steel and more aluminium in the suspension and body alike. 

BMW says there’s no single, defining area where the weight was shifted, just little bits here and there. The result is less un-sprung mass, better torsional rigidity, improved ride and handling, and, of course, enhanced performance and efficiency.

What's it like?

Let’s begin with its beating heart: the bi-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six diesel. Now, we know there is a potential war on diesel, but right now this EU6 compliant engine is legal tender in London, Luton, Leatherhead and any other UK city you care to mention. So, assessing it on that basis, its outputs of 261bhp and 457lb ft, coupled with an average 60.1mpg and 124g/km of CO2 look appealing against the quicker, but decidedly thirstier 540i petrol. It blows away the Mercedes E 350 d and Jaguar XF 3.0d V6 S, for that matter, too.  

And this car isn’t slow. In fact, it’s so strong through nearly all of the rev-range that you get the feeling it would feel just a quick if pulling a glacier, at least until that onslaught of power and twist subsides at around 4000rpm. This, twinned with the superb eight-speed ZF auto ‘box that picks the right gear and slithers into it without you noticing, makes it an effortlessly easy car to cover ground in.

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Choosing your G10 5 Series’ suspension set-up is a heck of a lot trickier than it was in 1972, when the original was launched. There’s standard passive, M Sport passive, Variable Adaptive Dampers (VDC), Adaptive Drive with active anti-roll bars and Integral Active Steering (IDC), which steers all four wheels. 

Don’t panic, though, because having sampled pretty much all of them, there is an easy default: select VDC. Without it, the ride is needlessly fidgety on the motorway, but with it (and it uses the same settings regardless of whether you go for an SE or the M Sport) it transforms the ride brilliantly. Even with our M Sport’s 19in wheels and Scalextric-thin tyres, the 530d floats along like a lilo on a pool, with only the occasional thud if the tyres drop down a particularly large hole. Being so wide, they do create more road roar than the narrower tyres you get on an SE, but it’s still a sublime cruiser.

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BMW dedicated itself to improving steering feel in the new 5. Certainly the weight build up is considerably better around the straight-ahead now, although its fair to say a Jaguar XF still has the more natural and incisive helm. Our car didn’t have IDC fitted, which is a worthy option if you appreciate a quick turn-in, but nevertheless the G30 feels so much more nimble than the F10 that you genuinely believe its maker's claims concerning reduced mass.

It’s only the thick windscreen pillars, which blot your vision through corners, that spoil the fun on a sweeping back road. Otherwise this car displays superb balance and body control, and even with the dampers tautened in Sport mode there’s enough compliance left to cope with troublesome peaks and troughs. Again, the XF is sharper still, but for offering a fine compromise between comfort and fun, the 5 Series is about the best there is.

In terms of interior quality, though, it knocks the XF in to touch. Effectively the 7 Series' architecture has been shoehorned into a smaller space, so it looks smart with choice materials, crystal-clear displays for the 10.25in main screen and digital instruments, as well as a sense of dependable solidity. Some might see it as another prosaic BMW design, and argue the E-Class's more fanciful style delivers a greater sense of luxury, but that's a personal thing. No arguing that it works well, mind; it packs plenty of of tech – gesture control, a night vision camera, on-board wifi, a concierge service and massaging seats are just some of the features available - but, after a little familiarisation, you'll find it perfectly easy to use.

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Space in the front is fine for anyone tall. Rear seat leg room is roughly what you’d find in the equivalent E-Class, and it’s only really the Volvo S90 that offers substantially more. At 530 litres, the boot is on par with its rivals, although its various contours, to an extent, reduce its effectiveness when carrying large, square objects.

Should I buy one?

First drives are a snapshot in time; we don't predict the future, merely report the facts. The future of diesel versus petrol isn’t under discussion here, the BMW 530d M Sport is. And today, with the facts as we know them, it’s an absolute corker. 

The engine is peachy, delivering sensible running costs along with prodigious performance. As with its rivals, you need to pay extra for an adaptive suspension set-up to make the 5 Series really work, but when you do, it strikes a near perfect balance between an E-Class’s comfort and an XF’s dynamics. For a car to lap up many miles in, it’s extremely hard to fault.

BMW 530d M Sport

Location Hertfordshire; On sale now; Price £47,135; Engine 6cyls, 2993cc, diesel; Power 261bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 457Ib ft at 2000-2500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd auto; Kerb weight 1715kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 5.7sec; Economy 60.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 124g/km/24%; Rivals Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line, Jaguar XF 3.0d V6 S

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Comments
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clfno1 10 March 2017

Don't want to get technical...

Nothing like diesel Vs. Petrol here, but the 530d is single turbo, not bi-turbo. They leave the bi-turbo to the 535d, as they do with the 3 Series. The misleading fact is they write "Twin Power" on the engine cover, making people believe they are twin turbo. God just writing that made me feel old... Lol
Downunder 5 March 2017

Hi SPQR. Pray tell, are you

Hi SPQR. Pray tell, are you actually interested in cars (or just ride a bike) or do you just blog here to take the piss out of anything diesel because of a personal agenda? A bit of background may add to your credibility. The fact that so many of us are taking a different view than yours doesn't make us wrong. There is no right or wrong but thinking makes it so (apologies to Shakespeare).
AlanBe 4 March 2017

IARC

The infamous IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) is the body who concluded 'On 26 October 2015, IARC reported that consumption of processed meat (such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausages) was a Group 1 carcinogen, and that red meat was a Group 2A carcinogen ("probably carcinogenic to humans") more recently overly brown toast fell victim to this organisation. I will not enter the diesel carcinogenic debate,but simply point out that some who are reporting Scientific info are cherry-picking what they are advancing. Anyways back to the article I was surprised that the headlines mentioned a price of ~£32k but by the time the summary came that had increased to £47K. I know BMW operate a vast options list - but £15k worth in this case?
John Howell 8 March 2017

Sorry about the price confusion...

This is a default with the site: it puts the starting price of the lowest engine and trim combination in the range at the top. The price in the specification panel is always the standard price, without options, for the car we are testing. Hope that helps clear up the anomaly.

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