The history of the BMW 5 Series began in 1972 with the E12 520 and 520i. It replaced the range of New Class sedans that rescued BMW from near-certain bankruptcy in the 1960s and also marked the start of BMW’s now-familiar three-digit model naming convention.
At the time, BMW called its new mid-sizer the 5 Series simply because it was the fifth model to come after the New Class family had rejuvenated the Bavarian car maker; and 5 also happens to be a logical number to designate your company’s mid-sized sedan with.
An interesting piece of trivia, the E12’s lead designer was Paul Bracq, who was also responsible for designing the Mercedes-Benz W114 models that were the forebears of today’s E-Class.
Initially, the E12 was offered with a range of four-cylinder engines, and if you still remember how BMW’s model naming convention is supposed to work, there were the 2.0-litre 520 and 2.0-litre fuel-injected 520i.
So, even though six-cylinder engines came into the roost a year later and became the default powertrain configuration of BMW’s mid-sizer for many years, the company’s current staple of 2.0-litre inline-fours actually brings the 5 Series back to its roots.
Even amidst the murmuring of enthusiasts, nobody could argue with the new turbocharged four-pots for their combination of performance, efficiency, and road tax-friendly displacement. Such has been the success of BMW’s downsizing strategy, there are little complaints as the all-new G30 5 Series comes to town with just a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine on offer.
Price: RM388,888 (OTR without insurance)
Engine: 2.0-litre, Inline-4 Longitudinal, Turbocharged Petrol
Power: 252 hp @ 5,200 – 6,500 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm @ 1,450 – 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed torque converter automatic, RWD
Safety: Lane departure warning, collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian recognition, rear cross traffic alert, rear collision warning
Origin: Locally-assembled in Kulim, Kedah
Globally, the G30 5 Series is available with a variety of powertrains with displacement ranging from 2.0 to 4.4 litres and cylinder count varying between four, six, and eight. Out of all available engines, the BMW Malaysia product team opted to select only one to line-up in our market and it inevitably is a 2.0-litre inline-4 petrol engine powering the 530i.
But such is progress that with outputs rated at 252 hp and 350 Nm, the present day four-cylinder 530i makes more power and torque than the V8-powered E39 535i. On the road, its 0-100 km/h sprint time of 6.2 seconds is just a tenth of a second slower than time it would take the 3.0-litre twin turbocharged F10 535i to complete the same.
Certainly, where performance is concerned, the 530i is no slouch, but a greater variety of models would have been welcomed, especially with its arch-rival, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, having no less than five variants to choose from, ranging from the 184 hp E200 right up to the six-cylinder AMG E43 and the manic V8-powered AMG E63S. For the consumer shopping at the lower end of the RM300k spectrum, the 5 Series does not have anything to offer, and that’s unfortunate.
Initially introduced as a fully-imported model, the G30 5 Series is now locally-assembled in Kulim, Kedah. Being a locally-assembled energy efficient vehicle (EEV), the 530i M Sport retails for RM388,800 on-the-road without insurance, a RM10k reduction from the CBU model.
Equipment-wise, the Kulim-built cars retains features such as lane departure warning, collision warning, parking assistant, and display key, but drops active cruise control. A major shortcoming, however, is the absence of a 360-degree camera system even in the CBU model, a feature which the E-Class makes available in all grades except the base E200. Reverse camera and all-round parking sensors are provided though.
Our test car for this review is from the earlier batch of fully imported cars, but because it retains the same M Sport chassis setup, which includes adaptive dampers, there is no reason to expect any significant differences in the way they drive.
We already have a positive first impression of the G30 from our experience in BMW’s international media drive event last year, but with the test fleet at Portugal that time comprised exclusively of the 530d and 540i 3.0-litre six-cylinder variants, this is our first go at the car in 530i format.
To be sure, the reduction of two cylinders has not robbed the 530i of any useful real world performance. Strong mid-range torque, coupled with masterful tuning of the superlative ZF 8HP 8-speed auto ensures that the 530i pulls hard and fast, and with barely a hint of hesitation. The four-cylinder engine admittedly lacks the mechanical richness of the inline-six powerplants, but was otherwise responsive to proddings of the throttle and smooth-revving right to the limit.
The chassis itself is a work of art; around corners, the suspension copes superbly with bodily movements, managing weight transfer with aplomb and reigning in body roll with great effectiveness.
Compared to the preceding F10 5 Series, itself regarded as the segment’s dynamic benchmark during its time, the G30 somehow manages to feel significantly sharper on the turn and more agile as a whole. Indeed, even the absence of integral active steer (which we experienced during the global press drive) hardly seemed to have affected the G30’s inherent fleet-footedness.
Despite being stacked with technology, the chassis exudes a delightfully analog feel the way dances and flows to your steering and throttle inputs around bends. This is, without doubt, the best handling BMW 5 Series since the E39, and that’s no small compliment.
Comfort & Refinement
BMW models from the Chris Bangle era were notorious not only for their polarizing styling but also for brittle ride quality as the chassis engineers struggled to tune the suspension to properly match the stiffer run flat tyres. Recent models have come a long way from that, however, to the point where we often find Bimmers exceeding even Mercedes models for comfort.
The 530i, even in M Sport suspension and low profile 19-inch tyres, feel impressively comfortable. Relative to segment rivals, only air sprung versions of the Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S90 can claim to have a plusher ride than the 530i M Sport.
Road patches occasionally introduce little jiggles into the cabin, but the amplitude and intensity of these disturbances are such one never feels really troubled by it all. Long-wave undulations, on the other hand, are isolated to the point of non-existence.
Indeed, we can’t help but wonder if a less aggressive non-M Sport setup would endow the BMW with truly class-leading levels of comfort.
Lastly, BMW also did a fine job refining the 530i’s auto start/stop system. Not only are resultant noise and vibrations markedly reduced, its calibration is massively improved too. The driver, through finer modulation of the brake pedal, is able to better determine when the system should kill the engine or let it run.
In stop-go traffic, one can apply just enough force to keep the car stationary without triggering the auto start/stop; the driver can then apply firmer force to trigger the engine’s momentary shutdown. The intuitiveness of it is reminiscent of Mazda’s i-Stop – the industry’s best in this writer’s opinion.
Compared to the six-cylinder variants tested earlier in Portugal, the four-cylinder 530i is also unsurprisingly smoother on start-up and engine shut-down.
Economy & Maintenance
All BMW models officially sold in Malaysia are covered by a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty along with a 5-year / 100,000km free maintenance plan in which engine oil, oil filter, air filter, micro filter spark plugs, and brake fluid are covered. From your end, you need to fork out for brake pads and wipers.
Tyre replacement costs are mitigated by a tyre warranty programme that protects you against puncture damage for the first two years. Remember that, like all new BMWs, the G30 uses runflat tyres; once punctured, they cannot be repaired and need to be replaced, and they are costly.
For the amount of performance on offer, and considering that it’s a petrol engine, the 530i is impressively fuel efficient. Over 600km of usage covering urban and highway usage plus a spirited run to Genting Highlands, our test car’s trip computer returned a commendable average of 10.1 litres/100km.
Even if the wealthy 530i owner is not bothered by refuelling costs, he or she is still likely to appreciate the extra distance between visits to the petrol station.
Driving enjoyment is an integral component of the BMW 5 Series DNA; every generation of the 5 Series carries the burden of becoming the segment’s torchbearer of dynamics, and nothing less is expected of the G30 as well.
It might not look it from its evolutionary appearance, but the G30 is a massively-improved car from its predecessor on all fronts – better-refined styling, more agile and engaging dynamically, more efficient on fuel, vastly superior cabin materials, and packed with more technology.
Where it can be improved further is the variety of its model mix – a single 530i M Sport variant, however capable and well-rounded it is, cannot adequately cover the bases of the market. BMW’s success with PHEVs mean that the 530e is likely to join the line-up at a later time, but an entry-level 520i and perhaps the six-cylinder 540i would certainly be welcomed additions .
Against its rivals, BMW’s much-improved cabin construction now puts the G30 on-par with segment standards even if the Mercedes E-Class continues to boast a superior ambiance. There is also the superb value of the Volvo S90 T8 PHEV offering more power, a more sophisticated powertrain, and no less alluring styling at a much lower price.
In the midst of such strong contenders, the mid-sized premium segment is as competitive as ever, with each car making a strong case for itself; but be in no doubt, however, that if you want the best car to drive in the segment, look no further than the BMW 5 Series.