The luxury sedan segment in the Rs50-65 lakh price range has seen an onslaught of new cars over the last one year, with each new arrival upping the ante for the competition. The all-new Jaguar XF arrived first, followed by the majestic Volvo S90, and, more recently, the stretched-out Mercedes-Benz E-class long wheelbase. Now, BMW is all set to introduce the 5-series in an all-new avatar which, it claims, is loaded with technology, is much more luxuriously appointed, and a lot more fun to drive.
But what does it bring to the table that is new?
Let’s start with the rear seats—this is where most owners will find themselves most of the time. The seat is perfectly positioned, offers good support all around, and uses some of the softest leather available. A nearly 3m-long wheelbase ensures that there’s ample legroom. That said, the space is no match for what’s on offer in the E-class long wheelbase.
But the BMW redeems itself when you slip into the front seats. They are large, plush and offer a host of electrical adjustments, which make it easy to find a good driving position. The cabin feels better put together, and there are no poorly built bits. However, some of the buttons, like the blower control, are a bit cumbersome to use, especially when you are driving.
It is also brimming with technology. For a start, the instrument panel is all digital, and the central touchscreen feels as crisp to operate as a modern smartphone. Even passengers at the back get their own remote for the infotainment system.
The new 5-series even gets some features from the costlier 7-series. These include gesture control for the infotainment system, air-con controls and telephony functions. A remote parking function allows you to move the car in and out of a parking spot using the key fob.
The real highlight, however, is the new 3.0-litre, straight-six diesel engine that powers the range-topping 530d variant tested here. This is a motor that goads you to drive full throttle every time you see an open stretch. It pulls from as low as 1,600 rpm and, like any well-tuned engine, it feels stronger the faster you drive it. What truly impresses is the smooth, petrol-like manner in which it dishes out its 265hp; the new 5-series is even capable of dashing from 0-100 kmph in a sports car-like 5.7 seconds. The new diesel is more refined than the engine in the outgoing model, but doesn’t match the large-capacity diesels it’s competing with. It feels a touch grumbly at low speeds, emitting an angry rattle when you rev it hard. Besides the 3.0-litre diesel, the 5-series will come with a set of 2.0-litre engines on lower variants—a 190hp 520d diesel motor and a 252hp 530i petrol engine.
One area where the new 5-series has leapt ahead of its predecessors is in handling. Unlike its predecessor, the new car displays an eagerness to be driven hard and fast.
The driving experience is particularly enthralling in the Sport mode. There’s tremendous response from the brakes, the grip on offer is reassuring, and it’s easy to keep pushing harder and harder. What elevates the drive further is the quick eight-speed gearbox.
The new 5-series also comes with an Adaptive mode, so you don’t need to manually select the various drive modes. The ride turns soft and supple in relaxed driving conditions, and stiffens up the suspension when you decide to amp up the pace.
The ride feels a bit stiff over sharper bumps, and at times the car thumps through them even in the Comfort mode. However, BMW seems to have nailed the ride and handling balance on the new car for most scenarios.
To sum up, the new 5-series is a massive leap forward in almost every area. It performs like a true sports sedan, and is generously equipped with features usually found in cars from a class above. Yes, the chauffeur-driven won’t be pampered in the rear seats as much as in the Mercedes E-class long wheelbase, but the rear-seat experience is still quite sumptuous.
What this 5-series successfully delivers is the impression of being a mildly shrunken 7-series. The base petrol variant will cost around Rs52 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), while the top-of-the-line 530d specification will be priced at around Rs65 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).