I’ve talked it over with friends and colleagues and most of us agree that this generation of the BMW 5 Series is the best looking car in the model’s recent history, but I just couldn’t fall in love with the looks. It’s handsome enough in profile or when viewed from the rear but something about the front end just doesn’t sit right with me. Others have likened the new 5 Series to a scaled-down 7 Series and I’d agree, but to my eye it looks like Bimmer missed the headlights and grille with its design shrink ray. It’s too upright, too bulbous and out of proportion with the rest of the car.
Styling is, of course, subjective but I think that both the Audi A6 and the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class are simply better looking cars. But what matters is most is which car I’d rather drive and the new 2017 BMW 530i sedan has seen some significant upgrades that make it a strong player in this class.
The 530i’s 2.0-liter turbo
Under the our 530i’s hood, you’ll find a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine — a smaller engine than you might expect to find in a sedan of this size, but still a fairly mighty one. Output is stated at 248-horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque which the 5 Series sends to the rear wheels via an eight-speed steptronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters and a selectable sport mode. The automaker’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is available as an option.
On the road, that feels like a decent amount of power for the 5er. Power is easily accessible and surges with the smooth gearbox shifts in a way that never left me lacking during a pass or highway merge. The meaty mid-range torque curve also made for some relaxed fun when the road got twisty.
However, this is no canyon carver, it’s a grand tourer at best. The 5 Series felt most in its element on the highway and around sweeping bends where the suspension could showcase its Autobahn-tuned stability. On a twisty road, the 5 Series’ weight makes itself more apparent. The steering remains crisp and the firm but not harsh and the suspension remains responsive enough to raise a smile.
To further help tune the 5’s character, BMW has outfitted the sedan with about a half dozen “Driving Experience Control” modes to customize the performance of the steering, throttle, and handling. At one end of the spectrum you get the more aggressive Sport and Sport Plus settings which set the steering, handling and throttle to their most aggressive and responsive settings. In between is the Comfort mode, “Individual” programs for all of the modes that let drivers mix and match the settings and an Adaptive setting that just lets the car decide how to operate based on the current conditions and driver inputs.
Economy is becoming increasingly important, even to luxury drivers, so BMW has outfitted the 5er with more fuel saving tricks with each generation, including engine stop-start anti-idling, regenerative braking which reduces fuel lost to alternator load and subtle refinements in aerodynamics and weight. As a result, the 2017 BMW 530i is good for a stated 27 combined mpg (24 city, 34 highway).
iDrive version 6.0
The biggest updates to this generation 5 Series are electronic. In short, the new 5er gets almost all of the new tech goodies from the new 7 Series: New iDrive, new safety tech, new head-up display and a new gesture control system to play around with.
The automaker’s iDrive infotainment gets a version 6.0 redesign based on the setup we saw in the new 7 Series. The system features crisply rendered visuals, smooth animations and a new home screen with large virtual cards that explain the major sections of the interface, including navigation, media and vehicle information. The cards help a bit as you learn your way around the interface, but I still it a bit confusing at times. That said, I’m grateful that it’s so much better than it used to be.
The system uses a 10.2-inch touchscreen which can also be operated via the console-mounted iDrive controller and a touchpad on the iDrive knob can be used to write, swipe and pinch, or voice command. I personally felt the controller was more intuitive and kept fingerprints off of the central display. Plus, I’ve been using one version or another of this knob for six generations now, so I’m accustomed to it.
The most gimmicky new control scheme is the new gestures system that allows drivers to interact with iDrive without even touching it. Twirling a finger in front of the dashboard, for example, raises or lowers the audio volume. Waving a hand dismisses a notification. There are more gestures available but, aside from the finger twirl volume control, I found it easier and more accurate to just use physical controls for most interactions.