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BMW 5 Series


BMW M3

Summary

BMW 5 Series

Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new BMW 5 Series 520d, 530i, 530d and 540i sedans with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Victoria.

When we're all living under the cruel rule of our robot overlords, the few remaining human historians will track the genesis of our downfall to the technology explosion that occurred in 2017's new-car market. 

Never before have car companies focused so hard on producing cars that can't just be driven, but that can drive themselves, negotiating corners, unexpected obstacles and changing traffic conditions without ever needing to consult the human actually sitting behind the steering wheel.

And BMW's all-new 5 Series sedan takes yet another a step forward, eliminating the need for said human to even be sitting in the car. Owners can instead move their 5 Series in and out of tight parking spaces simply by pressing a button on their key.

The Active Key function is admittedly a $1,600 cost option, but it proves the techno-focus applied to the seventh-generation of BMW's executive express, which will land in Australian dealerships this month. Every car is also fitted with what the German brand calls its personal co-pilot; a series of nifty cameras and radars that allow the car to be driven completely autonomously for spells of 30 seconds.

But the question is, has all this new technology come at the cost of regular, old-school driver enjoyment?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

BMW M3

You could argue the BMW M1, a stunning wedge of late ‘70s Giorgetto Giugiaro design, first inserted the Bavarian maker’s 'M' performance brand into the public consciousness. 

But there’s a second, more enduring alpha-numeric BMW nameplate, that’s more likely to pass the person-in-the-street word-association test.

‘M3’ is synonymous with BMW performance, from touring car competition around the globe, to more than three decades’ worth of superbly engineered and entertainingly dynamic road cars. 

Read more about the BMW 3 Series

The subject of this review is the current (G80) M3, launched globally last year. But more than that, it’s the even spicier M3 Competition, which adds six per cent more power, and 18 percent more torque, as well as $10K to the price tag.

Does the Competition’s extra bang justify those additional bucks? Time to find out.  

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency—L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

BMW 5 Series7.9/10

Sleek and attractive in the city,  engaging on a country back road and with plenty of clever technology, the 5 Series sedan ticks all the right boxes as an executive express. If you can stomach the price hike, the six-cylinder 540i is our pick of the bunch.

Would a new 5 Series tempt you away from an E-Class or A6? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


BMW M37.9/10

Is the M3 Competition worth $10K more than the ‘base’ M3? In percentage terms it’s a relatively small jump, and if you’re already in the $150K ballpark, why not take it?  Extra performance in a technically sophisticated package more than capable of handling it. Add top-shelf safety, a laundry list of standard features, with the practicality of a four-door sedan and it’s hard to resist. The way it looks? Well, that’s up to you?

Design

BMW 5 Series8/10

Hardly a revolution, the 5 Series has instead undergone a few nips and tucks. But if it ain't broke and all that. It might not be the most head-turning offering, but the 5 Series sedan remains sleek, powerful and understated, and it is undeniably handsome on the road.

Its 8mm wider, 28mm longer and 2mm taller than the car it replaces, but it's also around 95kg lighter, thanks to its aluminium doors and boot and a clever magnesium frame for the instrument panel that saved another two kilograms. There's some other clever design elements, too. The kidney grille has active air flaps that open when extra cooling is required, closing when it isn't, reducing drag and helping accleration.

Inside, the 5 Series offers a beautifully crafted yet joyously understated cabin, with quality materials joining modern technology in a seamless way.


BMW M37/10

It feels like once in a generation, BMW feels the need to polarise automotive opinion with a controversial design direction.

Twenty years ago, then head of design for the brand, Chris Bangle, took a fearful hammering for his determined push towards more ‘adventurous’ shapes. Passionate BMW fans picketed the company’s famous ‘four-cylinder building’ HQ in Munich demanding his departure.

And who else but Bangle’s second-in-command from those days, Adrian van Hooydonk, has been leading the design department since his boss eventually left the building in 2009.

Van Hooydonk has created another firestorm of opinion in recent years by gradually increasing the size of BMW’s signature ‘kidney grille’ to what some see as comical proportions.

The latest variation on the oversize grille theme has been applied to various concept and production models, including the M3, and its M4 sibling.

As always, a purely subjective call, but the M3’s large, descending grille puts me in mind of a well known carrot-munching, cartoon rabbit’s upper incisors.

Time will tell whether such a bold treatment ages well or lives in infamy, but there’s no denying it dominates first visual impressions of the car.

Almost as much as our test example’s ‘Isle of Man Green metallic’ paint, a deep, lustrous shade that highlights the cars’s curves and angles, and regularly stopped passers by in their tracks.  

The bulging bonnet carries angular strakes back from the grille, and features a pair of faux vents, which along with darkened headlight interiors (BMW M Lights Shadow Line), accentuate the car’s tough expression.

A modern M3 wouldn’t be an M3 without pumped up guards, in this case filled by fat 19-inch forged alloy rims at the front, and 20s at the rear. 

The framing around the windows is ‘M high-gloss Shadow Line’ black, balancing the dark front splitter and side skirts. 

The tail is a multi-layered stack of horizontal lines and sections, including a thin ‘Gurney Flap’ style bootlid spoiler, and a protruding lower third housing a deep diffuser with quad, dark chrome tailpipes either side.

Sidle up closer to the car and the crowning glory is a gloss carbon-fibre roof. It’s flawless, and looks stunning.

Just as stunning is the first viewing of our test car’s full ‘Merino’ leather interior in ‘Kyalami Orange’ and black. In combination with the bold exterior colour it’s a bit rich for my blood, but the technical, athletic feel is strong.

The dash design is little changed from other 3 Series models, although the digital instrument cluster strengthens the high-performance flavour. Look up and the ‘M headliner’ is in ‘Anthracite.’  

Practicality

BMW 5 Series8/10

This is a full-size sedan, and every seat feels spacious and airy. The sloping, slightly coupe-style roofline does cut into headroom in the back, but human-sized people will have little trouble, even sitting behind a tall driver.

Each trim offers two cupholders in the front, with another two housed in a pull-down divider that seperates the rear seat. And there's two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back. 

The 5 Series' boot opens to rival a surprisingly sizeable storage space, offering 530 litres with the 40:20:40 rear seats in place.


BMW M38/10

At just under 4.8m long, a fraction over 1.9m wide, and a little over 1.4m tall, the current M3 is right in the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class size bracket. 

There's plenty of room up front, and lots of storage, including a big box/armrest between the front seats, as well as two large cupholders and a wireless charging pad in a recessed section in front of the gear shift (which can be closed off with a roll-top style cover).

The glove box is large and there are sizable bins in the doors with separate sections for full-size bottles.

At 183cm (6’0”), sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my position, there’s lots of rear head, leg, and toe room. Which is surprising, because in other current 3 Series models, headroom’s been tighter for me.

One of three climate control zones is reserved for the rear, with adjustable vents and digital temperature control at the back of the front centre console.

Unlike other 3 Series models there’s no fold-down centre armrest (with cupholders) in the back, but there are pockets with big bottle holders in the doors.

Power and connectivity options run to a USB-A slot and 12V socket in the front console, a USB-C port in the centre console box, and two USB-C outlets in the rear.

Boot space is 480 litres (VDA), which is slightly above average for the class, with a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat increasing cargo flexibility. 

There are small, netted bays on both sides of the load space, tie down anchors to secure loose loads, and the boot lid has an auto function.

The M3 is a no-tow zone and don’t bother looking for a spare of any description, a repair/inflator kit is your only option.

Price and features

BMW 5 Series7/10

BMW's venerable 5 Series is now 45 years old, and this all-new model arrives in four distinct flavours, with a fifth - an incoming M5 performance sedan - still some way off.

For now, though, the range kicks off with the 520d, before stepping up what BMW hopes to be the big seller of the range, the 530i (replacing the outgoing 528i). Next up is biggest diesel, the 530d (replacing the the 535d), before the current range tops out with the petrol-powered 540i (replacing the old 535i).

Be warned though, there's been some pretty serious price increases right across the line up, ranging from $9,145 to a whopping $19,245. In fact, only the 530d has seen its price come down, now $3,755 cheaper than the outgoing 535d. BMW justifies the hikes by pointing to an increase in standard inclusions across the range.

The 520d kicks off from $93,900, and arrives predictably well equipped for your money. Expect 18-inch alloys, leather trim, dual-zone climate control and a 12-speaker stereo. You'll also get a technology overhaul, with a bigger and upgraded Head Up display (it can now read street signs and beam that info onto the screen), a 10.25-inch touchscreen and a wireless (insert link to chi charger story) charging pad.

Step up to the 530i ($108,900) or 530d ($119,900) and you'll add 19-inch alloys, adaptive dampers with dynamic mode (that reads both driver input and navigation data and tweak suspension, gear and steering settings automatically) a 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and a crystal-clear 12.3 high-resolution digital display in the driver's binnacle. You'll also find heated front seats, a powered boot and sports seats in the front.

Finally, spring for the 540i ($136,900) and you'll get 20-inch alloys, a sunroof and electric blinds for the rear windows. You'll also find better Nappa leather on the seats, which now also offer a cooling function. Under the skin, you'll get an active anti-roll bar at each axle designed to keep the car from rolling side-to-side on the twisty stuff.

One quirk, however, is the fact that BMW's very cool wireless Apple CarPlay is a cost option on every trim level, and one that will set you back $479.


BMW M38/10

With an entry-price of $154,900, before on-road costs, the M3 Competition lines up directly with Audi’s RS 5 Sportback ($150,900), while an outlier at the edge of the M3’s orbit is the Maserati Ghibli S GranSport ($175K).

But its most obvious, long-time sparring partner, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S has temporarily stepped out of the ring. 

An all new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is set to emerge in September this year, and the hero AMG variant will adopt F1-derived hybrid tech in a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, powertrain. 

Expect huge performance, with a price tag exceeding the outgoing model’s circa $170K ask.

And that AMG hot rod better be loaded because as well as a bunch of performance and safety tech (covered later in the review), this M3 boasts an impressively long standard equipment list.

Included are, ‘BMW Live Cockpit Professional’ with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch high-res multimedia display (managed via touch, voice, or the ‘iDrive’ controller), sat nav, three-zone climate control, customisable ambient lighting, ‘Laserlight’ headlights (including ‘Selective Beam’), ‘Comfort Access’ keyless entry and start, and 16-speaker harman/kardon surround sound audio (with 464-watt, seven-channel digital amp and digital radio).

Then you can add, a full leather interior (including the steering wheel and gearshift), electrically-adjustable heated ‘M Sport’ front seats (with memory for the driver), ‘Parking Assistant Plus’ (including ‘3D Surround View & Reversing Assistant’), an auto tailgate, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, wireless smartphone integration (and charging) including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, anti-dazzle (interior and exterior) mirrors, and dual-spoke forged alloy wheels (19-inch fr / 20-inch rr).

As visual icing on the cake, carbon-fibre is sprinkled over and inside the car like shiny, lightweight confetti. The entire roof is made of the stuff, with more on the front centre console, dash, steering wheel and manual shift paddles.  

That’s a solid features list (and we haven’t bored you with all the details), substantiating a strong value equation in this small, but mega-competitive market niche.  

Engine & trans

BMW 5 Series8/10

The hunt for efficiency sees all but the most expensive 5 Series models equipped with four-cylinder engines, including the entry-level 520d, which is fitted with a 2.0-litre diesel unit that will produce 140kW at 4,000rpm and 400Nm from 1,750rpm. That's enough to push the cheapest 5 Series to 100km/h in a not particularly inspiring 7.5 seconds, topping out at 235km/h.

The cheapest petrol, the 530i, arrives with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine good for 185kW at 5,200rpm and 350Nm from 1,450rpm. That will see you clip 100km/h in 6.2 seconds and push on to a limited top speed of 250km/h.

The 530d introduces the first six-cylinder engine, a 3.0-litre unit that will produce 195kW at 4,000rpm and an impressive 620Nm from 2,000rpm. That's enough to knock off the sprint in in 5.7 seconds and offers a top speed limited to 250km/h.

Finally, the top-spec petrol, the 540i, will produce 250kW at 5,500rpm and 450Nm from 1,380rpm from its 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine. Those are healthy numbers, and enough to welcome 100km/h in a sprightly 5.1 seconds before topping out a limited 250km/h.

Every model is paired with an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.


BMW M39/10

The M3 Competition is powered by BMW’s (S58B) 3.0-litre in-line, six-cylinder engine, an all-alloy, closed deck unit featuring direct-injection, ‘Valvetronic’ variable valve timing (on the intake side), ‘Double-VANOS’ variable camshaft timing (intake and exhaust side) and twin mono-scroll turbos to produce 375kW (503hp) at 6250rpm and 650Nm from 2750rpm, all the way to 5500rpm. A solid jump from the ‘standard’ M3’s already substantial 353kW/550Nm.

Not known for sitting on their hands, BMW M’s engine techs in Munich have used 3D printing to manufacture the core of the cylinder head, incorporating internal forms not possible with conventional casting. 

This tech has not only reduced the head’s weight, but allowed its coolant ducts to be re-routed for optimal temp management.

Drive goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ‘M Steptronic’ (torque converter) paddle-shift automatic transmission, with ‘Drivelogic’ (adjustable shift modes) and a standard ‘Active M’ variable locking differential.

An all-wheel drive ‘M xDrive’ version is scheduled for Australian launch before the end of 2021.

Fuel consumption

BMW 5 Series8/10

BMW quotes a combined 4.3 litres per hundred kilometres from the 520d, which will also spit out 114g per kilometre of C02. The 530d lifts that number to 4.7 litres per hundred kilometres (which seems a small price to pay for all that extra torque), with C02 pegged at 124g per kilometre. Both diesels get a slightly smaller tank, at 66 litres.

The 530i will sip a claimed/combined 5.8 litres per hundred kilometres, with C02 emissions a claimed 132g per kilometre, while the big 540i requires 6.7 litres per hundred kilometres, with C02 pegged at 154g per kilometre. Both petrol models get a 68-litre tank and require 95RON fuel.


BMW M37/10

BMW’s official fuel economy figure for the M3 Competition, on the ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban cycle, is 9.6L/100km, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo six emitting 221g/km of C02 in the process.

To help get to that impressive number, BMW has deployed numerous cunning devices including, an ‘Optimum Shift Indicator’ (in manual shift mode), on-demand operation of ancillary units, and ‘Brake Energy Regeneration’ which tops up a relatively small lithium-Ion battery to power an auto stop-start system, 

Despite this tricky tech, we averaged 12.0L/100km (at the bowser), over a range of driving conditions, which is still pretty good for such a powerful and focused performance sedan.

Recommended fuel is 98 RON premium unleaded although, amazingly, 91 RON standard fuel is acceptable at a pinch. 

Either way, you’ll need 59 litres of it to fill the tank, which is enough for a range of over 600km using the factory economy figure, and close to 500km based on our real-world number.

Driving

BMW 5 Series8/10

BMW's pre-drive briefing was so technology focused we half expected the black turtle neck and dad jean-wearing ghost of Steve Jobs to emerge from behind a curtain clutching an iPad. Only a minuscule portion was dedicated to the cars' drivetrains, with BMW instead hammering home autonomy functions, technology upgrades and the fact that its car was a preview to "the future".

But once we'd slipped behind the wheel of the all-new 5 Series, it all started to make more sense. Having briefly sampled three models (the 530i, 530d and 540i), we can safely report there's nothing particularly revolutionary about their on-road behaviour. That's not necessarily a bad thing - they do everything you could ask of a car in this bracket. They're mostly smooth and always quiet, the new chassis has done nothing to dampen engagement when you start to ask a little more of it, and it's generally a luxurious experience. But then so was the old car.

But what's new is the technology poured into the 5 Series. Every car gets what BMW is calling its personal co-pilot, for example, which is a set of tricky systems (there's six cameras, five radar sensors and 12 ultrasonic sensors scattered around the car) that work with the active cruise control and allow the car to be driven completely autonomous for 30-second intervals. Now, it's not quite as advanced as some of its competitor's systems - it can't change lanes for example - but if you're out on a country road or on a highway, it will stay within its lane, turn around corners and keep up with the traffic, even if they stop in front of you.

While the cheapest diesel model has historically been the best seller, BMW is hoping the new 530i will prove the most popular this time around. And while you couldn't describe it as fast, the power from its four-cylinder engine is ample for all that will likely be asked of it, and it feels sorted and composed on  more challenging roads. It's a smooth and comfortable ride, too, even with the optional 20-inch alloys fitted, though that's undoubtedly thanks to the adaptive dampers and ever-changing dynamic ride function, both of which are fitted as standard. In fact, we're yet to drive a car without those options fitted, so we're forced to reserve judgement on the as-standard ride quality of the cheaper models.

Be warned though, none in the 5 Series range offer the disconnected and perfectly smooth conveyance you might find in some true luxury offerings, and you'll still know when you're diving into deep pockmarks in the road. But the trade off is a an engaging ride and steering set up that always feels planted, with enough feedback to ensure you feel connected to what's happening beneath the tyres. And that's a trade we're more than willing to make.

Step up to the 540i and things take a much sportier turn. The turbocharged six-cylinder feels right at home in a car this size, with acceleration effortless and freeway overtaking manoeuvres an absolute breeze. And while we didn't find roads quite brutal enough to really test the active anti-roll bars housed at each axle, there's a wonderful and stable flatness to the way the biggest petrol handles corners.

It's not cheap, but thanks to the bigger engine and sorted dynamics, the 540i feels most like a 5 Series probably should.


BMW M39/10

Any production-based performance sedan claimed to accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than four seconds is straight-up fast. 

BMW says the M3 Competition will hit triple figures in just 3.5sec, which is properly rapid, and a full-bore, launch-control assisted start in this car is... impressive.

Aural accompaniment is suitably raucous, but beware, at its loudest it’s mostly fake news, with synthetic engine/exhaust noise able to be dialled down or turned off altogether.

That said, with maximum torque (650Nm!) available from 2750rpm all the way to 5500rpm, mid-range pulling power is prodigious, and despite the twin turbos this engine loves to rev (thanks in no small part to a forged, lightweight crankshaft). 

Power delivery is beautifully linear, and a surge from 80-120km/h takes 2.6sec in fourth, and 3.4sec in fifth. With peak power (375kW/503hp) arriving at 6250rpm, you can thunder on to a maximum velocity of 290km/h. 

That’s if the electronically-controlled limit of 250km/h isn’t enough for you, and you’ve ticked the optional ‘M Driver’s Package’ box. Enjoy the big house!

Suspension is basically strut front, five-link rear, all in aluminium, and working in concert with ‘Adaptive M’ dampers. They are brilliant, and the transition from ‘Comfort’ to ‘Sport’ and back is amazing. 

The ride quality this car delivers in Comfort mode is nuts given it’s riding on huge rims shod with licorice thin tyres. 

The sports front seats also offer an amazing blend of comfort and extra lateral support (with the touch of a button).

In fact, fine-tuning the car’s set-up across suspension, brakes, steering, engine, and transmission calibrations through the ‘M Setup’ menu is easy and adds extra involvement. Blaringly red M1 and M2 pre-set buttons on the steering wheel allow storage of preferred settings.

The electrically-assisted steering points nicely, and road feel is excellent. 

The car remains flat and stable in enthusiastic B-road corners, the active ‘M Differential’ and ‘M Traction Control’ putting all that power down from a steady state mid-corner, through to a scorchingly fast and balanced exit. 

No surprise, front to rear weight distribution for this 1.7-tonne machine is 50:50. 

Rubber is ultra-high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S (275/35x19 fr / 285/30x20 rr) which deliver confidence-inspiring grip in the dry, as well as a couple of torrentially wet days during the latter part of our week with the car. 

And washing off speed is a fuss-free experience thanks to standard ‘M Compound’ brakes’ consisting of big ventilated and cross-drilled rotors (380mm fr / 370mm rr) clamped by six-piston fixed calipers at the front and single-piston floating units at the rear.

On top of that the integrated braking system offers Comfort and Sport pedal feel settings, altering the amount of pedal pressure required to slow the car. Stopping power is immense, and even in Sport mode brake feel is progressive.

One technical niggle is the wireless CarPlay connectivity, which I found frustratingly patchy. Didn’t test the Android equivalent this time around, though.

Safety

BMW 5 Series9/10

Expect plenty of clever safety gear, with every 5 Series sedan arriving with six airbags (dual front and full-length side airbags, along with head protection bags for front passengers). You'll also find a surround-view reversing camera and parking sensors.

But the high-tech stuff arrives courtesy of active cruise control, cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and cross-road alerts.


BMW M38/10

The M3 Competition hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP, but 2.0-litre 3 Series models received a maximum five-star rating in 2019.

Standard active crash-avoidance tech includes ‘Emergency Brake Assist’ (BMW-speak for AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, ‘Dynamic Brake Control’ (helps apply maximum braking power in an emergency), ‘Cornering Brake Control’, a ‘Dry Braking’ function that periodically skims the rotors (with the pads) in wet conditions, ‘integrated wheel slip limitation’, lane change warning, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. 

There’s also ‘Park Distance Control’ (with sensors front and rear), Parking Assistant Plus (including ‘3D Surround View & Reversing Assistant’), an ‘Attentiveness Assistant’ function, and tyre pressure monitoring. 

But if an impact is unavoidable there are front, side, and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as side curtain bags covering both rows of seats. 

On sensing a crash the car will make an ‘Automatic Emergency Call’, and there’s even a warning triangle and first aid kit on board.

There are three top tether points across the rear seat with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions for securing baby capsules/child seats.

Ownership

BMW 5 Series7/10

The BMW 5 Series is covered by a three year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and requires condition-based servicing (rather than a pre-defined service interval).

You can also prepay your maintenance costs for five years/80,000kms, with prices ranging from $1,640 for the basic package, and climbing to $4,600 for the all-inclusive option.


BMW M37/10

BMW offers a three year/unlimited km warranty, which is off the pace given the majority of mainstream brands have stepped up to five-year cover, with some at seven, or even 10.

And the luxury tide is turning with premium players, Genesis, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz now at five years/unlimited km.

On the upside, bodywork is covered for 12 years, the paint for three, and 24-hour roadside assistance is complimentary for three years.

The ‘Concierge Service’ is another three year, complimentary deal, providing  24/7/365 access to a personalised service through a dedicated ‘BMW Customer Information Centre.’

Servicing is condition based, so the car tells you when maintenance is required, and BMW offers a range of ‘Service Inclusive’ capped price servicing plans, starting from three years/40,000km.