Mercedes-Benz E300 2017 review
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has rightfully been regarded as the traditionalist's Mercedes here in Australia.
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While BMW's 7 Series acts as a techno-flagship for the brand, it's the Five Series where new technologies reach the mass market.
The Five might not be a huge seller in Australia, but globally there is a lot of interest. The week it spent in my driveway generated plenty of interest, with most of the questioning focussed around the technology.
The Five is 45 years old now and has just clicked over to its seventh generation, the G30. Like the F10 and E60 before it, there have been significant changes wrought beneath the skin and in the cabin as part of the transition.
The petrol-powered 530i is the second in the range, sandwiched between two diesels, a 520d and 530d. There's been a jump in price, to $108,900 but BMW insists there's a lot more stuff than previously, an assertion that's difficult to argue with. The company reckons the 530i has $16,000 worth of stuff over the older 528i.
Standard features include 19-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights with selective beam, electric boot operation, head-up display, 16 speaker Harman Kardon sound system, keyless entry and start, up-spec sat-nav, auto parking, around-view cameras, nappa leather seats up front with ventilation, auto wipers and headlights, active cruise control and a pretty decent safety package.
The G30 hosts the newest version of BMW's iDrive. Controlled, as ever, by the console-mounted rotary dial and scratchpad but you can now also use the 10.3-inch screen as a touchscreen. Underneath the climate controls there's a cradle for wireless charging (if you've got the right accessories).
The 'next track' gesture appeared to work best when you flicked the touchscreen a V while possibly starting a road rage incident.
Also fitted to our car were a tasty set of sportier 20-inch alloys ($950), 'Innovations Package' which added 'BMW Display Key', gesture control and remote control parking), ceramic interior bits ($1000), glass sunroof ($2900), metallic paint ($2000), roller sunblinds for the read window ($1500) and seat heating all round ($700)
Sadly, due to a mix-up with keys, we didn't get to play with the new 'Display Key' or the remote control parking that comes with it. Rats. We consoled ourselves by discovering that the 'next track' gesture appeared to work best when you flicked the touchscreen a V while possibly starting a road rage incident.
Also along for the ride was Apple CarPlay which, for the first time, operates over Bluetooth, which is very handy. Less handy is the $623 cost to include it.
All up, this 530i weighed in at $120,173.
It is not small in here. Four people will be extremely comfortable while a fifth should tolerate the middle rear seat for a reasonable trip, with plenty of leg, head and shoulder room. The front seats benefit from an amazing amount of adjustment and memory positions so that when you've got it juuust right, you can keep it that way.
There are four cupholders - two up front and two in the back, and each door will take a bottle for a total of four. The boot will take 530 litres and the seatback folds 40/20/40 for a bit of extra flexibility.
Since the end of the Bangle era, BMW has certainly gone for a steady-as-she-goes approach to styling with a mild evolution of the F10's fairly conservative sheetmetal. The G30 is a more muscular design but retains the quiet elegance that has made the Five so popular with buyers over the years.
Inside is a riot of colour and wacky angles. No, of course it isn't, it's more of the same.
The new front looks wider than the old, with slightly bigger headlights with hook-shaped daytime running lights to let you know a BMW is coming your way. The profile is as BMW as you can get, with good proportions and Hoffmeister kink in the quarter window. It's long, low and understated.
Inside is a riot of colour and wacky angles. No, of course it isn't, it's more of the same. BMW interiors are a slow burn - you get in and think, well, this is lovely, but what's the big deal. Then you start to poke and prod and drive around and you realise it all just works, everything is in the right place and everything feels good, especially as you head north through the BMW range as far as the 5 Series.
The 530i has long-since bid farewell to the classic BMW 3.0 straight six and is now powered by a 2.0-litre four cylinder twin-scroll turbo. Developing 185kW/350Nm, it will propel the 1540kg four-door to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds.
Compared to the Merc, the 5 feels light and is almost playful, even at low speeds.
Power goes to the rear wheels via ZF's always-excellent eight-speed automatic and the 530i features 'Efficient Dynamics' which includes stop-start, brake energy recovery and active aero in the grille.
Towing capacity is rated at 750kg unbraked and 2000kg braked.
BMW claims the 530i will deliver a combined cycle fuel figure of 5.8L/100km. Our week with the car, which included some traffic, a close to 200km round trip from Sydney up to the Blue Mountains and back and some suburban bashing-about yielded 9.8L/100km, a fair way off the ADR figure but not that bad for such a big car.
In a tremendous stroke of luck, I drove a Mercedes E Class a couple of weeks ago. I was impressed by its smoothness and the shedding of its grandpa image with a cracking interior and a tonne of new technology.
The new Five may not have two huge screens that look like one big slab, but it certainly gives the Merc a run for its money for interior tech.
The transmission is terrific in any mode and ensures either crisp shifts in manual or auto mode with unobtrusive slurring gear changes in Comfort mode.
Where it pulls ahead of the E Class is in the driving dynamics. Compared to the Merc, the 5 feels light and is almost playful, even at low speeds. The steering is quicker, the throttle more responsive (except in EcoPro, but that's the point) and the eight-speed ZF transmission is far happier in all situations where the Benz gets a bit cranky when you're piling on the pressure.
In Luxury Line trim the chassis is geared more towards comfort than handling, but you won't find the Five's chassis wanting against either of its German rivals. Even without the Merc's air suspension, the BMW rides the bumps but without the isolation from the tarmac associated with air-filled inflated bags between you and the road.
Like the Merc, it's incredibly quiet at all times, the 2.0-litre turbo barely making a peep and even though it sets a cracking pace from 0-100km/h (6.2 seconds), it never feels at all uncouth or, to be honest, that quick. The transmission is terrific in any mode and ensures either crisp shifts in manual or auto mode with unobtrusive slurring gear changes in Comfort mode.
The Five comes loaded with safety gear, including six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, reverse cross traffic alert, lane keep assist and cross-road alerts to stop you pulling out at a T junction into traffic.
BMW calls its suite of safety gadgets 'Personal Co-Pilot' with each element working together to the point of steering the car for around thirty seconds before suggesting you get your act together.
BMW offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assist for the same period.
Servicing is condition-based and can be pre-paid for five years/80,000kms worth of services, starting at $1640 for a routine package and $4600 for the top option which includes a limited range of consumables at each service where required.
The new Five is, as expected, a big step forward. The outgoing model was occasionally found wanting. Engines a bit raspy, ride a bit ragged on bigger wheels, interior tech falling behind. With new semi-autonomous driving features, a luxurious interior that hits the spot, and all the usual BMW markers of handy chassis and strong drivetrain, it goes up against A6 and E Class while keeping true to the brand.
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