A luxury vehicle must ooze that feeling inside and out if it’s going to live up to its hype.
The 5-series I tested did that in spades, screaming elegance even from a distance.
You get the lengthy hood up front (and a shorter rear portion -- sort of like a reverse mullet). Add in the dual-vented BMW-style grille and that little circle logo, plus wheels that will not be ignored, and it’s clear this is a high-end ride before you even open the door.
While the 5-series looks large from the outside, I was disappointed that the rear seating is a bit tight; it’s good enough for shorter trips but it would be hard to fit people there comfortably on longer rides, unless the folks up front are short.
The glass moonroof is a classy touch, and the overall materials used inside, both on the seating and the paneling and doors, are among the best any luxury vehicle has to offer.
Looks matter with a luxury ride, but in the end it’s all about how it performs on the road -- as the competition is stiff in this area. The 5-series features a 2.0-liter, twin-turbo four-cylinder engine (16-valve, with variable valve control and high-precision direct injection)
It features several drive mode options, depending on your situation (ECO PRO, COMFORT and SPORT modes). You’ll want to stay in SPORT mode all the time because it’s much more fun than the others, but if you’re in traffic there is little point to it.
You get an 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission (with manual shift mode), as well as steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. The shifter features a unique design, but it’s not hard to master.
There is no pure manual transmission offered on the 2017 5-series, which may push away some potential buyers.
With the four-banger on the 530i offering 248 horsepower (and 258 lb.-ft. of torque), the ride is quite powerful, especially in Sport mode. You get moving fast, and can start to go well over your intended speed without even feeling it due to the smoothness of the ride at those speed levels (“I didn’t realize how fast I was going” can be an honest statement in this vehicle). Note that other versions of the 5-series offer a more powerful 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine, with 335 horsepower, and 332 lb.-ft. of torque)
To touch quickly on the xDrive system (BMW’s all-wheel drive), it’s made to deliver best possible traction if you’re in a situation involving things like gravel or sand, or wet or icy roads; the system will quickly adjust power to each wheel based on the situation your vehicle finds itself in.
The xDrive system also improves your overall driving experience, helping manage the wheels to get you through turns quicker, and braking on the 5-series is also quite exceptional. Merging onto freeways is a strong point for the 5-series, and of course a long and windy road is the best place to take it to maximize the experience.
Standard features on the BMW 5-series include: Dynamic Stability Control, Adaptive LED headlights, LED fog lights, and rain-sensing wipers.
The seat belts squeeze you super tight upon turning on the vehicle, and it features an excellent camera system (with a multiview backup system).
Overall, controlling media and the iDrive 6.0 infotainment system via the center dial is quite easy to master. You’ll get USB connections and Bluetooth connectivity. And the BMW navigation system features a 10.2-inch high-res touchscreen, responds well to voice commands and also offers real-time traffic info.
Other tech and safety features are offered, but many of them are optional (more on that to come).
Official fuel mileage numbers on the 2017 BMW 530i XDrive sedan are 23 city/33 highway/26 combined. I didn’t quite achieve those numbers, but I wasn’t exactly soft-pedaling this one for maximum fuel mileage. Compared to the numbers on its biggest rivals Mercedes (E-class) and Audi (A6), the 5-series holds up very well, topping both competitors by a bit.
My test vehicle was decked out and priced at $72,735; but base price on the 2017 BMW 530i xDrive sedan starts at $53,500.
Lots of features are optional and will boost your price, including:
-- Ivory White Nappa Leather seating ($1,000), which is very sharp looking
-- Cold Weather Package ($800)
-- Driving Assistance package ($1,800)
-- Driver Assistance Plus ($1,400)
-- Lighting package ($1,050)
-- Luxury Seating package ($1,600)
-- Premium package ($2,300)
-- M Sport brakes ($650)
-- Power tailgate ($500), not really needed since this isn’t a tall vehicle
-- Apple CarPlay compatibility ($300), odd that this is an extra and not standard
-- Harmon Kardon surround sound ($875), which sounds great
Having so many things cost extra may be an Achilles heel for the 5-series. I can already hear in my mind a potential buyer say something like: “70K for that? No thanks.”
BMW is among the world’s most renowned automakers, and with all of the high-tech effort that goes into these machines it’s no surprise that BMW’s 5-series lineup offers one of the more enjoyable rides you can get anywhere.
The question here for luxury buyers will come down to a couple things: Brand loyalty, and sticker price. For many, it’s BMW or bust, so that solves that problem -- it’s just a choice of whether the 530i xDrive sedan is the right BMW for them.
But many others are not loyal to any particular luxury brand, and are going to hunt around for a Benz, Audi, Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti, etc. and see what suit their driving tastes, and their wallets, the best.
In the midsize sedan segment, these brands all have very strong offerings, but the 5-series makes a good case for itself -- both in terms of how it looks and what you feel when the rubber meets the road. It’s just a matter of how much people are willing to pay.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.