The BMW 5 Series has its work cut out for it. Not only does it have to fend off competitors like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but now it potentially faces internal competition from the newer 3 Series range.
Not to sell the 2019 BMW 530i short, though. It’s still every bit the large, luxury sedan you imagine when you think of the segment. The march of technology certainly hasn’t left it behind, but shifting buyer preferences may have.
For the 530i’s $111,900 (plus on-road costs) price tag, you get plenty of metal for the money and an eye-opening amount of standard equipment, but you’d also have to really dislike the BMW X5, which is just a few thousand dollars extra yet comes equipped with six-cylinder engines, all-wheel drive and a host of newer tech inclusions.
Back to the 530i, though, because let’s face it, you’re looking at a sedan because you want a sedan, and no amount of SUV popularity is likely to change that.
Positioned as the mid-range 5 Series model, the 530i runs a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine (despite the 530i badge having been applied to six-cylinder models in the past) and produces 185kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
A less-powerful version of the same engine is also available in the 520i, while elsewhere in the range four-cylinder diesel, four-cylinder plug-in hybrid, six-cylinder petrol and six-cylinder diesel options are also available.
Realistically, the 530i is about as much engine as you could need, though. It’s not underpowered, nor does it struggle with the size and weight of the car it has to haul around, but it won’t set any performance records either. If that's what you really want, look further upstream.
If you spend most of your days sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, this engine makes perfect sense. Sprint times count for little creeping between sets of traffic lights.
While you’re in that traffic, you’ll more likely appreciate the equipment highlights like Dakota leather trim, leather-look dash surfacing, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable steering column, and front seats with heating and memory function, adaptive LED headlights with auto high beam, 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio, auto-dimming mirrors, and 11-colour interior LED lighting.
The driver faces a 12.3-inch digital display configured to look like a set of traditional instruments, while infotainment occupies a 10.25-inch screen high up in the centre console, with voice, touch and scroll-wheel inputs and plays host to a CD player, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth and USB inputs, plus a range of real-time connected services for traffic, weather, remote locking/unlocking and more.
The driver interface certainly looks the part, with high-quality finishes and glossy button clusters that operate with a precise, short travel action somewhere between a physical button and a touch-sensitive surface.
If you’re cross-shopping at your BMW dealership, you may notice the 5 Series doesn’t match cars like the 3 Series or X5 for tech-slickness. Those two more recent vehicles have moved to a newer iDrive 7.0 infotainment system with a more detailed instrument display, new infotainment menu layout and conversational voice inputs.
The 530i still runs one of the better systems of its kind, just not the latest and greatest BMW has to offer. Tech-savvy buyers take note, but also be aware that iDrive outguns Mercedes-Benz's E-Class for integration and ease of use.
On the safety front, all 5 Series models include nine airbags, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function matched to speed-sign recognition, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist and lane centring, blind-spot monitoring with side-collision warning, plus front and rear cross-traffic alert.
That’s a fairly hefty swag of tech, but BMW’s integration is quite seamless. It’s easy to ask for things by voice, plus touchscreen inputs make the iDrive interface even more logical than before.
The safety net covers you in just about all possible situations, and while the stop-and-go cruise and speed-sign recognition operate trouble-free, BMW still has a way to go with hands-off functionality, dipping out early and often and handing back to the driver readily.
In terms of ‘analogue’ driving, BMW does a much better job. While a four-cylinder engine might not sound as glamorous as a six under the bonnet, the 530i has enough grunt in store to dispel any shortcomings.
Officially, acceleration to 100km/h takes a trim 6.1 seconds. There are few driving situations where the big BMW feels like it needs more grunt, although if you do work the engine in its upper ranges, it loses its calm demeanour a little and becomes somewhat gruff at full noise.
In support of the engine, the eight-speed automatic delivers creamy gear shifts around town in Comfort, but brightens up to a crisper, more sporting feel when pedalled with intent in Sport mode. The same goes for the adaptive suspension, blotting out bumps effortlessly around town with a firmer, flatter attitude (without throwing absorption out the window) in its sportier setting.
While firmed-up sports suspension seems to be making its way into more and more mainstream cars, the 530i escapes the torture of sharp-edged ride. There’s the requisite M Sport suspension, though in its softest setting the buttery smoothness outweighs any sporting intent. Steering also errs on the side of lightness over purist appeal.
In a car of this size and power that’s a very, very good thing. The more comfort the better for sybaritic upper-crust saloons like the 530i.
Even with the M Sport label attached, there’s little chance of confusing the 5 Series for anything other than a comfort-focussed ride. The driver faces an M-styled steering wheel, there are sport-profiled front seats, M Sport brakes, and a few M-inspired styling touches across the bumpers and wheels.
The rest of the package is good old-fashioned luxury limo, though, from the grey-tinted poplar wood to the Ivory white leather.
Despite generous exterior proportions, the rear seat space does leave a little to be desired. Not that you’d find it uncomfortable, but a taller passenger behind a taller driver will quickly find the limits of rear legroom.
In typical BMW fashion, there’s no shortage of optional equipment to go with the generous standard features. Of note on this car are four-zone climate control ($900), wireless smartphone charging ($200), wireless Apple CarPlay but no Android Auto ($623), and an electric sunroof ($3000) plus metallic paint ($2000) push the package up to $118,623.
Other costs to consider include maintenance, for which BMW offers ‘Service Inclusive’ packages covering five years or 80,000km of servicing (whichever comes first), including scheduled replacement of fluids, filters and spark plugs (where applicable) for $1765 on the 5 Series.
Warranty coverage remains at three years/unlimited kilometres despite a widespread move by mainstream brands to five years as a minimum, placing a question mark over what the premium for a prestige car actually buys you.
Of course, BMW’s power of choice is to be commended all the same. If you want a 5 Series, there’s probably not much that will sway you from it, but as mentioned earlier, the new 330i has grown in size with a much more spacious rear seat and puts up a potential challenge to the 530i as a more nimble and dynamic alternative at a lower price.
Though while the 3 Series may be newer, and comes with BMW’s latest technologies, there’s still a marked step up in materials and presentation inside the 5 Series to help justify some of the almost $40K extra spend, not to mention more space and additional equipment in some areas.
Cars like the BMW 530i still have a place. Big, comfortable, elegant sedans might be losing sales to SUVs, but they’ll always signify what prestige manufacturers like BMW stand for.
Some buyers simply don’t want to succumb to the SUV craze, and those that resist get a poised, polished sedan dripping in luxury appointments and as smooth, quiet and comfortable as any limo ought to be.
Listen to more audio below of the 2019 BMW 530i