BMW hasn’t been having a great time of late.
There has been an attraction with prominent proboscises, a blue and white roundel on a front-wheel-drive 'sports' car, and some forthcoming models representing a design direction that falls cleanly into the ‘what-the’ bucket.
But with the release of the 2021 BMW 5 Series, I can safely say we can now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
The updated G30 LCI 5er is a smart, stylish and entertaining rear-drive executive sedan that even has a normal grille.
In short, it is a proper BMW.
There are now five-and-a-half models (the M550i xDrive is available in both a ‘Pure’ and a mechanically identical ‘more expensive than the Pure’ variant) in the revised sedan-only 5 Series line-up, with our 530d representing the only diesel option on the table.
Priced from $125,900 before options and on-road costs, the 530d is solidly equipped out of the box. The M-Sport package is standard, which brings the 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension, M-Sport brakes and sport seats along for the ride. You also get adaptive LED headlights, DAB radio, a colour head-up display, powered boot, heated seats and a Harman Kardon 16-speaker sound system.
Our car is finished in Sapphire Black ($2000 option and one of 15 choices), with gloss-black 19-inch wheels ($600), Shadowline trim ($700), BMW Laserlight headlamps ($2400) and a sunroof ($3000). Inside, there are also BMW Individual piano black trim elements ($800), and comfort seats in black nappa leather ($2800).
It does look pretty menacing in the 'murdered-out' spec, but I have to say I think the black-on-black-on-black look is a little overdone, and you lose a bit of style impact the car can make. I’d personally go for one of the blues (Bluestone, Phytonic, Tanzanite, Carbon Black), which never fail to make the big 5er look good.
Plus, you can bundle the roof, lights, paint and 20-inch wheels into a $5900 enhancement package that saves you $2100 in the process.
|2021 BMW 530d|
|Engine configuration||Six-cylinder turbo-diesel|
|Power||195kW at 4000rpm|
|Torque||620Nm at 1500–2500rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Power to weight ratio||113.8kW/t|
|Fuel claim (combined)||5.5L/100km|
|Fuel use (combined)||7.8L/100km|
|Main competitors||Mercedes-Benz E Class | Audi A6 / A7|
Changes for the Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) update include a new nose that brings the 5er in line with the more angular front end of the new 3 Series, and revised rear lamp styling that sees the LED units tinted. It also brings a price hike of $2600 over the outgoing car, which I have to say does make this a pretty expensive option, and puts the $139,900 M550i 'Pure' within striking distance. Sure, you throw fuel efficiency out the window, but more kit and a twin-turbo V8 is often a more favourable hand...
The front of the freshened 5er is undeniably sharper and more modern, but I personally don't like the tinted rear lights. It looks like you've had a bit of a DIY weekend with some eBay 'mods', and to me, cheapens the rear of the car. Perhaps it was the triple-black spec that amplified this, though...
There are no mechanical changes to he 530d however. The 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder diesel still has overall power and torque outputs at 195kW/620Nm but the car has put on a few kilos (100kg to be exact) which increases the combined fuel consumption claim from 5.1L/100 to 5.5L/100km. Where this extra bulk comes from isn't clear, other markets offer an all-wheel-drive variant and a mild-hybrid starter-generator, so there is possibly some carry over hardware from that. I am trying to find out...
It's still pretty impressive mind you, and still a terrifically smooth and flexible driveline. It’s almost a pity that diesel engines are being phased out by most brands, as the combination of power and efficiency served up by the B57 is certainly an oiler at its peak.
|2021 BMW 530d|
|Wheels/tyres||235/40R19 – Michelin|
As noted previously, BMW has sought to increase the feature set of the once ‘benchmark’ iDrive infotainment software with the new-look BMW OS7. It is well featured, and you do get used to it, but it isn’t as intuitive as it used to be, largely due to the depth of the menus.
There’s some clever stuff going on, don’t get me wrong, and you can still opt to use the control wheel on the console, touch the screen itself or use voice commands to navigate through the menus, which does make life easier.
The menus look more modern and you can now use Android Auto and Apple CarPlay wirelessly, which display very well on the 12.3-inch screen.
But some features require you to log in to your BMW Connected account (which I assume would be done by the dealer when you pick up your new car), and some features are just a little naff.
Take the ‘Caring Car’ and ‘Experience Modes’ functions, which seem to be essentially identical, in that you tell the car your mood and it adjusts lighting, temperature and soundtrack to suit.
It’s fun, once.
The OS7 implementation extends to the digital instrument cluster, which again feels a little too overdesigned for the car.
Irregular counter-rotating speed and tachometer displays wrap around the map display and other selectable information presented. There’s no way to change the design, you just cycle through a singular data point by using a button on the end of the wiper stalk.
Being a fully digital display, it would be nice for BMW to offer some user-configurable representation options in the way Mercedes-Benz does. Perhaps where older drivers like me can revert to a more traditional pair of circular dials, ideally with a soft orange glow. Maybe drop a few random pixels in the trip meter, too, just for old-time’s sake.
Wireless phone charging and decent storage make the cabin layout functional and usable, as they have since the G30 launched in 2016. In short, nothing else has changed.
Ergonomics are typically BMW-good, but I do find it strange that the button layout on the steering wheel is not uniform across all models. I get that things evolve over time, but the current G01 X3 and G30 5 Series were only launched about 12 months apart, so it feels strange that simple things like the volume buttons are in different spots (up/down on the X3 and left/right on the 5er).
Tactile metal paddle shifters are there to heighten the diesel’s engagement levels, with the eight-speed ZF still the best in the business.
As per the BMW norm, you can engage EcoPro drive mode to slacken throttle response and reduce fuel consumption, or go the other way with Sport and Sport Plus to make the car ‘free up’ somewhat.
I’d almost say that the inherent efficiency of the 3.0-litre diesel makes EcoPro a little redundant, and that the ZF’s reluctance to shift at all (it just holds and holds…) makes Sport mode a ‘winding country tour’ proposition only.
Thus, leaving the 530d in the default Comfort mode is the most regular and flexible way to enjoy this car.
Response is good, the 5er feels effortlessly smooth above 1500rpm and manages the urban range of changing limits well. There’s no sense of mid-rev-range top-out that you sometimes experience with a diesel, and to be honest, you can only tell the car is a ‘rattler’ if you have the windows down either in a confined, echoey space or pushing past 5000rpm, as the refinement and sound suppression are excellent.
Long story short, BMW still knows how to make a delicious driveline.
|2021 BMW 530d|
|Colour||Black Sapphire (Metallic)|
|Options as tested||$6500|
|Servicing 5yr||$1950 (BMW Service Inclusive)|
|ANCAP safety rating||Not tested|
|Warranty||3 years / unlimited km|
The fat, leather-rimmed wheel feels good in your hands and the car nicely balanced at all speeds. Our car’s quilted leather seats are comfortable and supportive, and make long-distance touring a breeze.
However, given the 530d has a 2975mm wheelbase (the same as an X5), the rear seat leg room is quite disappointing. The bench is comfortable, but you sit low and scooched back, and if your driver is even remotely tall, there’s not what I’d refer to as a luxurious amount of space for your legs to stretch out in.
Head room and overall comfort are good, it just doesn’t feel as premium for a passenger as it does for a driver, making this much more of an executive touring saloon than a four-up limo. Boot space is still a generous 530-litres.
For interest, the LCI 5er has also had a mild tweak to the rolling geometry, with a narrower 4mm front and 34mm rear track. Wheel widths are the same (8-inch front, and 9-inch rear), but there's no discernable difference to the car's handling.
You can still option in ‘Integral Active Steering’ for $2500, which steers the rear wheels slightly for better high-speed stability and low-speed manoeuvring, but the cost and weight detriment outweighs any handling benefit, other than BBQ bragging rights.
Ride quality is excellent, particularly in Comfort mode, where only the sharpest surface changes will resonate through the wheel. Perhaps the only surface where the BMW doesn’t feel well mannered is on rough and corrugated asphalt that you tend to find on country B-roads. Here, especially through bends and under load, the rear end can feel a bit skippy (no relation to the kangaroo), but never in a way that upsets the car’s direction.
Running the 530d in the Sport setting does tend to find a few more imperfections in the road, but never in a way that makes the big sedan uncomfortable. It does feel a tad sharper at pace, but as noted earlier, just leave it in Comfort and enjoy the efficient big-mile-eating capability of the 5er.
As it’s here, at high-speed cruise, that the 530d is most at home. Quiet, comfortable and efficient – the three key elements to a well-honed four-door office.
The 5 Series has always represented the best of the BMW badge. After all, it is the nameplate that spawned humanity’s greatest four-door-sedan design achievement, the E39 M5.
It’s the place where you get to experience the ‘proper’ BMW-ness of a car. Style, comfort, pace and enjoyment wrapped up in a package that continues to work as a well-proportioned and handsome car.
It seems strange to praise BMW for producing what is essentially a BMW, but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking the brand has become a little distracted of late.
The 2021 BMW 530d is a return to form for the blue and white roundel. A reminder that although their skill in creating a well-rounded four-door has never been lost, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that they can still do it.
It will be one of the last great diesels, too. A near-final hurrah for BMW’s attention to detail to achieve mechanical perfection from the ‘less refined’ fuel. Frugal, clever and quiet – if only they were all like this.
And while there is still plenty of scope for improvement in the G30, much of this is perfectionist polish rather than integral inclusion, and as a five-year-old platform, it can still hold its head up high.