Photos: Kahkashan B. and Mohd. Asif
Words: Syed Shiraz
You never really forget some things in life. No, I am not referring to cliched stuff like your first crush or first pizza or both of them together. I am talking about the simpler, mundane things in life we all do on a daily basis (like, say, changing TV channels), but almost never knowing that a part of it might stay with us forever. One such thing was an excerpt from a snippet where a certain Indian cricketer, fondly referred to as the God of cricket by his fans, quoted a certain “king of the Indian Film Industry” to have told him that “BMW is the best thing that happened to the automobile”. Mind you, at that time (early Y2K, if I remember correctly), none of these stars were obligated to endorse the Munich-based automaker (though one of them now is, eventually).
Barely out of teens, the rebel-without-a-cause in me back then couldn’t care less about some star’s opinion on, well, anything. And now, despite an over-developed (I’d like to believe so) prefrontal cortex, I still don’t believe in the superficial. But I don’t know why, every time I see a BMW, any BMW, the aforementioned phrase does flash by in my mind… The last beemer I tested, the X1, was actually testimonial enough of BMW’s might; in fact, it was so good that the Q3 had suddenly felt sedate in comparison, while the Land Rover Freelander looked like something whose development was outsourced to Massey-Ferguson… So yes, while testing the X1, I had, silently, nodded in agreement to what the actor was quoted to have said. A decade and a half later…
Naturally then, I was overjoyed when I got a call from BMW asking if I wanted to review the 530d M Sport. I was getting a car from a series that has repeatedly knocked down its biggest competitor, the E-Class, for more than two decades now (the Audi A6 and Jaguar XF never stood a chance). But I also hear that the current E-Class has narrowed the gap, and a few even say that it might nudge ahead by a whisker, finally… Well, I know that the folks at Stuttgart have indeed taken a leaf out of BMW’s book (mainly from the chapter on ‘handling’), but to decide which car is better overall would require a comparison shootout between the two. Since we have not been able to do that yet, we’ll do the next best thing — find out if the 530d excites us in the same manner like its youngest SAV sibling had, or whether it’s shown some uncalled-for camaraderie and gone softer? Let’s find out!
Exterior design: Does it have the show?
If you’ve ascended in life to a level where you can afford a car of such stature, you wouldn’t be much bothered about the conventional definition of “looks”. You are the sort who cares zilch about mass approval, and you are definitely not someone who is out to please others. Otherwise, you’d be driving a Prius. So, you don’t expect the neighbourhood PYTs to be taking selfies with your car, but you won’t mind someone with an athletic bronze body, walking back home after an intense workout in the gym, slyly checking out (and appreciating) the bulges on your, er, car’s bonnet. You would visualize your steed to appear like something carved out of Kevlar — and that was exactly my first thought when my eyes met the BMW 530d M Sport for the first time!
I mean, just look at this car! You park it, or at least visualize it parked, alongside all its competition — the E-Class, A6, and Jag XF — and tell us which is the one that looks like it can even take a bullet for you? This feeling of solidity and security is something that I have never felt upon seeing a sedan other than a BMW. Okay, the Rolls too. And the Bentleys. Alright, fine! The S-Class as well, and that’s it. But nothing can challenge the 5-series in this aspect in this price range!
Also, unlike the Beemers of the Bangle-d era, there’s not a line, not a crease, not an indent that’s overdone here. The 530d is only available with the M Sport package, and that’s actually the right way to go because the body kit does make it stand out as the most premium 5-series in India, which it really is, this side of the M5.
If this M Sport was a man, he won’t be anything like a guy with huge arms & weak chest in a tight Fendi t-shirt (souped-up Accords anyone?); he would be a handsome MMA fighter in a slim Brioni suit with the fabric trying hard to conceal the rippling muscles inside, but still giving away a subtle hint of the immense potential that lies within… The restraint in the design is a class act here.
And it’s a BIG car, people! The size, despite the understated style, commands respect, both on roads and in your posh neighbourhood. And those 18-inch double-spoke M wheels do carry flash value, in just the right quantity, as well.
Interiors: The in-cabin experience
As soon as you open the door of the 530d M Sport your eyes will be first drawn towards the door sill that comes with a chrome strip and the M logo on it. Again a reminder that you’re not entering a run-of-the-mill sedan…
Derriere comfortably placed on the leather seat, you close the door, which shuts with the proverbial teutonic thud. It’s reassuring, and makes you feel like you are sitting in a tank. A comfortable tank. And before even you press the engine start/stop button you just can’t help but smile at the way everything is laid out in the cabin. It’s uncluttered and pleasing to the eye, and even the iDrive system, unlike the competition, does not at all make you hunt for the user manual. Almost intuitive? Yes.
Overall, the 530d cabin, like all BMWs, is a case study in understated luxury; it’s all there but it does not shout to make it presence felt. It exudes class, which is something beyond the narrow realm of an arriviste, but perfectly in line with a connoisseur’s taste buds.
The build quality is flawless and there is just the right amount of heft in the operation of all control switches, levers, stalks, knobs, etc.
Everything in the car oozes premiumness, and, frankly, at this price point, it should. Nothing less would have cut it.
This is the top-end 5-Series, ladies and gents, and if you check the brochure you’ll notice that the 530 M Sport has all the boxes ticked, out of which some cannot be checked, even as an option, in the lesser variants. For example, the fantastic Head-Up Display is exclusive to the 530 and cannot be specified in any of the other 5-Series. Ditto for the six-DVD changer (others get a CD player), 25.9 cm colour screen (as opposed to 16.5 cm in all 520 variants), M Sport leather steering wheel, and the Rear-seat entertainment Professional system that comprises two 23.4 cm screens with DVD drive and remote control. And a parachute.
Okay, no parachute, but here I would like to mention that BMW offers ALL safety features as standard across ALL variants. So whether you buy a 520d in Prestige (base) trim or the 530 M Sport, there won’t be an airbag missing or a high-tech acronym skipped. Everything from the Run Flat Indicator to Cornering Brake Control (CBC) is included as standard across all trims. Full marks to BMW here!
And full marks also for the front seats, which are just fantastic — much better than the Merc’s, Jag’s, and the Audi’s.
But, though the rear ones are the best yet in comfort and space among all the 5-Series until now, the E-Class is still at the top here.
The Drive: Still the Ultimate Driving Machine?
This is where the BMW 530d M Sport just annihilates the aforementioned competition, and that too without even trying! No, I am not comparing a six-cylinder car with its four-pot rivals. I am taking into account the performance offered by the top-end V6 diesels of both the E350 CDI and Jag XF-S. And you know what? Both the V6s are more powerful than the beemer’s engine. In theory, that is.
Because, come into the real world where both the Jag and the Merc are left in 530’s rear tyre smoke. The XF’s obesity and E’s seven-speed tranny make the respective cars not only slower in drags, but also in roll-on times. In contrast, the BMW not only just flies right from the word GO, it also has more than enough power everywhere in the revband. Overtaking is naturally a cinch in this one as zero turbo lag translates to super sharp throttle responses even in Comfort mode! Now that’s how a sedan should be like if ‘S’ truly stands for ‘Sport’, and not ‘Slob’, in its nomenclature.
BMW claim a 0-100 km/h time of 5.8 seconds, and that is exactly what Porsche claim for their Boxster! Get this — the Boxster, being a two-seat sports car is certainly lighter than the BMW, and its flat six even produces more power (265 hp) than the beemer (258 hp)! Plus, the Porsche is a high revving petrol, of course. So how does the BMW manage such a stupendous acceleration run, you ask?
One word — TORQUE. Porsche’s 280 Nm starting at 4,500 rpm does not stand a chance against BMW’s 540 Nm now, does it? Especially when the beemer’s straight six starts churning that much twisting force right from 1,500 rpm onwards! Plus, that eight speed Steptronic Sport Auto transmission is nothing short of brilliant! In fact, it is so good that on day one I just did not notice the presence of paddle shifters behind the steering wheel! And let me completely honest here — I just did not use the paddle shifters even once in the 530. Because I did not feel the need. Because I was having so much fun already! If that does not reiterate the perfectness of this engine-gearbox combo to you, nothing else will.
No wait, there is a Sport+ or the LYW mode too… Which is again something not available in the 520d. I recommend you to choose this button strictly on Sunday mornings and only when you’re alone. Why? Because LYW stands for Lose Your Wife mode, that’s why. And lose your wife you will, thanks to the 530’s vicious acceleration and power slides in Sport+ that will definitely expedite your divorce, which might have been pending anyway ever since you listened to your heart by choosing the 530d over everything else, including the 520d…
If you have kids, they will look forward to it. No, not the mom-packing-bags-and-leaving bit; they’ll love the weekend drives in the 530, I mean. Because that is when they’d get an opportunity to gleefully wave goodbye to the driver of the aforementioned Jaguars, Mercs and Audis, from the rear window. Yes, the children might also get to make faces at the baffled Porsche driver too… Oh, I almost forgot — the top speed is an electronically limited 250 km/h in this BMW. Which should be more than enough for almost all occasions.
Ride & Handling: Can it dance?
This would save your marriage, especially if you keep the 530 in the Eco Pro mode and tell your better half about the fuel savings you would continually make by doing so. The ride in this mode is almost cosseting and you will not spill the wine on her expensive dress even when those low-profile (275/40) tyres ride over small imperfections of the road.
Of course, once you’ve dropped her at the all-women gathering at the five-star casino, you would ask the driver to enjoy the back seat comfort on the way back home while you roll your sleeves and take the wheel in your hands… Seats exchanged and seatbelts buckled; Sport+ activated, and the loud pedal smashed to floor… Result? Fat rubber laying darkies on the hotel porch with some tail out-opposite lock-tail back action making the child in you giggle uncontrollably. Albeit at the expense of an extremely terrified, but silent, chauffeur on the back seat.
The current 5-Series (F10) shares more with the flagship 7-Series than any of its predecessors ever did, which means the car has indeed become, say, more mature. Which is absolutely justified considering the segment it plays in. So, although I have already mentioned it, the ride has gotten plusher (but the Merc still rules in this aspect) and an hour’s drive behind the wheel now won’t make you feel that you can skip your arms workout the next day…
Still, when it comes to having cornering fun in this segment, it is the 5-Series that continues to shine, a little more bodyroll notwithstanding. The grip levels are sublime and I guarantee that none of the potential owners will ever get to push the chassis to even one-third of its limit on Indian roads. Moreover, the brakes have so much stopping power that standing on them in an emergency situation will rearrange the contents inside your skull without the car even batting an eye lid.
Fuel efficiency: Do I need to own a fuel station for this?
BMW claim 14.69 km/l for this most joyful of the diesel 5-Series. I kept the 530 in Eco Pro mode for the first ten minutes and switched to Comfort for the rest of the day. Thereafter, it was Sport and Sport+ all throughout for the remaining 400 kilometres with the pedal mashed to the floor at every gap in traffic. No owner, I repeat, no owner will drive the car continuously like this. So, despite keeping the engine on the boil for over 500 km it still showed the distance-to-empty figure as 232 km! The BMW has a 70-litre tank and while you fiddle with your smartphones to open the calculator, let me tell you that it translates to 10.45 km/l in this context. Considering that the distance-to-empty figure is always pessimistic, an overall fuel efficiency figure of 14-15 km/l can easily be attained if driven sanely, at least 20 days a month…
Verdict: Shall I buy it?
While the 530 M Sport can intimidatingly look down its nose at rivals from other manufacturers, it actually faces stiffer competition in-house in the form of 520d. Because at INR 62.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) the M Sport is roughly around a full million bucks more expensive than even the top-end 520d Luxury Line. The price difference is even more substantial when you compare it with the 520d Prestige variant.
But, if after just spending a few days with the 530, I can’t stop myself from checking the small badge at the rear of every 5-Series I now see, I wonder how could a 520d owner possibly live with the sheer guilt of not taking that extra step and buying what is, in essence, a different animal altogether…