Big, bold and beau­ti­ful – BMW keeps up the good work with all-new 5-Se­ries

No snow makes hay for new BMW. Fred­eric Manby tries it in the Pyrenées.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES -

BMW must have been pray­ing to who­ever han­dles weather th­ese chaotic days that there would not be late snow in the Pyrenées, where the UK arm of the Bavar­ian car mas­ters was launch­ing the all-new 5-Se­ries to the ladies and gents of the Press. Rear­wheel-drive per­for­mance saloons have been disgraced by this win­ter’s white weather.

The start was in Pau, a con­fi­dent cap­i­tal city of Pyrenées-At­lan­tiques and Béarn, off the coastal tourist track, on the French side.

I sensed the driver of the blue van be­hind was fraz­zled at the dither­ing, hes­i­tant pace of the sil­ver su­per sa­loon in front. My co-driver was be­ing ul­tra-cau­tious. Bet­ter safe than scratched. Fi­nally, at yet an­other mo­ment of La Grand Dame Dither, the well-named Ur­gence Gaz van scam­pered past on a junc­tion and was gone in a flurry of gravel.

We pulled in to the safety of the Parc Beau­mont, a con­cave-fronted mod­ern ho­tel with bal­cony rooms fac­ing curves in the road which be­come a chi­cane when they hold the clas­sic street race here.

Five years ago, I saw a Fer­rari GTO be­ing short­ened as it hit some straw bales. The mar­shal left his ta­ble and bot­tle of Ri­card and hur­ried over...

The new 5 is a fine car. It looks right and it feels right. It re­sem­bles the old one but in­stant ID in­cludes all-red rear lamps and a triple scal­lop in the bon­net. The boot and bon­net shut lines are dif­fer­ent.

Our route was snow-free, crash-free, pastis-free, and ideal for driv­ing plea­sure. The scenery is mag­nif­i­cent. We crossed the river Gave and soon were climb­ing up the N134 for the Tun­nel du Som­port, a ninek­ilo­me­tre, all-weather route to Spain.

The N330 took us to Jaca, an an­cient cap­i­tal of Aragon, then to a light, al­co­hol-free lunch at Ron­ces­valles and then into Pays Basque, lovely Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port with its quaint houses on the Nive, and back to the exec jet at Pau. It is an easy run in a day, and en­chant­ing.

The car was ter­rific. Buy­ers in the cat­e­gory have some tan­ta­lis­ing choices. There is the Mercedes-Benz E-class and the Audi A6, each with rafts of en­gine op­tions, and the Jaguar XF, with far fewer choices but enough to al­most out­sell the BMW in Bri­tain.

It is roomier than the Jag and rear head­room and boot shape also shames the large Jaguar XF. The aper­ture to the boot on the 5 is huge and it is deep and long in­side. The 535i seen here was fit­ted with four-mode sus­pen­sion, an ex­tra £2,220. You can man­age very well on the stan­dard sus­pen­sion (which the 530d demo car had) but the Adap­tive Drive means you may se­lect com­fort, nor­mal, sport or sport+ to al­ter han­dling, throt­tle and steer­ing re­sponses. If you are a com­pet­i­tive driver, then you will love it. The car was also on 19-inch wheels which were part of a £2,820 Dy­namic pack.

BMW has been mak­ing 5-se­ries cars for al­most 40 years. It has sold nearly five mil­lion. It pi­o­neered the con­tem­po­rary mid-size ex­ec­u­tive sport­ing sa­loon. From 2005 to 2008, it was the best-sell­ing car in its seg­ment for four years in a row, with world sales of the sa­loon reach­ing 1,096,810 when pro­duc­tion of the Mk V stopped at the end of 2009.

This one is the sixth in line. It sits on a short­ened chas­sis of the 7-se­ries, which means it has dou­ble wish­bone front sus­pen­sion and a sound start in life.

It is the big­gest 5 so far. The wheel­base is three inches longer, most of it used to give more space for rear pas­sen­gers. The car nose to tail is two inches longer, with shorter over­hangs, a slight gain in width and a near twoinch gain in track. The re­sult is a more sta­ble ve­hi­cle.

We tried the 530d and the 535i in SE trim with eight­speed au­to­matic gears. The list price of each is just over £37,000. The auto box adds £1,495. There is hardly any­thing in the 0-60 mph time (6.3 and 6 sec­onds) and the much higher torque makes the diesel more re­spon­sive.

Here’s a thing. The diesel is qui­eter and sounds and feels smoother. The 535i had an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic rough­ness when you floored the pedal at low speed. The clincher is fuel econ­omy and busi­ness tax­a­tion. On our test, the 535i re­turned 24 miles a gal­lon. The 530d gave 40mpg and, at 160g/m CO2 (when fit­ted with au­to­matic gears) hits a vi­tal tax band. I wouldn’t have the petrol model even if some­one paid the ad­di­tional fuel costs. I’d be vis­it­ing the fuel de­pot reg­u­larly.

Sales of the 525d, 530d, 523i, 528i, 535i and 5501 start now. Nine out of 10 will be diesel, which makes me won­der why BMW of­fers us four petrol en­gines. In June, the big­gest seller ar­rives, the one which will be cho­sen by 70 per cent of Brits. It is the 184hp 520d, a four-cylin­der en­gine rated at 132g/km, 56.5mpg (real life will be a bit lower) and a 0-62mph time of 8.1 sec­onds with man­ual gears.

A six-speed au­to­matic is of­fered. It out­per­forms the op­po­si­tion and comes with auto-stop start, brake re­gen­er­a­tion, elec­tric power steer­ing, easy rolling run­flat tyres. A blue sym­bol on the tachome­ter lights when the brakes are scav­eng­ing power.

At £28,165 in SE trim, it makes a stun­ning propo­si­tion. The next price point is £31,235 for the 523i, then £32,915 for the 528i and £33,095 for 525d. The 535i is £37,090, the 530d is £37,100 and the 550i is £50,520.

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