Diesel power is set to be Bri­tain’s choice when it comes to the new BMW model, says Fred­eric Manby. He found the 530d’s en­gine serene and the au­to­matic gear­box seam­less.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

BMW says its 5-se­ries is now com­plete with the ar­rival in show­rooms to­day of the Tour­ing es­tate model. It fol­lows the niche-seller GT fast­back of last year which left me puz­zled and this year’s saloon, the vol­ume seller, which left me im­pressed. Just a point: the es­tate costs some £2,300 more than the saloon.

The 2010 ver­sion of the Tour­ing is the fourth since 1992 in a 5-se­ries that ac­counts for a quar­ter of the car­maker’s sales in Bri­tain. They have got longer. The body is stretched more be­tween the wheels, giv­ing it added el­e­gance in the side view, which is flat­tered by a more rounded tail­gate – re­tain­ing the prac­ti­cal­ity of a pop-up rear win­dow for snap­pier load­ing of shop­ping.

In­side it there is a lit­tle ex­tra lug­gage space, rank­ing sec­ond in class to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Other load-lug­ging ri­vals for your money are the Audi A6 and the Volvo V70. Saab is ex­pected to have an es­tate ver­sion of its all-new 9-5 some­time next year.

The Tour­ing rides on self-lev­el­ling rear sus­pen­sion, which gives a con­trolled and con­stant pos­ture what­ever your load. The rear seats fold­away in three parts, with the nar­row­est in the mid­dle. They can be flipped for­ward us­ing latches lo­cated in­side the load area which is con­ve­nient when you re­alise you need that ex­tra cargo space.

While there is a choice of tasty petrol en­gines they are bit play­ers to diesel power. Brand man­ager Michelle Roberts ex­pects 90 per cent of Bri­tons will choose diesel, from the 520d, 525d, 535d twin turbo and, mak­ing its de­but, the sin­gle turbo 530d, si­mul­ta­ne­ously of­fered in the saloon from to­day. This is a 245hp 3-litre straight six, de­vel­op­ing 398 lb-ft torque. Of­fi­cially, with the eight speed au­to­matic gear­box it records 165g/km of CO2 and about 45 miles a gal­lon. Mak­ing its de­but on the Tour­ing 520d model are easy rolling tyres for im­proved econ­omy.

With brake re­gen­er­a­tion, stop-start ig­ni­tion and the man­ual gear­box it records 54mpg and 139g/km CO2, with a quick enough time of 8.3 sec­onds for 0-62mph. It costs about £30,000 and is the cheap­est of all the new Tour­ing mod­els, an­other rea­son why thirstier and dirt­ier petrol is los­ing favour in this class of mo­tor­ing.

Stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes Dakota leather seat­ing, Blue­tooth com­mu­ni­ca­tion, front and rear park­ing sen­sors and alu­minium roof rails.

To­day, is also launch day for M Sport mod­els in the Tour­ing and saloon, a pack­age which brings 18in wheels, sportier cos­met­ics and grip­per front seats and a low­ered sports sus­pen­sion,

They are well-suited for Ger­man roads and the 530d Tour­ing is a su­perb high-speed car.

though driv­ers who pre­fer a more cos­set­ing chas­sis can delete this part of the kit. M Sport is big busi­ness for BMW GB, with 80 per cent of six cylin­der mod­els spec­i­fied with it, and 50 per cent over­all. The price in­crease is £3,200.

At a pre-launch pre­view on ex­cel­lent Bavar­ian roads I tried the 530d SE, which at £39,400 car­ries a com­pet­i­tive H-band road tax and ben­e­fit in kind com­pany tax­a­tion of 25 per cent. Pop­u­lar ex­tras will in­clude voice ac­ti­vated nav­i­ga­tion in a £1,960 BMW me­dia pack. The sports au­to­matic eight-speed gear­box added £1,605 and an­other £5,000 could be spent on adap­tive sus­pen­sion and a dy­namic han­dling pack. I re­ally wouldn’t bother un­less I was go­ing to drive it at speeds which are un­re­al­is­tic on most Bri­tish roads.

My demo car had all this plus 19 in wheels (an­other £1,850 please), a panoramic glass roof with open­ing front sec­tion (£1,200), xenon lights with auto dip­ping (£1,210) and some other helpers such as head-up dis­play on the screen (£940). Its of­fi­cial stats are 44.1mpg and 691g/km of CO2, with a rapid 0-62mph time of 6.4 sec­onds and max­i­mum of 151mph.

BMW uses an ad­vanced lab­o­ra­tory in Mu­nich to de­velop its cars for the world’s roads. It can sim­u­late toil­ing up Colorado’s Pikes Peak to a height of 4,200 me­tres or plung­ing 100m be­low sea level in Cal­i­for­nia’s Death Val­ley at 40C.

It can throw in ex­tremes such as man-made snow, head­winds, side winds, and a whole panoply of con­di­tions in which its cars are ex­pected to per­form with­out fail. Its Mini and Rolls-Royce brands also use this cen­tre. The fa­cil­ity means that it can test in sea­sonal cli­mates all year, and it saves 50 per cent of travel costs but the cars are still tested in the real world.

One can’t avoid the fact that they are well-suited for Ger­man roads and the 530d Tour­ing is a su­perb high­speed car. The en­gine is serene, the lat­est in an en­gi­neer­ing dy­nasty which started with aero en­gines in a wooden barn on the Mu­nich site a cen­tury ago.

The au­to­matic gear­box is one of the best in the in­dus­try, with what you can call seam­less shifts. How­ever, I’ll wa­ger that novices will curse the se­lec­tor lever, which re­quires a se­quence of but­ton squeez­ing to en­gage gear.

This awk­ward­ness will have been signed off as ac­cept­able in the mas­sive R&D depart­ment at Mu­nich, ef­fec­tively a BMW sub­urb with, nearby, its pub­lic arena where the new cars are dis­played along with the an­tecedents, the aero en­gines that pow­ered civil­ian planes and oth­ers in two world wars, the mo­tor bikes that put it on the road in the 1920s and the Austin 7-based light cars that fol­lowed.

The his­tory les­son is in­spir­ing, with a range of cars which were al­ways vis­ually stim­u­lat­ing and in many cases rather gor­geous. As a pre­quel we were driven around the streets of Mu­nich in a va­ri­ety of these “his­torics” and the ef­fect on the cit­i­zens was vivid. I was in a rak­ish 502 cabri­o­let from the 1930s, painted sage green, with a small block V8 mo­tor: just mar­vel­lous.

To­day’s cars are more pre­scrip­tive. They have to meet se­vere en­vi­ron­men­tal and safety leg­is­la­tion. On the day of the visit to its En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Test Cen­tre, Dow Jones Sus­tain­abil­ity In­dex an­nounced that the BMW Group was the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try’s Su­per­sec­tor leader for the sixth con­sec­u­tive year, and there­fore the world’s most sus­tain­able car maker. BMW em­ploys some 96,000 peo­ple, of whom 6,000 are on site at the En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal cen­tre. Their tasks in­clude de­vel­op­ing ad­vanced sys­tems with which the driver can con­trol the ever-more com­pli­cated in­stru­men­ta­tion and me­chan­i­cal gub­bins. One de­vice con­tin­u­ally cuts off the vi­sion of the lab tech­ni­cian for a sec­ond or so, in or­der to see if, say, the nav­i­ga­tion can be op­er­ated with­out dis­trac­tion from driv­ing the car.

It seems to me that this is a vi­cious cir­cle. More kit, more dis­trac­tion, more anal­y­sis, more kit, etc. It is cost­ing BMW a for­tune to run in this techno rat race. In com­par­i­son, a mo­bile phone ac­tu­ally seems less dis­tract­ing than try­ing to fathom BMW’s I-Drive com­mu­ni­ca­tions unit.

More: 0800 0836 464.

Pic­ture: Fred­eric Manby

SEAM­LESS: BMW 5 Se­ries Tour­ing.

(Pic­ture cour­tesy of David Mor­gan).


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