The smell is exquisite and a bit romantic. The old olfactory nerves are powerful memory makers and they are firing hard after climbing into the drivers seat. The throne is springy (is that an actual spring jabbing our backside?) and does not seem especially durable, though our bottom relaxingly sinks into it. We extend an arm to shut the lightweight, delicate-feeling door. It appears to be only partly latched. Try again; similar outcome. A representative of the BMW Classic Center in Munich and our attendant to the E12 1975-vintage 528 we are about to drive gives the door a hearty thrust from the outside.
With a solid yet decade-appropriate click, the door shuts. And a door closes in more ways than one.
Earlier in the day we made first-drive contact with the 528s descendant, six generations removed. The seventh-gen, 2017 BMW 5 Series sedan now flies under the G30 banner and is moments away from its grand sales launch. Our first taste allowed us to reunite with a distinguished set of numerals and one letter: 540i. Absent from the preceding model F10s reign and perhaps best affiliated with the E39 of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the 540i sequence summons for BMW enthusiasts the type of warm, cozy tingling that European vacationers seek when they travel to Portugal in the winter months.
Pervasive E39-centric nostalgia lends both optimism and apprehension. Maybe the G30 has reversed the course the F10 (and to a lesser extent, the fifth-gen E60) plotted. Maybe the newest 5 Series would have the mystical equilibrium of equal parts luxury and sportiness that a driver can feel was baked in from the very beginning of development, rather than the piecemeal sport infusions into a sedan that truly wants to emphasize luxury. Maybe it would rediscover a crucial emotional element to supplement the 5 Series technical excellence.
Technology worshipers have lots to dream about with the G30. As with the current 7 Series, the new 2017 5 Series eagerly double-downs on the latest semi-automated driver aids. The adaptive, radar-guided cruise control with stop-and-go functionality (a must-have for gridlock sufferers) is operable up to 130 mph and has the range to scan two vehicles ahead instead of fixating on the hunk of metal directly in front. As in version 8.0 of Tesla Motors perpetual-headline-grabbing Autopilot, this longer gaze down the roadway is designed to improve the car's longitudinal reaction time. Maybe the inattentive driver in front is unable to check up and commits metal-on-metal crime when coming upon a multi-vehicle pileup. The cruise control should be able to scan the situation ahead of time and optimize the outcome. AKA, not rear-end somebody and keep the insurance adjuster at bay.
Coupled to the cruise control are sideways assists, none of which are a drift mode. The top-flight Driver Assistance Plus II package (ZDT in BMW code) includes active lane change and active lane keeping assistant with side collision avoidance. Both intend to reduce driver workload by utilizing environment-surveying sensor data and the accompanying electronic situational awareness to fill in for the drivers mental processing. The challenge is to make them feel natural and human-like, even though that software programming desire inevitably butts heads with manacles such as safety factors and risk-weary legal departments.
These driver assists are great for BMW to flex its tech muscle with. But it made its mark in the industry with drivers cars. Hence, we find ourselves in a 2017 540i that we are told is ready to do battle with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Jaguar XF. The ever popular ZMP M Sport package adds the requisite, more aggressive looking bodywork to signify sporting business and stiffer M Sport suspension with 19-inch wheels clutching staggered-width Michelin Primacy 3 tires (245/40 front, 275/35 rear). This hardware is affixed to a chassis that was put on a juice cleanse and saw greater deployment of three of the big four mass-reducing staples: high-strength steel, aluminum, and magnesium. Notice that in spite of its manufacturing plant in Moses Lake, Washington, BMW did not lavish carbon fiber on the G30. That material remains reserved for projects that start with the letter i, M car roofs, and the 7 Series flagship sedan.
BMW claims up to 137 pounds in weight saved, which is about in line with the manufacturer-estimated curb weight versus the last F10 535i M Sport we weighed at 4,007 pounds. For maximum driver enjoyment, the 540i can come equipped with BMWs full monty of performance enhancers: adjustable shock absorbers, variable-ratio steering, rear-wheel steer, and self-adapting active anti-roll bars. The anti-roll bars' lateral leverage is now managed by electric motors instead of hydraulic circuitry, like a certain SUV from the U.K.s Cheshire region that might also speak German in its off time. The systems goal is the same, no matter the control method: achieve roll stiffness targets when cornering but have the mechanical ability to negate itself when driving comfort is vital.
The total package is one that impresses. The G30 continues to stress the luxury aspect of the experience, gulping down long stretches of highway miles with ease and quiet. We had gotten used to this with the F10. But in a pleasant transformation, the handling has taken a step toward a familiar positive direction. Before, the front end would give up the ghost prior to the driver had his fill. And short of giving the gas pedal the full boot and then going for a possibly wild, certainly unpredictable ride, there was little to do about it.
The new 2017 5 Series front-to-rear balance seems much better, with a rear end that is been freed up to chase the front wheels more readily. The rear end can skip over rougher patches of pavement but credit the chassis tuning for telegraphing that information without suddenly overwhelming the driver while giving him adequate opportunity to compensate. It does not take much steering input to begin bending the 540i into a corner. We hope this behavior translates perfectly come time for our instrumented, limit-handling testing, where full-on, tire squealing evaluation can unpeel another layer to a vehicles character. We want to know for sure if this generation is one we will be dreaming of driving again and again.
To carry on the momentum, a 335-horsepower/332-lb-ft turbocharged inline-six gifts 35 hp and 32 lb-ft of torque more than before and is a willing accomplice to the right foot. The powertrain shines. As expected, the eight-speed automatic rips through the gears and artfully flatters the I-6s powerband. The brakes are a touch grabby if your braking foot is noncommittal to fast deceleration but are otherwise strong and stout when called to action.
Bestowed with interior perfumes, the highly functional iDrive 6.0, gesture control, and a generous overhaul with quality cabin materials, the substantially more fanciful G30 cabin will be a major contributor to positive acclaim. The 1975-vintage E12 528 has all the charm of an old car (the tach and speedometer needles that entertainingly shake as they sweep are nice) with suitable old-car (lack of) refinement. The 2017 5 Series' driver's door shuts effortlessly and luxuriously, as 40 years of progress should easily accomplish.
More importantly, the door has closed on this chapter of the 5 Series' life where sport takes a backseat to luxury. Maybe, if it tries really hard, this generations 540i can make a name all for itself. In India the new 5 Series will be coming next year and we hope this motor is offered as it would be a fun sports sedan below the bonkers M5.
Also read- New BMW 7 Series review