The 5 Series has always occupied an important role for BMW. For years it has straddled the line between sports and luxury sedan. On one side the 3 Series ‘ shape and weight allow it to be overtly sporty (if optioned correctly). On the other the 7 Series is unashamedly luxurious. The 5erhas historically straddled both concepts and has gone on to become (in some forms) what many call the best sports sedan on the planet.
We know from experience the current 5er (even in its base 528i form) can hit the same high notes of its predecessors. However as any BMW enthusiast knows, it ‘s all in how you option the car. So here ‘s the question, what happens if a base 528i is saddled with both the automatic transmission and all-wheel drive options. Can it conceivably live up to the tradition of great 5 Series sports sedans and truly lay claim to the term “Ultimate Driving Machine “?
Over the last three weeks of driving a 528ix automatic I ‘ve asked myself this very question. As a 5 Series it ‘s the complete antithesis of what I (and most enthusiasts) might conceivably order. To start things off the “x ” part of the name means this car has BMW ‘s xDrive. It ‘s an all-wheel drive system that is quite capable of being almost entirely transparent in normal usage. In fact, even on wet roads or in slightly snowy conditions the system hasn ‘t really sent any appreciable power to the front wheels. And there in lies my biggest problem with the system. A BMW has 50/50 weight distribution and is inherently balanced. It ‘s a trait that rears it ‘s head especially with in-climate weather. So with that said why do I need a system that adds weight, complexity and does very little (if anything at all) in normal driving conditions.
The other major option on this particular 528ix is the automatic transmission with BMW ‘s new gear lever design. While the design and controls take some getting used to, it ‘s quite well thought-out and serves BMW ‘s character well. The transmission itself rather unremarkable. Comfortable to the point of invisibility in normal mode and aggressive without being annoying in sport mode, it seems to do hit the right notes for this car and its subsequent market. Obviously the answer is (beyond climates that get considerable snow) it ‘s all a marketing ploy to project BMW as the “ultimate safe driving machine “.
One rather glaring omission from the spec sheet (especially on a E60 5 Series) is the Navigation system. The problem is as much aesthetic as it is operational. The 5er uses the same dash design with or without the option. However without you end up with an iDrive system on a small screen housed in a gaping hole meant for something obviously bigger. It looks awkward at best and screams cheap at worst – something a $50,000 car should never do.
However it ‘s feel where this particular car really disappoints – at least from an enthusiasts point of view. The combination of a steering that feels too isolated and a suspension can ‘t quite mask the mass of the car creates a disconnected feel that isn ‘t as rewarding as you ‘d expect from something called the “Ultimate Driving Machine “.
It ‘s a great car no question. The build quality feel felt supurb over the 1,000 miles I put on the car. And the interior and exterior design is quite avant-garde. After five years on the market the shape and the details still look fresh today. But it ‘s hard to shake the feeling that this car doesn ‘t live up to the “Ultimate Driving Machine ” tag-line that BMW has built a brand on.