BMW 530i: Under promising, over delivering

Thirty minutes into driving the BMW 530i M-Sport, I can’t think of anything that I would expect it to do any better. Well, a hundred more horses wouldn’t go amiss, maybe another bank of cylinders to make a V8…truth is, there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ car. But why does the word ‘perfection’ keep cropping up in my head the more I settle into it?

Same but different

It’s almost cruel how little the exterior of the 530i reflects its inner talents, it’s as if BMW had perfected the art of under promising and over delivering by way of how its cars look these days. The G30-generation 5-Series’ tidy proportions and athletic stance are by no means unattractive, but for a key volume contributor that’s all-new, it looks inexplicably subdued on the outside, even with the M-Sport bits.

Look past the subdued styling if you want to get to the gist of the 530i.

One can argue that the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6 hardly break the mould themselves, but that’s not an excuse for BMW to play it so safe. By doing so, it let slip a gilt-edged opportunity to put one over its rivals. Instead, BMW dealers have their work cut out trying to convince prospects to get behind the wheel of a car that doesn’t look much different from the old one.

Premium driving experience

It’s easy to forget that the 5-Series is a mid-size luxury saloon at its very core, and that it needs to be an accomplished all-rounder which also stays true to the mantra of ‘sheer driving pleasure’ – the 530i M-Sport is precisely that kind of car. It would’ve been nice if the 530i had six instead of four cylinders under its aluminium bonnet, but when the turbocharged four-cylinder (with 252hp and 350Nm) is this civilised and willing, you don’t miss the extra pistons.

Behind the steering wheel is where you’d want to be in a 530i M-Sport.

And then there’s the eight-speed ZF automatic, now made smarter with the new Adaptive mode (as part of the Driving Experience Control) that’s just so adept at reading what the driver wants, you’d think that it’s hardwired to your brains. The cultured and seamless performance of the powertrain is even more impressive when you consider that the 530i will do idle to 100km/h in just 6.2 seconds.

iDrive still the best in the business, now with touch response; 2.0-litre turbo four-pot good for 252hp and 350Nm.

It really doesn’t matter if you’re clocking 60km/h or 160km/h, stuck in traffic or out on open winding roads, on shitty tarmac or smooth surfaces, the 530i M-Sport has a wide operating range to handle whatever that comes its way. Instead of just talking about soft or hard suspension settings, I like to think of the 530i as offering different levels of suppleness, whether it’s dialled into ‘Comfort’ or ‘Sport’ mode, a smooth ride is never sacrificed.

When taking the long way home makes sense…

The 530i also shows that handling isn’t just about hard damping or quelling of body roll, which has the effect of dulling sensation by the way. Instead, it strikes this sweet balance between subjective feedback and inherent control. Despite the 530i’s substantial footprint – it is longer, wider, taller than the F10, but lighter – you can really tell what the car is doing underneath and draw confidence from that. Other carmakers can learn a thing or two from BMW in how it allows the 530i suspension to ‘breathe’ and that a light but delicate steering response makes it so easy to place this large saloon on whichever piece of tarmac you choose.

A smooth ride is guaranteed in the 530i; high perceived quality of the interior adds to the premium experience.

And ‘e’ for an ‘i’?

But I’m a little worried; BMW Malaysia quietly discontinued the excellent 330i M-Sport last year in favour of the 330e as part of its grand hybrid plan. Don’t get me wrong, the 330e retains all the DNA of a BMW but the electrified 3-Series just isn’t as engaging to drive as the lighter 330i. The 530e will arrive this year, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the 530i M-Sport will ‘suffer’ the same fate as the 330i, but looking at the price positioning of competitors’ hybrid offerings (i.e. the Mercedes-Benz E350e and Volvo S90 T8), the RM388,800 530i’s days could be numbered. So maybe you might want to drop by at a BMW dealership before it’s gone.

BMW 530i M-Sport
: RM388,800  Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, RWD Output: 252hp/350Nm Transmission: 8-sp automatic Performance: 0-100km/h in 6.2s; top speed 250km/h (limited) Wheels/tyres: 245/40 R19 (F), 275/35 R19 (R) Safety: 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control Warranty: 5-year/unlimited w/ 5-year service maintenance