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Sporty New Ride
The seventh generation of BMW's most recognisable model is so new it seems the only thing carried over is the round blue and white badge.
The German premium carmaker says the 5 Series mid-sized sedan defines the brand because it is the model that most people associate with BMW. So it is no surprise that the newest 5 comes stuffed with the company's latest innovations.
The styling is evolutionary, even if BMW has sought to make it sportier and more masculine. The lines are sharpened and the front has a bigger kidney grille and slimmer headlamps with hexagonal daytime running lights.
On the side, the now familiar Air Breather vents are there in the wheel arches to reduce air turbulence. The long bonnet and short front overhang with the passenger cell set back stretch the silhouette, making the new 5 look lower and wider, even if the increases are marginal.
The car is now 36 mm longer at 4,935 mm, with its wheelbase extended seven mm to 2,975 mm. The new body is stiffer and up to 100 kg lighter, with the suspension featuring newly developed front double wishbones and a new five-link rear set-up (from four links previously).
But more important are the variable dampers with their new valve design, which allows more comfort to be fine-tuned into the typically sporty chassis. This improves secondary ride, making the new car the most comfortable 5 Series ever.
Under the bonnet, there are new four- and six-cylinder twin-scroll turbo petrol engines for the 530i and 540i variants respectively. Their 2.0- and 3.0-litre displacements are unchanged but the units are more powerful yet more economical. The new 540i has 340 hp (up 34 hp) and 450 Nm (up 50 Nm), but carbon dioxide emissions are 11 per cent lower.
At the recent media launch in Lisbon, Portugal, the rear-wheel-driven 540i sDrive displayed not only effortless elasticity on the twisty mountain roads, but also a newfound agility.
The previous sixth-generation 5 Series already had extremely confident handling but the seventh-generation sedan feels lighter and more nimble.
Part of this is down to the lower kerb weight, and partly to the more supple suspension. But mainly, it is the new electric power steering that is able to increase assist, yet retain the classic BMW precision and feedback.
Optional rear wheel steering also increases stability for high-speed lane changes. But a more tempting feature is the Lane Change Assistant, which checks if it is clear to pull out before taking over the steering to effect the manoeuvre - at up to 180 kmh!
In the cabin, rear legroom is improved with the longer wheelbase but not by much. There are more substantial changes in front, though, with a new three-spoke steering wheel and a new 10.25-inch iDrive screen that is not built in but standalone.
This touchscreen features a wider range of the gesture controls first seen in the new 7 Series flagship limousine, plus a set of widget-like "live pads" for navigation, entertainment, telephone and vehicle functions. There are a total of six pads and three can be chosen for live display and direct access on the generously sized touchscreen.
Add the updated design and higher quality finish, and the 5 Series cabin has become a very inviting example of modern luxury. Equally significant is that it is also a bit quieter with the additional insulation around the engine and familiar eight-speed auto transmission.
Together, all these new elements have managed to convincingly blend true comfort into the 5 Series' famed sportiness.
BMW 540i sDrive
Engine 2,998cc inline-6 turbocharged
Gearbox 8-speed automatic transmission
Max power 340 hp @5,500-6,500 rpm
Max torque 450 Nm @1,380-5,200 rpm 0-100 kmh - 5.1 secs
Top speed 250 kmh CO2 emissions - 149 g/km
Distributor Performance Motors, tel: 6319-0100