Review: BMW 530d M Sport saloon

The drag coefficient of the 2017 BMW 5 Series Saloon is just 0.22
The drag coefficient of the 2017 BMW 5 Series Saloon is just 0.22
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Motorists are in jitters about electrification. Even though the Conservative government has given us a 23-year deadline before the end of sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles, we have started to panic about the supply of juice – how to get it in a flat or other house without off-road parking – and a stockpile of unwanted diesel bangers.

Of course, another government can axe those plans, or “water them down”. An independent Scotland may beg to differ. Also, it doesn’t mean that the use of petrol and diesel cars will cease suddenly. Or does it? We just don’t know. It’s likely that as 2040 approaches most of us will have gone electric or be managing without a personal car.

There’s also the question of what will replace the state tax on petrol and diesel – half the price we pay at the pump and a steady earner for the Exchequer.

We heard that the European Commission was investigating BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen for allegedly colluding on prices for components. A similar inquiry has started in the US.

We learn that Mercedes-Benz was offering a free software recalibration to cut pollution by nitrogen oxide. It affects three million cars in Europe.

This follows the VW scandal which is costing the Big V zillions in fines and reparation.

Carmakers are unleashing new green plans. Volvo got the jump with the news that very soon its new cars will either be electric or electrically assisted. BMW hit the Hail Britannia button with the news that the electric Mini will be assembled in Britain – in 2019. It was the lead news item on the BBC.

What else can we do? Barriers to absorb noise and pollution are on trial on the M62 passing Manchester. We may adopt “pollution tunnels”, an idea being used in Holland, to absorb the nitrogen dioxide emitted by diesel engines.

This week BMW revealed more green shoots. It is embracing both pure electric power and what it sees as the advantages of the latest, cleaner Euro 6 standard diesel engines which rival petrol engines for most emissions.

It announced cash incentives across the EU for owners of older diesel cars rated at Euro 4 emissions or less, to switch to its electric i3 or a plug-in hybrid or a Euro 6 model rated at 130g CO2 or less. In Germany, owners of Euro 5 cars will be offered a free improvement in exhaust emissions quality. What about us? BMW GB was this week deciding what action to take.

And so to the BMW 530d – the current exemplar of BMW diesel technology. The 5-series per se has always been desirable, big enough without being flashy. We are on the seventh version now. It’s a bit longer, a bit wider, a bit taller, a bit more room for elbows, legs, heads, more options, more refinement. The boot loading aperture is wider and goes lower – so that larger boxy objects are easier to get in. Door openings have been re-cut to ease entry.

I hadn’t any complaints about the previous model on any of those points but I see one publication is now dismissing it as unloved: savage.

There’s a plug-in petrol- electric hybrid engine, which means you can charge the battery from the mains to extend the range on electric power. All versions have swivelling vanes in the grille and lower air intake which open when the engine needs more cooling, while in the closed position they contribute to the car’s drag factor of just 0.22.

Prices start at £37,060 for the four-cylinder, two-litre 520d diesel with manual gears and economy figures of 69mpg and 108g. Currently you’ll need to pay nearly £40,000 for the cheapest petrol model, the four-cylinder 530i rated at 48.7mpg and 132g. Add £2,200 for the Touring estate.

On test was the diesel 530d M Sport saloon, from £47,130, though as driven with numerous “packs” the bill would be £63,770. A standard SE 530d costs £44,765 or £46,805 with 4x4 xDrive – also offered with some other engines.

And now a word about BMW’s “genius” personnel. These are model experts in every showroom, fully versed in the nuts, bolts and variations in trim, price and so forth. Looking for some product confirmation on the internet I was offered a live chat with a genius. My first question was which is the cheapest petrol 5 Series? The genius gave me the cheapest price but named the wrong model.

I tried another question with another genius, asking the capacity and cylinder configuration for the 530d. I was given the correct capacity (3-litres) but told it was a V6. It’s actually a straight six. Both “experts” were very slow – presumably having to look up the answers. As the saying here goes, if you want a job doing right, do it yourself. One shouldn’t have to second guess an expert. Scores: nil out of ten.

Full marks for whoever perfected the car. As an “ultimate driving machine” to echo BMW’s slogan it was/is brilliant. It is quiet, smooth, rapid, reasonably economical in a shape which, while rather anonymous, doesn’t attract unwelcome attention or make you look like a wealthy yob.

Verdict: Super sports saloon which is happy going slowly.