Although our $72,135 BMW has been the prisoner of a stultifying Los Angeles commute for most of its time in the Motor Trend fleet, associate editor Scott Evans piled on some major highway miles zooming out to Car of the Year testing near Mojave, California.
Evans and I concur that the 530i doesn’t feel like a 5 Series should—that is, like a proper-handling, firm, and composed mid-size sport sedan. Rather, it feels like a lesser 7 Series luxobarge (that’s because it is, at heart).
We would love to hear BMW’s engineering rationalization for shrinking the 7 Series/Ghost platform for the 530i instead of enlarging the 3 Series platform a bit. After all, it’s a smaller jump in wheelbase from the 3 to the 5 than it is from the 5 to the 7. Whatevs, Munich, I’m sure you have your reasons.
On the plus side, once up to speed, the Bimmer bombs down the road like a budget 7 Series—a slightly less-prestigious version, for sure, but still a very relaxed and comfortable luxury car. It absorbs road rot and expansion joints with aplomb, making for a very quiet, secure cabin at autobahn speeds.
The downside: The 530i feels big and heavy and has no sense of urgency or excitement. It is hindered by dead handling and vague steering response—not what people expect from an Ultimate Driving Machine. Whereas past BMW sedans handled precisely—smaller and more nimble than their dimensions—the 530i has porcine traits. It cannot seem to wrest itself from its 7 Series shackles.
While commuting, standard Drive mode is sufficient. Sport mode provides a bit more authority, but the 2.0-liter engine seems to want more torque to motivate this 3,906-pound beast in traffic. One cool touch: Switching to Sport mode cinches in the driver’s seat side bolsters as if to say, “It’s magic time.” Sadly, the magician has left the stage.
After driving the 530i at our COTY testing, Angus MacKenzie, MT’s international man of mystery, asked rhetorically: “Has the desire to broaden BMW’s appeal come at the cost of losing the dynamic purity that made the cars so desirable in the first place?”
It’s a question BMW engineers might want to ask of themselves.
More on the long-term BMW 530i here: