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has very high expectation for G30, so high that it is adding a third
production site in Austria...
always been an important member of BMW, contributing a substantial part
of sales and profit to the group. The last generation, F10 5-Series was
the most successful of its breed, registering 2.2 million units of
sales during its 7-years lifespan, up from 1.4 million units of E60,
1.47 million units of E39, 1.3 million units of E34, 722,000 units of
E28 and 700,000 units of the original E12. As a result, BMW has very
high expectation for the new G30 model, so high that apart from the
main assembly plant at Dingolfing, Germany, and the Chinese plant at
Shenyang (which produces only LWB version), it is going to add a third
production site at Graz, Austria, in the contract manufacturing plant
of Magna Steyr. Why is it so confident? Hopefully we can find out from
If you examine its exterior design, you might not get a straightforward
answer. The G30 takes an evolutionary styling approach, unlike the leap
taken by E39 or E60. Much of its genes are shared with the latest
7-Series, especially the front end with a wider version of double
kidney grille. Its new nose gives it a more distinctive character than
the slightly bland nose of the outgoing car. The rest of the car,
however, is barely polished, getting slightly sleeker to achieve lower
aerodynamic drag. The sleekest model is claimed to have a drag
coefficient of 0.22, which should be a new record (both Mercedes
E-class and Audi A4 are good for 0.23). This must thanks to the use of
active shutter grille, underbody sealing and careful management of
turbulence around wheel arches.
sleekest model is claimed to have a drag coefficient of 0.22, a new
Size-wise, the new car is also a small evolution from the
It is just 36mm longer, 6mm wider, 2mm taller and 7mm longer in
wheelbase. As before, the chassis is a mix of high-strength steel and
aluminum. Most of the load-bearing structure is made of high- and
ultra-high-strength steel, but the latter is used more extensively,
especially at the roof rails and front cross member. As before, the
front strut towers are constructed out of aluminum, but now the
longitudinal frames underneath them are also made of aluminum, as are
the rear side members. Meanwhile, the dashboard cross support is made
of magnesium. Although the car is derived from the same platform as the
7-Series, it skips the latter’s carbon-fiber structural parts due to
cost concern. Outside, the bonnet, roof, boot lid and all four doors
are made of aluminum. Overall, the percentage of lightweight materials
has been increased considerably such that the whole car is lighter. A
comparison with our old data will find the new 5-Series models undercut
their corresponding old models by between 55 and 105 kg. Meanwhile,
horizontal comparison will find the BMW is also lighter than its
arch-rival Mercedes E-class and even the all-aluminum Jaguar XF!
Sometimes subtle revisions may result in considerable progress.
At the suspension, the double-wishbone front axle is carried over, but
the rear axle is changed from the compact integral multi-link to a true
5-link design similar to the 7-Series', which should allow finer
tuning. Besides, both suspensions use more aluminum content to cut
weight while adding rigidity. Overall, unsprung weight is reduced by a
further 9 kg. As before, adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars are
available, but it refuses to follow Mercedes and Audi to adopt air
suspension. You can opt for xDrive 4WD system, which is now available
to nearly all engines no matter in left or right hand drive forms, or
active rear-wheel steering, which improves agility.
new 5er undercuts its predecessor by 55 to 105 kg. It is lighter than
even the all-aluminum Jaguar XF!
The range of
engines are not exactly new because most of them have been used in the
3 and 7-Series. They consist of the modular family B48 2-liter
4-cylinder, B58 3-liter 6-cylinder, B57 2-liter 4-cylinder diesel and
B57 3-liter 6-cylinder diesel, in addition to N63 4.4-liter V8. All
petrol engines feature direct injection, double Vanos, Valvetronic and
twin-scroll turbo. The diesel engines employ 2500-bar common-rail
injection and VTG turbocharger. 6-speed manual is still available to
smaller engines, but most cars should employ the carried-over 8-speed
ZF automatic, which is still the very best in the industry.
We always love the gasoline straight-six turbo for its smoothness,
free-revving manner and good power and torque. In the new 540i, its
output is increased to 340hp, taking 0-60 mph acceleration to less than
5 seconds, or even 4.6 seconds with the traction advantage of xDrive!
That was the performance level of M5 a couple of generations ago! The
new M550i xDrive with its 462hp V8 is even more astonishing, taking
only 3.9 seconds to finish the same sprint. Do we really need an M5?
Yes, we do, but before it arrives in a couple of years’ time, we should
have not much regret.
However, the best thing about BMW is that all its engines are good or
excellent, no matter the entry-level 520d or four-cylinder 530i, or the
plug-in hybrid 530e, or the mass-selling 530d six-cylinder diesel. They
provide good performance, refinement, fuel economy and emission without
resorting to tricks (unlike Audi). No one else in the industry has a
better powertrain lineup.
interior looks remarkably close to that of the 7-Series. The quality
and craftsmanship are finally on a par with Mercedes and Audi...
While it keeps the advantage in
powertrains, it has greatly closed the gap from rivals in interior
design and finishing. Now the interior looks remarkably close to that
of the 7-Series, which is a good news because it looks upmarket,
expensive and high-tech. While the dashboard design doesn’t break new
ground, it is reshaped to be sleeker and its center console more
oriented towards the driver. The quality of materials and craftsmanship
are finally a match to Mercedes and Audi, which is currently the
benchmark of the class. Moreover, the BMW has plenty of electronic
gadgets to play with. The updated i-Drive system offers a larger
(10.25-inch) free-standing display, and it is finally a touchscreen to
please those not akin to the rotary control knob on transmission
tunnel. Alternatively, it can recognize gesture or voice commands. The
new TFT instrument panel is clearer to read and its theme will change
according to driving modes. Benefited by the 7-Series, the 5er gets
countless of semi-autonomous driving aids, such as adaptive cruise
control with automatic lane change capability working up to 112 mph.
The cabin offers more space, too. Rear legroom is improved by 30mm,
while rear headroom is also more generous. As the outgoing car was
still roomy enough to match Mercedes E-class and Audi A6, the new car
is even more competitive. Seating comfort is also improved by new
seats. The front seats are more supportive for better comfort in long
drives. The rear bench seat is reshaped to better serve the middle
passenger. At the back, the boot is enlarged slightly to 530 liters.
by 4-wheel steering, it is unusually agile for a car of this size...
key question is still how it behaves on the road. The outgoing F10 was
dynamically accomplished, but its steering disappointed and its ride
not the best sorted. It was neither as comfortable as Mercedes E-class
nor as engaging to drive as Jaguar XF or Cadillac CTS. Thankfully, the
G30 is much better sorted. Take 540i for example, its powertrain is
close to perfection. Power delivery is creamy smooth yet responsive and
elastic. The ZF transmission shifts seamlessly yet quickly. The car is
so quick that you can’t believe it possess only 340 horsepower – it
seems that BMW’s 340 hp is more than Jaguar’s 380 hp.
Dial to Sport mode and the 540i gets more serious. Its steering loads
up, and its gear ratio is direct enough to give you reassuring
confidence. It is also a tad more communicative than the helm of F10,
even though it will never return to the level of E39. Slip into the
first corner, the 540i displays unusual agility for a car of this size.
The active rear-wheel steering plays an important role to sharpen its
handling, but even without it the new 5-Series is still more agile than
the old car, thanks to the new rear suspension and the stiffer chassis.
It feels light and very well balanced. The stiffened dampers provide
tight body control, and the tires afford generous grip. Is it sharper
to steer or better controlled than Jaguar XF? Probably not, but the gap
has largely narrowed.
xDrive takes only 3.9 seconds to do 0-60 mph. Do we really need an M5?
surprising is how well it matches Mercedes E-class for comfort and
refinement in more relaxed driving modes. Apart from the smooth and
quiet straight-six, the suspension is also much better isolated from
road shocks and noise than the old car, which is quite an achievement
considering the lack of air springs. No matter high-speed bumps,
ripples, expansion joints or low-speed potholes, the new chassis deals
with much greater authority. In fact, it soaks up sharp bumps more
effortlessly than the air-sprung Mercedes. Wind noise is remarkably
For pure driving, I suppose the Jaguar XF might still hold a slight
edge, but the BMW has unquestionably better powertrains and
performance, not to mention its far more convincing accommodation,
comfort, build quality and tech toys, overwhelming enough to guarantee
a higher ranking. What about the Mercedes E-class? It is handsome
outside and impeccable inside, but now the BMW has matched or even
surpassed it in running refinement, while handling and driver
engagement is on another level. This means, the 5-Series is once again
the car to beat in the class. Its next challenger will come from Audi,
but I suspect it won’t have much problem to keep its title for many