The New Base Powertrain:
When it comes to the all-new BMW 5-Series, there is no shortage of powertrain options to choose from. At the bottom of the lineup is the humble 530i sDrive, equipped with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and rear-wheel drive (with the option for all-wheel drive at an additional cost of $2,300). With a starting price of $57,900 before destination and handling fees, the 530i sDrive offers a different driving experience compared to the higher-performance i5 M60 xDrive.
To determine how the new entry-level 5-Series compares to its siblings and competitors, we took it out on the public roads of South Carolina. We analyzed all the details to understand what sets the 530i apart and how it lives up to the legacy of the iconic 5-Series. Surprisingly, the 530i performs exceptionally well, despite its specifications on paper.
Under the hood of the G60-codenamed 530i sDrive lies BMW’s latest version of the B48 2.0-liter inline-four engine. This powerplant incorporates a twin-scroll turbocharger and a 48V mild hybrid system, resulting in an output of 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Power is transferred to the wheels via an eight-speed conventional automatic transmission. While the sDrive models are exclusively rear-wheel drive, the xDrive versions distribute power to both axles.
Although these figures may not seem impressive, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, the 530i is the base model in the lineup, with the 540i xDrive featuring a six-cylinder engine (exclusive to the US market) and 375 horsepower being the next step up. Secondly, the 530i offers more torque than its Mercedes-Benz and Audi rivals and has a lower curb weight, weighing just 4,041 pounds. Additionally, it boasts better fuel efficiency, achieving up to 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
Which 5-Series Interior Is This?
The interior of the 530i is spacious and comfortable, making use of the extra physical space offered by the new model. Both rows of seats provide above-average headroom and legroom. The upholstery combines fabric and faux leather, adding a touch of modernity. The front sport seats in the M Pack version that we tested offer a snug feel without feeling restrictive. The standard tilt-and-slide moonroof enhances the cabin’s luxury and improves the overall experience for occupants.
When comparing the 530i to the i5, the differences between trim levels become a game of “spot-the-differences.” Each variant features a sleek modern dashboard with a large 12.3-inch infotainment screen equipped with iDrive 8.5. The system can be controlled through voice commands, hand gestures, physical controls, or the touchscreen itself. The driver information display, measuring 14.9 inches, is configurable, similar to the main infotainment system. The cabin also features small touches of elegance, such as texturing on the lower portion of the dashboard, metal speaker covers, and ambient lighting.
A Forceful Four-Cylinder:
While 255 horsepower may not seem like much compared to other vehicles on the road today, the 530i’s four-cylinder engine offers surprising performance. The torque curve feels flat and powerful, with maximum torque available from 1,600 to 4,500 rpm. This is 38 lb-ft more than the previous base model 5-Series. Peak horsepower kicks in at 4,700 rpm and remains constant until 6,500 rpm, resulting in a linear power delivery.
Every 5-Series model benefits from BMW’s electromechanical power steering system, providing communicative feedback and responsive handling. In fact, we found the 530i sDrive to be even more playful than the i5, despite the latter’s overall faster acceleration. The 530i feels lighter and more agile, resembling its predecessor, the E60 5-Series. While the i5 may have to overcome the physics of its electric powertrain, the 530i confidently maneuvers through tight spaces, aided by the available overhead 360-degree camera system.
Muscling Up For Battle:
In direct competition with the Mercedes-Benz E350, the 530i sDrive and xDrive variants come out on top. The 5-Series offers a slightly lower price tag, more torque, and a more dynamic driving experience. The Audi A6 provides a similar price point, with slightly more horsepower but less torque. Ultimately, personal preference may be the deciding factor between the two.
Buyers prioritizing practicality and value might find the Genesis G80 to be a better option. The G80 offers more power, comparable luxury, a superior warranty, and equally engaging handling at a lower cost. In fact, the G80 matches the pricing and power of the 540i while providing extended warranty coverage.
Nobody Loses Out:
The 530i sDrive proves that it can do more with less. Despite its increased weight and size compared to older 5-Series models, it remains fun to drive, thanks to its engaging powertrain, excellent visibility, and responsive controls. The level of comfort is on par with more expensive models, even though it may lack certain luxury features. Gone are the days of feeling like the base model is a compromise. In fact, with the 530i, everyone wins as the bar is raised just a little bit higher.
Disclaimer: The photos featured in this article were taken by Stephen Rivers for Carscoops.