"New 4-cylinder powered 5-Series is the best-rounded of the popular midsize BMW's line. The $56,900 528i xDrive should be at the very top of your luxury car shopping list."
I saw YBYAV8 once on a vanity plate. Said plate was affixed to the rear of a gorgeous flat-6-powered 930 Porsche 911. This was years ago and, at the time, I thought it was novel and frankly cool. The message was clearly that big engines are not necessary.
Today, big engines are going bye-bye. It's a sad state of affairs as, like any other gearheads, I've always loved the thought of big cubes, muscle cars and V8s. In my time, I've owned two V8-powered cars. As I write this, I wonder if people only ten years my junior will ever make such a statement.
The likelihood is that, yes they will, so long as they've got lots of cash. Why? Because V8s are and will furthermore be relegated to high-end duty. Cadillac, Lexus and Infiniti all offer V8s but only for the flagship models. The Germans are the same; however, they are increasingly cutting them out for turbo or superchargers on 6-cylinder engines.
For the moment, BMW has it all -- if you're in the market for a 5-Series, you can select a 4-, 6- or 8-cylinder engine and soon, even a hybrid version. I've driven the "normal" ones, in other words, not the 560 hp M5 or the ActivHybrid5. The M5 will be very nice but today, I have selected a favourite: the 2.0T 4-cylinder 528i.
Let's get right to it. BMW's TwinPower Turbo inline-4 is a masterpiece of engineering. Displacing 2.0 litres and hitched to a twin-scroll turbocharger, the compact engine generates 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. All that gusto is available from 1,250 rpm all the way to 4,800 where, 200 rpm later, every last horse kicks in. Factor in a brilliantly geared 8-speed autobox, and this 1,818 kg (4,001 lb) car reaches 100 km/h in only seven seconds.
There's more, much more. As the header of the article states, my 2012 BMW 528i xDrive was equipped with BMW's xDrive AWD system. The noted weight and acceleration time reflect this fact, as does the following: on the highway, the car can achieve fuel consumption numbers of less than 7L/100 km. Obviously, these will only be achieved in the best of conditions, at 100 km/h. As expected, I couldn't do it -- I did average 9.5L overall, which is stellar.
Get in before we go
It's often difficult for me to pick my favourite car interiors; I hover between Audi, BMW and one or two others. These days, BMW's got my vote. The austere cockpit feel of the 5-Series' passenger quarters is spectacular. While I had the car, I met up with a friend who owns a 2011 Mercedes E-Class and he was blown away by the racy, intimate aura of the BMW's cabin. By comparison, everything falls immediately to hand in the 528i, whereas in the Benz, many controls require a reach.
It all starts with superb BMW comfort seats, which can be adjusted in so many ways as to make a contortionist uncomfortable. Since most of us can't touch our toes, we'll be very comfortable. The dash layout is simple yet complex, mostly because of the numerous buttons. Simple, as most are located in two narrow strips.
Luxury and technology always require a period of adjustment. In the Bimmer's case, the driver will want to discover more as opposed to be annoyed by certain functions. It's part of wanting to own a BMW.
Room aboard the 2012 BMW 528i xDrive is best suited to four occupants and the trunk will do nicely in most cases, capable of easily swallowing a pair of golf bags. It's important, I know.
Most luxury brands are on the cutting edge of technology and BMW is no different. In some instances, they are at the forefront.
As with most high-end cars, there are countless safety features that range from dozens of airbags to driver aids to cameras. These are all fine and dandy but what I find of interest is whatever BMW decides to put "dynamic" in front of.
My 2012 BMW 528i xDrive featured what is known as Dynamic Driving Control. There are some buttons to the left of the shifter that toggle from "Comfort" to "Sport +" and consist of four different preset modes for the car's throttle response, Steptronic transmission shift points, suspension damping and stability assist. At all times, the car monitors driving conditions to ensure ideal passenger comfort without sacrificing performance.
In my short week's time with the car, I shuffled between "Comfort" in the city and "Sport" on the highway. Even if it says comfort, the big, subdued, elegant saloon does not get soft or mellow. The car stays flat and stable; the damping and throttle are no more than relaxed.
"Normal" and "Comfort" modes should be one and the same unless, perhaps, the owner calls Florida or California home. The "Sport +" mode is one I would have loved to exploit more, especially through the use of the wheel-mounted paddle shifter. I reckon this combination is as close as we'll ever get to a manual, non-nanny-aided 5-Series. The M5 may change that.
In any given circumstance, the 5-Series makes the driver feel on top of things. The confidence level is immense at the wheel of this car as nothing seems to perturb it. It'll handle broken lane-ways in slush and snow and high rates of speed on a freeway in the same breath. Wonderful.
It's all there
Driving the 2012 BMW 528i xDrive is nothing short of a pleasure. The cabin is quiet and magnificently appointed, the 4-cylinder is always on the juice and the transmission is constantly minding its business. All this comes at a price.
With more option packages than I have fingers, my tester 2012 BMW 528i xDrive rolled off the assembly line with a sticker price just north of $82,000, from a starter price of $56,900 with xDrive. Stacked against its competitors (Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6), the price is no big deal.
The deal is that the turbo-4 is the future. Audi's got a 2.0T A6 in the US (not Canada) and you can bet that Mercedes will join in. Fact is, though, that neither car brings the drive to the driver as does the BMW.
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