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Sunday, February 19, 2023

Review: 2023 BMW 530i M Sport

Few cars have such wide-ranging talents as the BMW 5 Series, and buyers seem to agree: it’s been at the heart of the German automaker’s range in every generation that’s been around (the current is the seventh). However, in the time when it has become almost the default choice, helped by the fact that it’s the best of its kind, it faces an interesting challenge: luxury crossovers. But as the demand for luxury sedans is shrinking, BMW isn’t going down without a fight. Their response is to come up with the best 5 Series since the legendary E39 generation.

Comparing this 5 Series to the E39 is a tall order, but it does emulate by balancing comfort and athleticism. At its core is its impeccably tuned suspension. Mind you, it sits on an M-tuned suspension so there are far more shimmies at low speed, but nothing that the stiff body structure and thick insulation can’t handle. The steel-sprung setup manages to be supple enough around town (despite the low-profile 19-inch rubber), but can take on corners if you wish. In short, it’s an effortless cruiser when you’re not in the mood, and a willing corner carver when you are.

Despite wearing the 530i badge, this particular 5 Series doesn’t have an inline-six under the hood. No matter. The forced induction 2.0-liter 4-cylinder may lack the aural qualities of BMW’s trademark 6-cylinder, but the forced induction still serves up the grunt (albeit muted) with 252 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque on tap—figures which are 68 horsepower and 60 Nm up versus the base 520i. In turn, this brings down its century sprint to just 6.4 seconds—1.5 seconds faster. More importantly, it feels faster than what the numbers suggest. Already quick-witted around town, it’s even better when it gets to stretch its legs on the highway. The accompanying 8-speed automatic is buttery smooth, although take note that the idle start-stop system can be quite aggressive, and can sometimes catch you off-guard as you crawl to a halt at a stoplight.

The 530’s engine contains a myriad of tech summarized as BMW TwinPower Turbo. This means it comes equipped with a twin-scroll turbocharger (not twin turbos), high-precision direct injection, variable valve timing, and variable camshaft timing for both intake and exhaust. And while it can be loaded up with a minimum of 91 octane fuel, to get the most out of this high-performance engine, might as well load up on the country’s highest octane fuel: Petron Blaze 100. The only Euro 6 complaint fuel in the market, it has ultra-low sulfur (50 ppm maximum) and bezene (1 percent maximum).

Compared to the 520i, which is available in the Luxury trim, the 530i comes in M Sport guise. For that, BMW’s given it a sportier aesthetic with the full aero package (including rear spoiler), red-colored M-badged brake calipers (four-piston at the front, single-piston at the back), 19-inch Y-spoke alloys with mixed tire sizes, and high-gloss shadow line replacing the traditional chrome. The overall effect is transformative, to say the least. It makes the 5 Series look even more complete, and after seeing it in M Sport guise, you cannot imagine it any other way.

Like the 520i, the 530i has soft-close doors. No need to slam them shut, as a mechanism “suck” them in. The steering wheel also automatically tilts up easing entry into the standard sport seats. Then, there’s the seat material itself. Typically, premium brands are guilty of passing off synthetic leather for the real thing in their multi-million-peso offerings. Not here. Standard is the Dakota leather. It’s a step below the brand’s nappa leather option, but it’s 100 percent leather, durable, and most important for local weather conditions, breathable. The last characteristic is important as the 5 Series doesn’t have any kind of seat ventilation.

Because of the 5 Series’ age, the on-board tech isn’t as outrageous as newer BMW offerings. Needless features like air gesture controls are still there, but besides that, it balances both touch-sensitive and old-school analog switchgear. Usability is hard to beat, and it’s easy to get comfortable in after just a few minutes (and with no need to read through the owner’s manual). The all-digital gauges don’t win points for legibility, but it can be personalized to show whatever’s pertinent to the driver. By default, switching drive modes between Normal, Eco Pro, and Sport changes what’s displayed. Applause though should go to the 12.3-inch center display that can be operated either by the screen itself or, if you’re allergic to fingerprints, via the iDrive rotary knob. It comes with wireless Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto) as standard, but take note that it crashes when saddled with too many simultaneous tasks. Also, despite boasting a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, the sound quality is just so-so.

Ergonomics is a high point for the 5 Series. The M Sport unlocks bigger bolsters (and a BMW M tri-color highlight on the seats and seatbelts) to hold you in place more securely when cornering quickly. There’s also plenty of adjustment, including extendable cushions. Plus, because of the low-set seats, you feel like you’re sitting in, rather than on top of, the car. Despite that, visibility is quick good upfront thanks to the slender A-pillars and tail, wide windshield. However, seeing behind isn’t as easy. Fortunately, parking sensors at all corners, a rear-view camera, and a parking assistant system is standard issue.

European makes aren’t really known for space, but the 5 Series challenges that preconception. There’s plenty of room in here, especially for the front where there’s never a lack of head, leg, or shoulder room. The same is true at the back where the outboard passengers are treated to a wealth of space. However, the middle passenger isn’t treated as nicely because of that raised central floor hump.

People aside, there’s also a wealth of storage options here as well—cup holders, door pockets, and the like are all deep, usable, and well-placed. There’s a large lidded cubby in front of the gear selector which contains a wireless charging pad, two cup holders, and the sole USB Type A charging port (the rest, including those in the back, are all USB Type Cs). There’s also a console beneath the armrest that opens with a butterfly mechanism that can accommodate wallets, keys, and other small items. The trunk’s cavernous, but sadly, the rear seats are fixed meaning the 530-liter space can’t grow any further.

Sadly, despite a full P 600,000 more than the entry-level 520i, the 530i still lacks any sort of advanced driver assist. Apart from the usual gaggle of airbags and acronyms, there’s not much else to talk about in the safety aspect aside from the automatic high beam assist and tire pressure sensors atop the clearance sensors and back-up camera. It has cruise control and a speed limiter, but those are of the standard variety. Sure, BMW wants to cater to driving enthusiasts with its “Ultimate Driving Machine” ethos, but it shouldn’t mean “Ultimate Manual Machine.” You want to make sure this car keeps to its lane or avoids hitting pedestrians or cyclists? You’ve got eyes, arms, and legs for that.

The lack of advanced driver assist aside, the BMW 5 Series is hard to fault. There will be some who’d quote the law of diminishing returns when they think about the price premium, but for people who could afford the price premium, the 530i M Sport is BMW’s best-balanced sedan in ages. The entry-level 520i Luxury was already 80 percent there, but with this new variant, it’s the 5 Series fully realized. It’s brilliant, classy, and wonderfully refined.

2023 BMW 530i M Sport

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Bottom Line
Pros Comfort and performance balance, cabin-tech is easy to use and understand, excellent cabin space.
Cons Lack of driver assist tech, P 600K premium may turn some buyers off.
TL;DR The best BMW 5 Series in a while.
Year Introduced 2017 (Refreshed: 2022)
Warranty 5 years / 200,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Luxury Sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders Inline-4
BHP @ rpm 252 @ 5,000-6,500
Nm @ rpm 350 @ 1,350-4,250
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / ~91
Transmission 8 AT
Cruise Control Yes, w/ Limiter
Fuel Economy (km/L) @ Ave. Speed (km/h) 8.40 km/L @ 17 km/h
(fueled with Petron Blaze 100)
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,963
Width (mm) 1,868
Height (mm) 1,479
Wheelbase (mm) 2,975
Curb Weight (kg) 1,625
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-Link
Front Brakes Ventilated Disc
Rear Brakes Ventilated Disc
Parking Brake Electric, w/ Auto Hold
Tires Bridgestone Turanza T005 RFT,
245/40 R 19 Y (f), 275/35 R 19 Y (r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 8
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 2, 3-pt ELR x 1
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Tire Pressure Monitoring
Parking Assistant
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Adaptive, w/ Auto High Beam
Fog Lamps Yes, Rear (LED)
Light Operation Auto On/Off
Wiper Operation Rain-Sensing
Tailgate Electric
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic, Electric
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-Way, w/ Memory
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 8-Way
Seating Surface Leather
2nd Row Arm Rest
3rd Row None
Sunroof None
Multi-Information Display Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes, w/ Soft Close Doors
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold, Auto-Dimming (Driver)
Rear View Mirror Auto-Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control 4-Zone, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
# of Speakers 16, Harman Kardon
Steering Controls Yes

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