BMW’s all-new, eighth-generation 5-Series is here with just about every powertrain option one could ask for. At the bottom of the totem pole is the humble 530i sDrive with its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and rear-wheel drive with all-wheel drive being an $2,300 option. Starting at $57,900 before destination and handling, it’s a dramatically different sedan than the i5 M60 xDrive we recently tested.
To find out how the new entry-level 5-Series stacks up against the rest of its family and the competition, we took it out onto the public roads of South Carolina. We dug into all of the details to find out what makes this new 530i tick and how it aims to live up to the history of the legendary 5-Series. It turns out that, despite what it might look like on paper, the 530i actually punches above its weight.
The New Base Powertrain
Photos Stephen Rivers / Carscoops
Under the hood of the G60-codenamed 530i sDrive is the latest version of BMW’s B48 2.0-liter inline-four. It uses a twin-scroll turbocharger and a 48V mild hybrid system to develop 255 hp (190 kW) and 295 lb-ft (399 Nm) of torque. That power is then fed through an eight-speed conventional automatic transmission. sDrive models like the one we drove are exclusively rear-wheel drive while xDrive models send power to both axles.
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That might not sound like a triumphant combination, but three key points help to put it in perspective. First of all, this is, of course, the base model. The next rung up the ladder is the 540i xDrive which gets a six-cylinder engine (exclusive to the US market) and 375 hp (279 kW).
More: The BMW i5 M60 xDrive Blends Big Electric Power With Big Luxury
Secondly, when compared on paper, the 530i makes more torque than its rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi. At just 4,041 pounds (1,832 kg), it has a lower curb weight than those competitors too. Even within the family, it’s the lightest of the group by some margin. The base i5 for instance weighs almost 900 pounds (408 kg) more.
Finally, it gets up to 27 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway, according to BMW. That’s significantly better than the E-Class, the A6, or the Genesis G80. Ultimately, the 530i sDrive package of low overall curb weight, above-average torque, and impressive fuel economy plays a huge role in this, the largest 5-Series to date.
Which 5-Series Interior Is This?
Photos Stephen Rivers / Carscoops, BMW
The cabin is where the majority of that extra physical space comes into play. Both rows benefit from above-average headroom and legroom. The upholstery is a mix of fabric and faux leather that feels great to the touch and adds a bit more modernity than either one would on its own legs. The front sport seats in the M Pack version we tested feel snug without being overly constrictive, while the standard tilt-and-slide moonroof adds a dash of luxury to the cabin that improves the experience for everyone.
Compare this car to the i5 though and the gap between trim levels becomes a “spot-the-differences” game. Each one gets a sleek modern dashboard with a large 12.3-inch infotainment screen featuring iDrive 8.5. Front occupants can control the system with their voice, simple hand gestures, the physical iDrive controls, or through the touchscreen itself. It’s a complete package that serves just about anyone.
The 14.9-inch driver information display is the same type that one would find in the i5 as well. It’s configurable just as the main infotainment system is and gets even better with an available heads-up display. Small aesthetic touches like the texturing on the lower portion of the dash, the metal speaker covers, and the ambient lighting panel in the middle of the dash add little bits of class that speak to this car’s $57,900 price tag.
The available driver-assist technology is impressive too. Features like adaptive cruise control, lane-centering assist, and active blind-spot detection are nothing new, but not always great in practice. The 5-Series employs each with a high degree of competency.
New for the 2024 model year is a fresh feature available with Highway Assistant, which allows the driver to accept a suggested lane change simply by looking at the corresponding mirror. If that’s not luxury we don’t know what is.
Finally, the 530i also provides 18.4 cubic feet of storage space in the trunk. That’s 1.1 feet more than in either of the i5 variants. In cases where even that isn’t enough, the seats fold down 40/20/40 for maximum configurability.
A Forceful Four-Cylinder
Photos Stephen Rivers / Carscoops, BMW
There’s no getting around the fact that 255 hp just isn’t all that much on today’s highways. Nevertheless, this engine is surprisingly snappy and quick to respond to prods of the throttle. The torque curve feels flat and punchy.
Not only is maximum twist available from 1,600 rpm up through 4,500 rpm, but it’s 38 lb-ft (28 Nm) more than in the previous base 5-Series. Notably, peak horsepower kicks in at 4,700 rpm and holds fast through 6,500 which explains the linear power under foot.
Every new 5-Series benefits from the same electromechanical power steering setup which means that while the ratio is slightly different, all models, including the 530i sDrive benefit from communicative feedback and sharp responses to input. In fact, we’d say that for our money, the 530i sDrive is even more playful than the i5. Sure, the all-electric saloon is faster overall by some margin, but it feels quite a lot heavier.
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The 530i on the other hand benefits from being somewhat lightfooted. Having owned and daily driven an E60 5-Series for many years, I can speak from experience when I say that the 530i felt the most like its predecessor of the variants we tested. Don’t get us wrong. Neither is bad. But the base-trimmed car doesn’t have to cheat physics in the same way that the i5 must.
On the highway, the 530i is sedate and calm, easy to drive, and easy to see out of. If it gives up anything (aside from power) to the i5 it’s here though where it’s a bit louder in the cabin and lacks some of the high-end niceties like electronically controlled shock absorbers or dampers. In tighter spots like a cramped parking lot, it’s easy to maneuver and the available overhead 360-degree camera system only adds to that ease.
Muscling Up For Battle
The 530i sDrive and xDrive variants go up directly against the Mercedes-Benz E350 and to our eyes, they win that battle. The 5-Series costs a bit less, has about 25 lb-ft (33 Nm) more torque, and feels considerably more playful and dynamic from behind the wheel.
The Audi A6 offers a similar price tag, a bit more horsepower but less torque. Frankly, the two are so similar that personal preference probably ends up as the deciding factor over any one attribute.
Buyers who are willing to focus a little more on practicality over badge presence might be better served by looking at Genesis though. The G80 offers more power, similar luxury, a far better warranty, and equally playful handling at thousands less. Genesis even matches the 540i in terms of pricing and power while still offering more warranty coverage.
Nobody Loses Out
The 530i sDrive does indeed do more with less. Sure, it weighs a lot more than older versions of the 5-Series and it’s considerably larger too. Still, it’s fun to drive thanks to an engaging drivetrain, great visibility, and excellent feedback from its controls. On top of that, it’s every bit as comfortable as more expensive models. It might miss out on some luxury features but gone are the days of feeling like you’ve missed out if “all” you could afford is the base model 5-Series. In fact, there aren’t losers here. We all benefit from the bar getting lifted just a little bit higher.