2021 BMW 530i M Sport First Drive Review: Subtle changes keep this driver’s car fresh
BMW is all set to launch the facelifted 5 Series in India, or as BMW is officially calling it — the 5 Series LCI. Those three letters stand for Life Cycle Impulse in BMW Speak, a facelift to you and me. And that pretty much sums up what's new on the 5 Series for 2021; a fresh face and some tweaked interiors, while it continues with the same drivetrain and suspension set up that it had in the pre-facelift guise. The BMW 5 Series LCI will be launched in India in three variants — there will be two diesels in the 520d Luxury Line and the 530d M Sport (the latter getting a six-cylinder engine). There will be a BMW 530i M Sport petrol on offer as well, while the entry level 530i (just called the Sport) has been discontinued.
We don’t generally focus on styling when talking about BMWs because they are all about the driving experience. However, with this 5 Series facelift, the mechanical changes are non existent while the most significant changes are to the exterior. Up front, the face has been re-profiled to look a little sleeker. The grille is new — it is now wider and taller (but not disproportionate in any manner), while the slats now jut out strongly at the top. Meanwhile, the slimmer headlamps contrast this bigger grille rather well and give the new 5 a rather serious appearance. Adaptive LEDs with matrix technology to individually control the LEDs are standard, while the M Sport variant that we are driving gets the higher spec Laser lights, instantly recognisable from the tinge of blue in the headlamp cluster. This M Sport variant also gets sportier, more aggressive bumpers compared to the outgoing M Sport 5 Series.
In profile, it would be harder to spot the differences, especially on this M Sport variant because the 18-inch wheels remain the same (19s are an option). The Luxury Line cars do get a new wheel design, though I haven’t seen them yet and wouldn’t be able to describe them to you. It is worth noting that the new 5 Series is 27mm longer than the pre-facelift car. Mind you, the wheelbase is identical and this extra length has come from longer overhangs so space inside the cabin hasn’t changed. From the rear, the 5 Series has been sharpened up as well. The tail lamps are new and now have a 3D effect to them, while the diffuser at the back has more pronounced contours.
Overall, the 5 Series looks a little more grown up. To my eye, it looks way better than before — the face looks a lot more purposeful and that sits well with the sporty character of the 5 Series.
Much like the exteriors, the interiors have been mildly tweaked to be more comfortable and more focussed on the driver. The architecture has remained the same for the most part. You still get the 12.3-inch instrument cluster as standard, while the infotainment screen is a larger 12.3-inch unit. The sports seats are immensely comfortable and you now get lumbar support at standard on all variants. The seats get some new upholstery and diamond stitching. Other changes are minor and they include some more chrome on some controls in the cabin, while the rotary dial for the iDrive selector is new.
The backseat is rather comfortable as well. You may not have the outright knee room of something like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class but you do get more than enough space and comfort. This M Sport variant gets four-zone climate control which is a nice touch, and while the rear seat isn’t somewhere you would mind spending time on your daily commute, if you’re in a 5 Series, you probably care more about what it feels like from behind the wheel on the weekend.
The drivetrains remain identical to what the BMW 5 Series has before. Which means this 530i M Sport has a 1998cc, in-line four-cylinder engine that puts out 248bhp and a strong 350Nm. Internationally, the BMW 5 Series now comes with a mild hybrid system on all its models however that has been given a skip for the India spec cars. Not that we’re complaining because the 530i’s engine is a real peach. This motor does have a single twin scroll turbocharger and lag is barely perceptible — peak torque kicks in as low as 1450rpm and stays flat all the way to 4800rpm. Its the sort of engine that suits the 5’s character perfectly. When being driven leisurely, it is quiet and refined and is undemanding of the driver. However, should you chose to hot foot it, it comes alive and delivers the thrills you expect of your BMW. The transmission keeps up as well. This is no DCT but it throws shift after shift at you right when you want it, and keep the engine on the boil. The claimed 0-100kmph times are marginally lower than before and BMW says that is due to the updated design that has changed the aerodynamics ever so slightly. But a 0.1-0.2 second change isn’t something that is really perceptible from behind the wheel. Top speed on this 530i model is 250kmph.
Ride and handling
No changes here once again, but this is where the 5 Series really shines. Ride quality is superb — it is absorptive, and really cushions you well inside. The adaptive suspension tweaks itself up for different conditions; Comfort softens up the ride while Sport stiffens it up to make it feel more dynamic. I preferred using the Adaptive drive mode which just left the car to its own devices and allowed it to figure out exactly the sort of set up I needed.
On the highway, the 5 Series remains stable and unruffled by bumps and undulations. It wafts over them comfortably, but always feels tied down and planted. At slower speeds, large bumps are dealt with confidently but this is no SUV and you do have to be cognisant of that when you are behind the wheel. And when you hit the hills, the 5 comes alive. The suspension is soft, so there is a perceptible amount of roll when you’re pushing it in the corners but that roll sets in progressively and helps you understand the car’s weight transfer better rather than giving it soggy dynamics. The steering is precise and direct, and is a definite highlight. With its rivals primarily being the Audi A6 (which is now FWD) and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (which holds nothing back with luxury), the BMW finds its niche in being the most driver focussed car in this segment, without a doubt.
Verdict and prices
The BMW 5 Series LCI then is a mid-life refresh that focuses on the superficial bits — the styling and the interiors, while leaving the solid underpinnings that we know and love untouched. And to be fair, that’s a good strategy: why fix it if it ain’t broke. It isn’t as comprehensive as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class update that came not too long ago, but then again, the 5 Series customer that is focussed on the driving experience is unlikely to mind. This 5 Series looks great, has a comfortable interior and doesn’t compromise on driver involvement.
The last bit of the puzzle is the prices. Now that the base 530i Sport is discontinued, expect the starting price of the 5 Series range to be higher than it has been in the past. The outgoing 530i M Sport cost Rs 61.5 lakh (ex-showroom), and the LCI has been launched at Rs 62.9 lakh, a Rs 1.5 lakh price hike over the pre-facelift car. This is more affordable than the Mercedes-Benz E 200, despite making a lot more power. The 530i M Sport is now the entry point in to the range, while the 520d Luxury Line costs Rs 63.9 lakh and the 530d costs Rs 71.9 lakh. Stay tuned to the evo India website and social media for updates!