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2007 BMW 530xi Sports Wagon Review

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Model: BMW 530xi Sports Wagon
Engine: 3.0-liter DOHC inline six
Horsepower/Torque: 255 hp @ 6600 rpm/220 lb.-ft. @ 2750 rpm<
Transmission: 6-speed Steptronic automatic
Wheelbase: 113.6 in.
Length x Width x Height: 191.2 x 72.7 x 58.7 in.
Tires: P225/50R17
Cargo volume: 58.3 cu. ft.
Economy: 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/21.3 mpg test
Price: $67,915 (includes $695 destination charge)

The Bottom Line – The 530xi is an excellent wagon with the added advantage of AWD. Sometimes there is too much to learn. It could be simpler, but it wouldn’t be a BMW. However, it’s pricey.

For our Christmas trip to see how well Santa treated the grandchildren – and to assist in any way we could – we had a choice of two vehicles, a small hybrid sport utility and the BMW 530xi sports Wagon. Both offered approximately the same cargo volume (in fact the SUV offered slightly more, which was a prime consideration). But a short ride comparison prior to loading up showed the BMW to be a superior vehicle. After all, we’d be driving in this car for 11-12 hours (round trip) and the SUV simply was noisier and less solid, besides the fact that it probably offered better fuel economy.

So we went with the Beemer, and could not have been happier.

We loaded the wagon to the gunnels with gifts and food. We still had good rearward vision, so we didn’t overload, although the side mirrors were an asset. Although we had a lot of stuff in the cargo area, there wasn’t an enormous weight addition, so handling wasn’t affected. Handling overall was excellent (it goes with the platform), so we had a lot of fun on our trip.

Under the hood is a 3.0-liter double overhead cam inline six (BMW’s expertise with the inline six is legendary) that, in peak tune, delivers 255 hp. The same engine in the 525 xi is rated at a more conservative 215 hp. While I’ll never complain about too much power, I’m also certain that the smaller engine would be just as effective, especially in the wagon where extra power isn’t a necessity.

The engine drives all four wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic, BMW’s manual mode. Switching to manual required a moving of the gear lever into the manual gate, then pushing forward to upshift, rearward to downshift. Again, in a wagon where performance isn’t a priority, manual shifting also isn’t.

We also had BMW’s all-wheel drive system, which proved to be an asset over unusually rain-sotted dirt roads that were muddy and tended to be slippery at times. In general, though, the AWD wasn’t needed. However, if there had been snow or a thin layer of ice on the road, I’m sure AWD with the addition of ABS, antiskid control, active steering and active roll control would have been just the ticket.

Our tester, as do most BMWs, had the formerly infamous iDrive that controlled entertainment, navigation, and HVAC, while offering access to information on all the vehicle’s functions. Either iDrive has been reorganized to make it more user-friendly, or I have become more accustomed to its quirks and idiosyncrasies, but I found it quite easy to use. There have been times when I have been on introductions of BMW products where the co-driver had to work the iDrive to make it work without distracting the driver. With the 530 xi, however, I was able to access all the functions with minimal distraction.

Unlike with the 550i sedan we drove earlier, my wife finally discovered where the second front cupholder was located. We bit the bullet and looked in the owner’s manual. There’s one that pops out of the center of the dash for the drive and one further right for the passenger. Voila!

The navigation screen was less obtrusive than on some cars. We had a small map to the right of the screen while our audio information (from Sirius) was on the left.

The cruise control stalk was located just below the turn signal stalk and I continually confused them. On Mercedes cars, it’s reversed and I mess those up, too. Use of the cruise on long stretches served two purposes; it kept us from speeding and improved overall fuel economy to 21.3 mpg. The turn signal stalk, as well as the wiper stalk, is “smart.” A slight push is for lane changes (or quick windshield wipes) gives four clicks (or two wipes). Pushing harder is for real turns or to get the wipers really working as in a rainstorm.

Our tester had “park distance control” ($700) that advised by beeps that there was an object or car anywhere in the periphery of the vehicle. Sometimes this was annoying, but it was always useful.

Overall, this was a very comfortable car to drive. It didn’t call itself a crossover or small sport utility. It was a station wagon, no bones about it. And in that sense, it filled its purpose excellently.

2007 The Auto Page Syndicate