First Drive: 2012 BMW 528i Touring Review by Henny Hemmes
Less is more
By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel
SEVILLE - September 22, 2011: Downsizing is what many car manufacturers are now looking at. Not necessarily as it pertains to physical size of their models, but rather the engine capacity. Around a year and a half year ago, when BMW introduced the new 5 Series and announced that it would be available with new four-cylinder engines in 2011; many potential buyers frowned at this new. However, from the first test drives that I conducted earlier this week, I’m here to tell you there’s no reason for pessimism.
Of course, the whole exercise is about fuel efficiency and CO2-emissions. The new 2-liter 4-cylinder petrol twin turbo engines will be available beginning in October in the 520i and 528i models. While the smaller one will not be available in North America, the 528i will be added to the model range that also offers the 335i and the 550i.
Both 4-cylinder models have the same capacity of 1,997 cc (121.8 cu.in), but they differ in power output and torque. Less is more, as the 528i has 61 more horses and 59 lb. ft. more torque than its smaller brother, a result of modified injection and turbo charging.
North America may get a 5 Series diesel
In Europe, BMW will also offer two new two-litre four cylinder diesel engines with Twin Power Turbo technology in the 520d and 525d models - and more diesels with this technology are in the pipeline. Average fuel consumption of both new diesel power plants has been reduced by some 13 per cent compared with the previous I-6 diesel engines.
As mentioned many times before, I am a fan of modern diesel engines. They are fuel efficient and offer excellent performance and comfort. Driving the 5 Series Touring with the new 525d under the hood once again confirms my feelings. With 218 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, it offers impressive performance for every day driving, since the g power is available from as low as 1,400 rpm. And for people driving long distances, the bonus is also that you’ll only have to look for a gas station after some 900 miles. An additional feature is that there is enough torque to tow a trailer with a heavy load - its maximum pulling weight is just over 4,400 lbs.
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Asking when BMW will bring this to North America, Ian Robertson, board member for sales and marketing of the BMW Group, told me: “We really have to do things step by step. We are introducing XDrive for the 528i, 535i and 550i and the diesel models except the 520d.”
In the meantime BMW is already very successful with such power plants in its X-models in the U.S. Mr. Robertson added, “North of the line New York-Denver and westwards, 90 percent of the X-models sold have XDrive and the average is around 50 per cent.”
I believe, that in the not too far future we may expect a decision on the next step: to bring one or two diesel models of the 5 Series to the America.
Back to petrol engines and the 528i that I drove in the area around the beautiful Hacienda La Boticaria, our Spanish base for 24 hours. The ‘smaller’ engine 5 Series is quick and feels dynamic. Compared to the outgoing six cylinder, there is more torque instantly available thanks to the assist of BMW’s TwinPower turbo. The 8-speed automatic transmission seems more in sync with the new engine than with the straight six. The combination is excellent.
The new models now all have start-stop technology that in the 528i is hardly noticeable. The specs of the new 528i model show it needs 6.5 seconds to accelerate from zero to 62 mph, just 0.3 second faster than the old I-6 model. Although it’s not a stunning improvement, it’s not exactly slow either. With the ready availability of torque (from 1250 rpm), it is also very easy to pass slower traffic.
Otherwise, it is business as usual, with a focus on the known driving dynamics of the 5 Series and the excellent comfort during normal driving conditions. I’m sure that most people will enjoy the feel and performance of the new 528i.
From a safety perspective, the new models also have all the safety equipment and in-car controls that are typical of the 5-Series. As mentioned earlier, the new 4-cylinder engine offers increased fuel economy as well. What customers may have to get used to, however, will be the different sound. Gone is the dark hum of the six cylinder; new is the sharp sound of the turbo engine.
The 2012 528i will be available in the next week or two, and has a base price of $47,575. In this respect less is also more, since the price is up $2,505 as compared to the 2011 model.
Since I drove the 528i Touring, I am including pictures of this body style, which is a favorite of many European buyers. However, it is not a model that BMW is considering for introduction in the U.S.
The next announced introduction is the M5. It will arrive in North American dealerships next summer. I was fortunate enough to also test drive this fastest of the 5 model range - yesterday I took it from Seville to the Ascari race resort. But you’ll have to wait a day or two to read about this first experience on The Auto Channel, so please check back soon.
Technical details 2012 BMW 528i sedan(*): I-4-TwinPower-Turbo, four valves/cyl., direct injection, variable valve control, displacement 1,997 liter/121.8 cu-.in., performance 180 kW/245 hp at 5,000-6,5000/min, max torque 350 Nm/258 lb-.ft at 1,250-4,800 rpm, 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifting, rear wheel drive, 0–100 km/h/62 mph 6 .3 s (6.6 s) , top speed 250 kmh/155 mph (244 kmh/152 mph). Fuel economy EU test cycle 6.5 l/100 km, or 41.1 mpg (6.8 l/100 km, or 43.5 mpg imp) , CO2 emission 158 (166) grams/km. (*=Touring)