We recently tested the BMW 540i and its comfort, luxury and technology impressed us. So when BMW offered us the diesel wagon version we were happy to drive it around for a couple of weeks. Our car came straight from the xDrive experience complete with snow tyres fitted, and more importantly, this time it had the Display Key included. In fact we were the first in New Zealand to test this feature.

The Range

There are two models of 5 Series Touring currently available in New Zealand – the 530D xDrive tested here, starting at $139,900, which includes 19″ alloys, sport Line pack, Adaptive LED headlights, BMW Head Up Display, Leather ‘Dakota’ upholstery, xDrive, all-wheel drive system. The second is the 540i xDrive, which starts at $148,900 and includes 20” alloys, Dynamic Damper Control, M Sport Package, M Sport brakes, Comfort seats, xDrive, all-wheel drive system.

Both models have BMW’s excellent 8-speed transmission, brake energy regeneration, auto tailgate, ambient lighting, high beam assist, auto lights and wipers, active cruise with lane keep assist, parking sensors and rear view camera, run-flat tyres, stability control, ABS, brake assist, cornering brake control, dynamic traction control, front, side and head airbags plus driver’s knee airbag, Harman Kardon surround sound system, BMW Gesture Control, Telephony with wireless charging, 10.25” screen with satnav, keyless entry and start, concierge services, ConnectedDrive, Intelligent Emergency Call.

Our test car had three options: the $5,900 M Sport Package, adding M Aerodynamics package, M Sport suspension lowered 10 mm, M Sport brakes, Dynamic Damper Control, Sun protection glazing, gloss trims, LED fog lights, Sport front seats, M leather steering wheel, M door sill finishers, illuminated, 20” alloys. Next was the $1,450 Technology Package, including Display Key, Remote Control Parking and Apple Carplay. Finally it had the $3,500 panoramic glass roof.

If you wanted to go really crazy you could add over $45k of options. Some examples include Soft-Close function for doors ($1,500), Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system with fully active 10-channel 1400W amplifier and 16 speakers ($10,000), or BMW Night Vision with person recognition ($4,500).

As you’d expect with a luxury BMW, colours available are all muted blues, greys and browns.

First Impressions

The 530d Touring is a handsome car and it certainly has presence, with its long bonnet and sleek side profile. But it’s understated, particularly if you have the M Sport pack. This replaces nearly all of the exterior chrome with gloss black, leaving just the classic kidney grille and the dual exhaust outlets in chrome. Our test car came in dark metallic grey with black wheels and although I like the sleeper look, I think it was just a little too subtle for a $150k car.

The Inside

The inside of the 5 series is very nice indeed. The seats look great in dark grey leather with blue stitching. There’s even a little bit of piping on the back seat in M-Sport colours. They’re really comfortable, electrically adjustable in the front, and heated of course. They’re manually extendable at the front for those with longer legs, and there’s even adjustment of the tightness of the side bolsters if you like a hug from your seats. If you tick more options you can have lumbar adjustment, massage function and seat ventilation too. I imagine if our car hadn’t dad the optional panoramic twin sunroofs it could be a bit dark in the 530D, with the dark seats and carpets, and dark headlining. Closing the electric full-length blind definitely made it feel more closed-in.

The steering wheel adjusts electrically in four directions so finding the perfect driving position is not a problem.The wheel is really nice to hold, it has just the right amount of fatness to feel great in your hands and is trimmed in leather. It has thumb controls to activate the cruise control and stereo. BMW don’t add track skip buttons to the wheel, so you have to use the ones just to the left on the dash.

The main instrument panel is a fully digital version of BMW’s traditional layout with large twin dials for speedo and rev counter, and smaller side dials for fuel and temperature. The display is very crisp and clear, and being fully digital it has a few nice features, like a welcome animation when you sit in the car, and completely different looks and colours when you’re in different drive modes. I particularly liked the way that as the needle sweeps across the speedo and rev counter it passes behind the numbers, which grow slightly as it passes under them, subtly emphasising what speed or RPM you’re at.

The central 10.25” widescreen display is equally clear and bright. This is used for the entertainment system, satnav, camera system etc and as well as the iDrive control knob on the centre console it’s also a touch screen, giving you multiple control options. There’s also gesture control, which is limited to a few simple commands at the moment. It uses a camera mounted in the roof to watch the area in front of the screen for hand gestures. You can swipe to accept or reject phone calls, or circling your index finger clockwise or anticlockwise changes the volume up  or down. It takes a bit of practice to get right, and I found it a bit gimmicky, preferring to use the buttons on the steering wheel.

Rear legroom is very good, and the seats are as comfortable as the front. Rear seat passengers get their own aircon vents and some storage cubbies in the centre, as well as cup holders in the arm rest. The seat backs fold flat with the push of a button in each side of the boot, extending cargo space from an already generous 570 litres to a cavernous 1700 litres. There are storage cubbies in the boot floor, the farthest of which opens on a gas strut for easy access. The nearest to the back has storage for the loads covers and accessories when you need to remove them to get big loads in, something most cars don’t provide. The rear seats are split 40/20/40 for flexibility in loading longer items. The split tailgate is very cool, giving you the ability to open just the glass to drop things in, grab a jacket or whatever. The glass can be remotely popped open but must be shut by hand, unlike the main tailgate which has motorised open and close.

There are ambient lighting strips across the dash and all around the car. These can be changed to various colours – white, amber, green, purple etc. Other LEDs in various places also change to match. I really like this system and it makes the cabin feel very modern, if a bit like a disco at night. Everything is beautifully finished and trimmed in a stylish combo of piano black and textured aluminium.

There’s a large central storage bin/armrest which a power socket inside, plus power and USB sockets in the cubby at the bottom of the dash. This also has a wireless charger built in which charges the display key, or phones that have that feature. It has a neat spring-loaded sliding cover if you want to leave something in there out of sight. I did find that sometimes the display key got very hot when charging, to the point where it was a bit uncomfortable to put in my pocket.

The Drive

The 530D was dropped off to me by another DriveLife writer late at night, so my first drive was the school run in the morning. My drive is a bit tricky to reverse down, and my garden is a bit, ahem, unkempt. Because of this I appreciated the auto-dipping side mirrors in reverse, and the 360 degree camera system. This is by far the cleverest camera system I’ve used. In reverse it gives you a full top-down view and a rear view. These are overlaid with marks to show distance from obstacles, and the rear view has moving guidelines. When you get close to an obstacle the main view switches to a larger top-down view to help you judge distances better. If you want to get really fancy you can switch to manual and select views from all around the car. This is absolutely amazing and gives you a 3D model of the car in the middle and a full 360 degree view which you can fly around, seeing both all sides of the car. It’s demonstrated in our video here.

Halfway down my drive is an agapanthus which can brush against cars as I reverse past. As I reversed past it, the BMW slammed on the brakes, bringing the car to a stop so fast that for a second I thought I’d hit something solid. Once I double checked it was just a plant causing the stop, I reversed out to the road, and it happened again. This time due to the front corner detecting the stepp camber on our road. This happened every time I reversed out of my drive and was a little frustrating. This is a clever system and should prevent you from having bumps in car parks but it didn’t work well in my drive. It’s not something I’d want to disable though as it is genuinely useful and could save you from damage in a moment of inattention.

Once out on the road, the 530D really is a pleasure to drive. The straight 6 turbo-diesel engine makes a lovely low, throaty growl which can be a little addictive to say the least. And that twin-scroll turbo provides lots of torque from low revs, peaking at 620Nm. The 195kW engine drives all four wheels through BMW’s excellent 8-speed transmission, which always seems to have the right gear available. There are shifter paddles behind the wheel but I didn’t really feel the need to use them.

In Comfort mode – the standard setting – the adaptive dampers give the 530d an excellent, pliant, smooth ride. Road and wind noise are extremely well damped, even on rough surfaces, and don’t forget our car was fitted with chunky snow tyres.  Handling is also very good. This is a big, heavy car but it never seems to feel it, with minimal body roll on corners.

The quiet ride and good road manners mean you can enjoy the 16-speaker 600-watt Harman Kardon sound system. It’s excellent, with good bass and very good clarity, and it goes as loud as anyone would normally want and never distorts.

Change to Sport mode and the character of the 530D definitely changes. The dials change to red and the centre of the analogue speedo becomes a large digital readout. The ride is firmer, though not uncomfortably so, and the acceleration is even more urgent. It holds gears for longer on acceleration and intelligently changes down a gear when you need it, such as when exiting a roundabout. The central screen can be configured as sport gauges too, showing power and torque.

Eco Pro mode, as you’d expect, does the opposite, changing the dials to blue with a minimal speedo and a fuel usage/charge meter. The 530D has regenerative braking to charge the battery and minimise use of the alternator to save on fuel. Eco Pro softens the throttle and encourages you to drive more sedately.

The full-colour heads-up display is the same in all modes, showing a large digital speedo, and the current road speed limit in one corner. Satnav directions also appear there when needed. The speed limit is also displayed on the main cluster, and the satnav map, so you have no excuse for not knowing it – especially as the 530D reads speed limit signs very accurately.

The sign reading is also used to improve the already excellent cruise control system. I’ve said before that I think BMW’s cruise control is the best I’ve used. It brakes on hills to maintain the speed limit, and in the 530D has radar as well so you can just let it do its thing in stop/start traffic. It retains the same system as other BMWs for setting and adjusting speed. This works well and is intuitive, but it also adds a little intelligence. If you’re coming from say an 80 to a 50 limit and pass the 50 signs, then hard-press the down button it jumps straight to 50 instead of a 10kph increment. Similarly on the way back up. This can be set to add a modifier, say skipping to 53 instead of bang on 50. Clever stuff.

When using cruise there’s also steering assist which can read the lines on the road and provide steering input to guide the car around corners. It’s not autonomous driving by any means but could be a good safety feature, especially at night. I did find it to be a bit intermittent on New Zealand roads as we often have broken or non-existent white lines.

The Display Key is an interesting option and is really the 530D’s party piece. It’s part of the $1450 Technology Pack, which also gives you Remote Control Parking, and Apple CarPlay. The Display key is big and chunky – for a car key – and looks a bit like a phone, with a built-in colour touch-screen. It enables you to look at the car’s status (lights on, whether it’s locked, windows closed etc), or you can remotely turn on the aircon to a certain temperature, or set it to come on at a certain time. Fuel range is also available. But the party piece is Remote Control Parking. It’s intended for parking in, or getting out of, a tight garage or car park. Stand by the car, enter Remote mode, and you can start the engine, then use the remote to move the car directly forwards or backwards. It’s very cool, and demonstrated in this video. My only criticism of the Display Key is it would be nice to have a loop for a keyring so it could be hung on a hook for storage at home.

I spent a week with the BMW 530D and at the end, I really didn’t want to give it back. There are so many great things about this car, and too many features to cover even in our in-depth review. This is a car you can use every day for just about anything, a comfortable cruiser, a sporty wagon with ample torque and great power. Fuel consumption over the time at Drive Life was 7.7l/100km, which isn’t bad for a turbo 6 cylinder but a bit high compared to the quoted figure of 5.5l/100km.

The Competition

There aren’t many premium station wagons in the New Zealand market. Jaguar and Mercedes currently only list large sedans.

Brand / Model Engine Power Fuel L/100km 0-100km/h Price Highest to Lowest
Jaguar XJ Premium Luxury Sedan 3.0l 6 cylinder twin turbo diesel 221kW/700Nm 5.7 6.2s $155,000
Audi A6 BiTDI S Line Wagon 3.0l 6 cylinder twin turbo diesel 235kW/650Nm 6.0 5.2s $151,900
Mercedes Benz E350d Sedan 3.3.0l 6 cylinder turbo diesel 190kW/620Nm 5.6 5.9s $147,900
BMW 530d xDrive Touring 3.0l 6 cylinder turbo diesel 195kW/620Nm 5.5 5.6s $139,900

The pros and cons

Pros Cons
  • Fast
  • Economical
  • Comfortable
  • Spacious
  • Great stereo
  • Lots of tech and safety equipment
  • Display Key is very cool
  • Low speed crash prevention can be a little over-zealous
  • Steering Assist struggles on New Zealand roads

What we think

The 530D is a fantastic all-rounder. It’s very well put together and has a feeling of solidity about it. It’s comfortable with a great ride, good handling and excellent levels of cabin noise. There’s enough power to have some fun, and that torque and engine sound are addictive.

I really didn’t want to hand the keys back for this one.

Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5

Vehicle Type Large luxury station wagon
Starting Price $139,900 plus on-road costs
Tested Price $150,750  plus on-road costs

Technology Package $1450
(including BMW Display Key, Remote Control Parking, Apple CarPlay preparation)
M Sport Package $5900
(includes Dynamic Damper Control, BMW Individual High Gloss Shadowline, M Sport braking system, sun protection glazing, M exterior styling package, interior Aluminium trim, Rhombicle with highlight trim finishers in pearl chrome)
Panoramic glass sunroof $3500

Engine BMW Twin Power Turbo 6-cylinder diesel engine
Transmission 8-speed sport automatic transmission with gearshift paddles
0 – 100 kph 5.6 seconds
Kerb Weight 1875kg
Length x Width x Height 4942 x 1868 x 1498mm
Cargo Capacity 570 Litres seats up

1700 Litres seats folded

Fuel Tank 66 litres
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined –  5.5L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined –  7.7L / 100km

ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 stars
Warranty 5 year warranty

3 year scheduled service plan

5 year roadside assist

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Rob Clubley
I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!


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