BMW introduced the new generation 5 series known as the F10 in Malaysia sometime in mid 2010. With the F10, BMW has moved away from the swashbuckling ‘flame surface’ design of the E60 towards a safer corporate look, reminiscence of the earlier E39. Being artistically inclined I would have preferred BMW to be more adventurous and reach out for groundbreaking trends. Nevertheless, the F10’s overall design still retains the grandeur of the 5 Series and would not look out of place if parked next to a row of high end cars.
I think one of the strong points of the F10 design is at the rear. Initial impressions during the launch last year was to relate it to the E90 3 Series. However, the F10 looks better in the flesh and the car has a distinctive look that you would be able to spot from afar. The F10’s rear tail lamps are of the right size and merged nicely with the car’s sporty rear contours. This is one area which the F10 holds an edge over the E60 as the latter’s tail lamps though unique in appearance, looked a bit mismatched with the rear lines.
In terms of dimensions the F10 is longer and wider than the E60 but the latter is still a bit taller. The F10 generally offers more space for driver/passengers but the E60 is slightly wider at the rear. These are some of the selected dimensions I picked up from the catalogues of the two cars:-
|Width (including side mirrors)
|Front seat to roof
|Rear seat to roof
|Front row width
|Rear row width
With the launch of the 528i, BMW Malaysia will now have 4 different F10 models in its stable, ie the entry level 523i, the diesel powered 520d, the mid range 528i and the higher range 535i. The sampled model which is the Malaysian assembled 528i is well specified and offers a host of features that is usually available in top of the line models. These notable features include Rear view camera, Dynamic Driving Control, Integral Active Steering, Powered sunroof and Head-up Display.
As expected, safety features are abound with the standard core safety features such as multiple air-bags, Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Anti-Lock Braking System, Braking Assistant, Dynamic Braking lights, safety bodyshell (crumple zones, side impact protection, active bonnet and bumpers regenerating in low level impacts). Daytime running lights are white LED light rings.
One of my first impressions when got into the car was the marked improvement in the quality of the driver’s seat. Coming off driving the BMW X1xdrive 20d over an extended period, this was a higher level altogether and if I can recall correctly is even better than the E60. The balance is just right where the seat is not too firm yet offers the right amount of cushioning and support for a comfortable drive. Both front seats are electronically adjustable.
Although the specs stated more space for the driver in the F10 vis-a-vis the E60, this was not noticeable to me. There was sufficient legroom and headroom for all but I was close to touching the roof and had to lower my seat to improve my seating position. Headroom appears a bit constrained. At the rear, I bumped my head on the mid section of the roof while trying to reposition myself to take shots. This rear mid section of the roof had a noticeable hump which is probably housing the mechanism of the powered sunroof.
The quality of assembly and the materials used are first rate. At the centre console, the car came equipped with a larger 10.2 inch LCD display which interfaces with the iDrive controls, navigation system, entertainment and rear view camera. One new noticeable addition is the integrated owners manual as part of the iDrive system. This is a good and convenient feature which provides even animated descriptions on some of the car’s features.
The larger LCD display is most welcomed but was a bit of a let down as it lacked contrast. It is okay in the shade or at night but it is a bit dull on brighter days. I had difficulty projecting the LCD images on these photos. This is as bright as it gets and appears a bit of a step backward compared to the older but brighter 7 inch LCD display. Moving towards the lower part of centre console is the gearshift lever, iDrive controller and various buttons to activate the Dynamic Driving Control, the electronic handbrake and storage compartments.
The 528i is equipped with Sports leather steering with paddle shifters. Multifunction buttons are available to operate the cruise control (which can only be activated for speeds of 30km/h and above), telephone (Bluetooth), voice and audio functions. The instrument panel comprised four analogue displays (speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge and engine oil temperature). It is integrated nicely with a high resolution 5.7 inch LCD display which is similar to the one seen in the earlier F02 7 Series.
Driver’s ergonomics is an improvement over the E60 simply because there are fewer stalks behind the steering wheel. In the past I used to press on the wrong stalk in trying to activate the cruise control buttons. The cruise control buttons are now located on the steering wheel and is much easier and cleaner to operate. There is an option to switch on the Head-up display which will also show if the cruise control is activated.
Powered by the N52B30 engine, the car is capable of producing a max power of 190kW (258hp) @ 6,600rpm and max torque of 310Nm @ 2,600-5,000rpm. Top speed is rated at 250km/h and based on the specs the car is able to hit the 0-100km/h sprit in 6.7seconds. Upon ignition, the engine sounded refined and emitted a pleasant metallic buzz. Engage the reverse gear and this automatically activates the rear view camera (with guiding lines) visible on the main LCD display.
My initial test drive yielded an extremely satisfying driving experience. The car which was placed on NORMAL mode under the Dynamic Driving Control was very responsive, with seamless gear changes and first rate ride quality. There was no lag in response from the engine and the car accelerated convincingly and comfortably. This clearly outclassed the entry to mid level models of the E60.
Subsequent test drives whilst testing the functions of the Dynamic Driving Control yielded a mix bag of results. The other options apart from NORMAL are COMFORT, SPORTS and SPORTS+. The COMFORT mode performed adequately and is the softest setting. This will suit less than ideal road conditions. For the SPORTS and SPORT+ modes I sensed a firming up on the overall suspension and a change in transmission shifts, leaning more towards lower gears.
In the SPORTS and SPORTS+ mode and accelerating normally from a stationary position or from slow speeds, yielded a lag in response from the engine followed by a sudden uncomfortable jerk forward. I am not certain whether this is intended but it was not a comfortable experience. Subsequent gear changes are smooth but the initial jerk forward surprised me. I don’t recall having this experience with this function on my earlier drives with the BMW Z4 and the BMW 740Li. Activating the SPORT or SPORT+ mode during mid-speeds was better as the car became more responsive and ‘Sportier’.
Transmission is upgraded in the F10 528i to an 8-speed automatic with Steptronic function operated via the gearshift paddles/gear lever. Gearshifts during NORMAL driving mode was excellent with smooth and seamless gear changes (have a listen to the sound file on normal acceleration below). Except for the wider ratio between the first and second gears, the other gears are quite closely spaced.
Handling is another strong point of this car. Equipped with an electric powered steering via the Integral Active Steering system, the steering was sharp, responsive and accurate. The Integral Active Steering enables the rear wheels to turn slightly when you steer to improve manuverability. Despite having a relatively light steering feel, driving on trunk roads was a breeze as it was easy to predict the turns and keep to the driving line.
In the expressway, the car cruised comfortably and was very eager to breach the speed limit. The cabin is generally well insulated from external noises. Using our sound level meter, we recorded a reading of 63db in the cabin (highest average reading excluding one off noises) at 110km/h on the North South Expressway. I was expecting better numbers but noted that faint wind noise was already creeping into the cabin at this speed. During the high speed cruise, ride quality in the NORMAL mode was excellent and the car was well planted on the road.
Tyres are Goodyear Excellence runflats 245/45R 18 for both the front and rear sets. Harsh ride due to runflat tyres are now a thing of the past as BMW through the F10 has managed to improve the ride quality in the NORMAL mode via the Dynamic Driving Control on the 528i to a level is well ahead of the outgoing E60.
Fuel consumption throughout the test drive was on the higher side. The test vehicle has a mileage of about 6,000km and the car returned an average fuel consumption of around 13.1 litres per 100 km on a mix of highway and trunk road runs. This was well above the stated specs of 8 liters per 100 km (combined) in the brochure.
Improvements were noted in the Navigation System Professional. Roads and areas in Kuala Lumpur which were not recognizable in the previous version are now clearly identified in this updated version. To cool the car quickly in a hot and humid place like Malaysia, the car is equipped with automatic air conditioning with 4-zone control. For rear passengers, there are separate air vents at the B pillars and at the centre console with individual temperature settings.
Entertainment is via the HiFi System Professional system. This is a well balanced sound system that is capable of producing some serious grooves. There is a surround sound option to further expand the spatial experience. My personal preference is to deactivate this surround sound option as I prefer a slightly brighter and more forward sounding system.
Nightime driving is enhanced with the Adaptive Headlights system. Working in tandem with this system are functions such as Variable light distribution, cornering lights and headlight range control. The cabin is well lit at night with various individual reading lights (front and rear) as well as built in ambient lights.
The BMW F10 528i provided an engaging and satisfying driving experience. Compared with the E60, BMW has raised the bar to a higher level. Driving under the NORMAL mode, the car was responsive, provided good handling and ride quality. It is also a well specified car. Nevertheless, average fuel consumption and cabin insulation could have been better. As for the unusual experience in the SPORTS mode above, perhaps it is a one off or batch specific issue. Further updates on this will be made on this post if I have another opportunity to test drive a similar model in the near future.
|70 litres @ RM133 (RON 95)
|RM2,120 per annum
|Free service for first 3 years
|3 Years or 60,000km whichever is earlier
These are estimated costs applicable to Malaysia only which are subject to change without notice. Road Tax is for private registration in Peninsular Malaysia. Standard/scheduled service excludes additional or specific service/repairs requested. Please reconfirm these terms and costs with an authorized BMW dealer.
|6-cylinder in-line petrol engine
|190 kW (258hp) @ 6,600 rpm
|310 Nm @ 2,600-5,000 rpm
|8 litres per 100 km (combined)
Source: BMW Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized BMW dealer
Click on these to sample sounds from the car!