Performance of the 530d is entirely adequate, if short of the face-distorting shove mustered by some of Europe’s brawnier performance diesels (and which we can safely predict the M550d will deliver). The 530d’s peak output of 261 horsepower is respectable, although it’s the 457-lb-ft torque peak—available from 2000 rpm—that gives the car its effortless demeanor. The standard ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic works best with the driving-mode switch left in its default Comfort setting because Sport has it changing down a gear on small accelerator applications when it doesn’t really need to, and we also have to criticize the light operation and plasticky feel of the steering-wheel shift paddles. Oh, and even Europeans can’t get a manual transmission with this model; sob!
Only when pushed hard does the 530d really speak to the truth of its fuel type, with the reluctance to rev characteristic of its genre. In drive, the gearbox upshifts at 4500 rpm, even at full, matted throttle. It can be made to rev higher in manual override, although no higher than 5250 rpm, still 250 revs shy of the indicated redline on the tachometer. It’s quickest when left to its own devices, with BMW’s claimed 5.4-second zero-to-62-mph time making it marginally quicker than the company’s claim for the 530i xDrive.
The rest of the dynamic experience delivers the same speedy-but-sensible brief. While this 5-series definitely has sharper tack than non-AMG Mercedes-Benz E-classes, it’s still a fair way off the level of involvement offered by its predecessors, with electrically assisted power steering that delivers crisp front-end responses but nothing more than simulated feedback. And the xDrive system does a good impression of a Quattro-equipped Audi in terms of lack of drama. An electronically controlled clutch distributes torque between front and rear axles almost instantly, and its efficient operation effectively removes any of the rear-drive sensation we normally associate with brawny BMWs. A gain in failsafe motoring, but a loss in driver involvement.