This small but powerful BMW is the best we’ve driven yet
By Maxmilian Wechsler
IF you’re a car buff and watch foreign TV news channels, you have probably noticed that BMW cars are quite often used by global political and business leaders. Many diplomatic corps have made it their official brand as well. In the latest Mission Impossible 4, Ghost Protocol, the constant use of BMW cars was pretty obvious, and perhaps a little overdone. But it’s an accurate reflection of the increasing presence in all spheres of the German-made luxury cars, the sales of which are going through the roof around the world and in Thailand.
After road testing no less than seven BMW models in the past year or so, I don’t find this surprising at all, and I have to say that the model I took out a few weeks ago for four days, the 528i Sport, impressed me most of all.
Mathias Pfalz, President of BMW Group Thailand, says in an interview in this issue of The BigChilli (page 118) that in the first quarter of 2012 sales of BMW cars in the kingdom increased by a staggering 48 per cent from the same period last year, from 827 to 1,227 vehicles. This figure says a lot about the purchasing power of people in Thailand, and also the quality of the product. As a reviewer my biggest problem has been finding something to complain about, and the 528i Sport is no exception.
Taking a look around the internet it would seem that most testers agree with me. There are very few negative reviews, particularly of 5 Series models, and not even much in the way of negative comments. Most of these sound as if the reviewers are “reaching” for something bad to say to sound balanced. For instance: “There is much lamenting about the fact that the new BMW 528i has lost some of his glamour through the down-sizing of the familiar 6-cylinder to a 4 cylinder”; “it is hard to distinguish 5 Series from 7”; or “the joystick shifter is a constant source of aggravation.” I totally disagree with these comments and I think if you can’t find faults, you shouldn’t make them up. Perhaps some reviewers are jealous of those people who don’t have to give their BMWs back to the showrooms after a few days of driving them.
In my opinion, the 528i Sport is better than all the other BMW models I have tested. There is only one other car in its category that compares favorably to the 528i Sport. I won’t disclose the brand, but it costs three times more in Thailand.
BMW 528i Sport is a luxury sedan assembled in Rayong and sells for 4,299,000 baht. However, some enthusiastic buyers with cash on hand or good credit are prepared to pay more to receive the car immediately, rather than wait three to six months for delivery.
Before I collected the 528i Sport for the road test, one senior BMW representative emphasized the new 4-cylinder TwinPower Turbo petrol engine, among other innovations the car has to offer. These include an automatic stop-start system that will stop the engine while the car is idling at traffic lights and automatically restarts it when you lift your foot off the brake pedal.
I was keen to get a look at the engine so I lifted the bonnet before getting on with the test drive. It was the same size as in the Z4 sDrive20i Highline I had taken for a spin a few weeks before. Comparing the new 4-cylinder with the old 6-cylinder, there seemed to be a lot of empty space in the engine compartment at the front of the car. I asked the executive if this meant BMW might be making smaller cars in the future, but he seemed to think this was unlikely.
At any rate, when I finally got behind the wheel and stepped on the accelerator, the car took off like a missile. I just wonder how small and powerful BMW engines will be in 20 years.
To summarize my impressions – and I am afraid I will have to repeat some comments made about other BMW models from earlier tests – the 528i Sport is a classy luxury sedan with a sporty look from the outside and an impressive interior made from top quality materials, with a perfect finish overall.
The car is loaded with the latest technology, including xenon lights
Basically, this car has everything needed to put both driver and passengers at ease and in the mood to enjoy life in the fast lane.
Balancing the great acceleration is the incredible braking system. The car is quiet and comfortable and the ride is smooth. The styling of the cabin is exquisite and functional. The driving position is great and all seats are just brilliant. There’s plenty of leg room at front and back and a large boot. A camera at the rear is really helpful in providing a look back when going in reverse, as if someone were standing outside to let you know how much clearance there is.
BMW 528i Sport doubles as a family car, and the suspension can be adjusted between SPORT+, SPORT, COMFORT, and for the first time, ECO PRO modes. The last mode can help drivers to save fuel. When the suspension mode is adjusted, it changes the character of the car as well. When you select a mode it shows up on the LCD monitor. I would need several more pages to begin to describe all the options.
This car is superb and as I have said, my new favourite from BMW, even ahead of the BMW 730 Li, which regular readers will know I fell head-over-heels for in a recent test drive. But I like the 528i better for one reason: It is slightly smaller and therefore easier to navigate through narrow Bangkok streets, and is especially good in small car parks.
Talking points from a BMW representative
The BMW representative told me that the 528i Sport looks similar to other 5 Series models from the outside except for the Sport Package. The big difference is under the bonnet in the new 4-cylinder TwinPower Turbo petrol engine.
“Its advantages are more toque or horsepower,” he said. ‘It’s also lighter, which results in increased performance and lower fuel consumption than the previous 6-cylinder engine. From now on, all petrol-powered 5 Series cars will have this engine, as will other models like the Z4 and X3.
“Apart from the performance of 528i Sport, there are relatively minor differences inside the car. For example, the TV option – you can watch TV on the monitor, but only when the car is stationary, for safety reasons.
“The new technology in this car was designed to use with a smart phone. Among other things it allows you to listen to internet radio stations around the world.”
He also mentioned that the most popular colour for the car is white, followed by black, and that there are many interior colours to choose from.