2012 BMW 528i: First Drive Page 2

March 9, 2012
Just as we've said in our full review of the 2012 5-Series, there's plenty of trunk space, and it's well-shaped, but back-seat space is surprisingly limited (in knee space, mainly) compared to other sedans this size—193 inches long, or a few inches longer than most U.S. mid-size cars.

Also as we've noted in our drives of other 5-Series models, we find the steering—which some outlets have criticized for feeling too detached in the current 5-Series—to quite perfectly suit the character of the car, especially here in 528i trim. This is a nicely balanced, everyday-driving sport sedan, not a top-performance machine, and while the steering mutes out most feeling of the road, some feedback is there, near the limit.

Engine is refined, but Auto Start Stop isn't

No complaints on refinement—the new four is also surprisingly refined. It settles to a low purr, and compared to the 328i, which we'd just driven a week or so before, the 528i didn't allow as much (or any, really) direct-injection noise at idle and tip-in.

The one feature in the 528i that did not feel refined is the Auto Start Stop, which felt noticeably rougher here than in the 328i models we'd driven days before, or in six-cylinder Euro-spec 5-Series models we'd driven in the past. The implementation of start-stop here is, simply, a little rough, and you do—always—notice with a shudder when the engine stops, and when it's restarted. And if you happen to momentarily step on the brake, then let up as traffic creeps ahead, you can sometimes hear the starter motor cranking for more than an instant. On the bright side, this feature could significantly boost your mileage in stop-and-go driving; and with a press of the button (next to the ignition switch), you can disable it (at each start, though).

And while the 528i is a little bit faster than the old car, mileage is much, much improved. Over about 540 miles of driving—including Los Angeles boulevards, long slogs up freeways, and mountainous Sierra Nevada two-laners—we managed an average of nearly 29 mpg according to the trip computer. That's surprisingly in line with this car's 23 mpg city, 34 mpg highway rating, and particularly impressive as it wasn't in Eco Pro mode, and we weren't driving in a very steady fashion.

Keep in mind, that otherwise this is a BMW 5-Series—ours with a bottom-line price within a few grand of $60,000—and it does well in living up to its task as a tech-savvy luxury car. It's very easy to add fifteen grand or more to the bottom-line price, and ours felt only moderately loaded up, at $57,275, which included the Premium Package (power tailgate, garage-door opener, park distance control); the Tech Package (rearview camera, nav); and the Sport Package (dynamic dampers, multi-contour seats, 18-inch V-spoke alloys, and upgraded trim); plus Comfort Access keyless entry and heated front seats. A number of other extras that are optional in some other luxury sedans—like rain-sensing wipers, dynamic cruise control, xenon headlamps; and an iPod adapter—are all standard here, though.

We think that BMW performed a nearly perfect efficiency-minded engine transplant here. There's no good reason to stay away from the base 5-Series because it's gone four-cylinder, and we wager that even more will consider it because of its excellent mileage.

Essentially, the new engine makes the 5-Series more willing to perform multiple roles, ranging from dollar-conscious commuter to weekend serious sport sedan. And the turbo four makes it a better car for either of those roles.

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