Dabolim, Goa, 1830hrs, Runway 26. The pilot pushes the throttles wide open and the A320 gingerly begins its roll. Twenty-five seconds and some serious amounts of thrust later, the torpedo-shaped capsule raises its nose to the sky. What makes this departure truly stand out from the ordinary is that we are flying right into one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen in a long time.
But there’s also another reason why this flight is so unforgettable. Thing is, I’ve just stepped out from behind the wheel of Mercedes’ brand-spanking-new E-class, after pedaling it around all day, and then, when I hop off the plane in Delhi, I’ll be getting straight into BMW’s all-new 5-series! How’s that for timing? Now, going from one drive to another is often par for the course; drives of new cars often tend to get bunched up towards the end of the month with deadlines being what they are, but driving two brand-new competitors, one right after the other, well that’s just never happened.
The next morning, Delhi is cold and grey. The temperature on the digital dash reads 8deg C, and the mercury dips even further as we head out of town. Sunny Goa this isn’t. BMW’s new 3.0-litre straight-six, however, is lapping it all up, wolfing down all that cold dense air like a hungry beast. I recently drove this car in Portugal, but here on the highway, the engine spinning at 3,000rpm, the seamless manner in which it delivers its power – in one thick, wide stream – is just so addictive. I tuck in and go to full throttle every time I see a hint of an open stretch, and the powerband is so wide and the response so linear, it feels like there’s a controlled explosion going on under the bonnet, the wide rear wheels almost always fighting for traction. The new 5 really does have the ability to pin you in the back and keep you there.
The engine basically pulls all the way from 1,600 to 5,200rpm. And, like any well-tuned motor, the faster you spin it, the stronger it pulls; no sudden explosion of torque here, no sir. This engine also has a near-4,000rpm powerband, and that’s as close as you can get to a petrol today. Yes, select Sport, hold on to a gear in manual, and it will pull all the way to 5,600rpm, but after 5,300, progress slowly fades.
The new B57 3.0 straight-six is also much more refined. The mid-range is smooth, like the engine is gargling rubber bullets instead of ball bearings, and at low RPMs, it’s much quieter too. How has BMW achieved this increase in performance and refinement? Well, for one, it has upped injection pressure to a huge 2,500 bar. There are now six injections per stroke to help smoothen out combustion shock, there’s a new twin-scroll turbocharger for better and faster responses, and the engine also gets an all-new, lighter aluminium block, the innards of which are sprayed with metal for better sound insulation.
Still, BMW’s new straight-six isn’t the epitome of refinement. Other large-capacity diesels from the competition are quieter still, and the B57 still has a bit of a grumble at low speeds and that typical BMW angry rattle when extended. If this engine has to be remembered for anything, when the epitaph of the diesel is finally written, it will have to be for the near petrol-like manner in which it delivers the 265hp. And 0-100kph in a claimed 5.7sec: that’s serious performance. Remember, however, that the 530d will be the top-spec engine in the Indian 5-series line-up. Lower in the range will be two four-cylinder options – the 190hp 520d diesel and the 252hp 530i petrol.
Price Range (in lakhs)*
Chassis & Body
Deputy editor at Autocar India.Shapur is at the forefront of the magazine's extensive road testing activities and oversees the test instrumentation and data acquisition. Shapur has possibly the most experience among all road testers in the country.
Send a message to Shapur Kotwal
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Issue: 212 | Autocar India: April 2017
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