2024 BMW 5 Series First Drive: Gas power takes the stage

The 2024 BMW 5 Series is officially here, and while we drove the electric versions of this midsize luxury sedan last month, now it’s time to try out the first gasoline-powered version. Specifically, we just got behind the wheel of the 2024 BMW 530i xDrive, which is the all-wheel-drive version of the four-cylinder 5 Series. For those hoping for impressions on the 2024 540i xDrive and its boosted inline-six – a U.S. exclusive this time around – you’ll need to wait, as its launch is staggered behind the base 530i. 

What do you get with BMW’s entry-level midsize sport sedan? Compared to the previous 5 Series, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is revamped and features mild-hybrid technology. BMW made improvements and optimizations to the intake ducts, combustion chambers, ignition system, fuel injection, camshaft control and exhaust gas routing. In conjunction with the mild-hybrid tech, all of BMW’s changes result in an improvement of 7 horsepower and 38 pound-feet of torque versus the outgoing 530i. That brings the totals to 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is up for 2024, too. Both drive versions achieve 27 miles per gallon city, 35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined, amounting to bumps of 2 mpg in every category versus 2023. Don’t let those figures wash over you – that’s nearly the same fuel economy as a Honda Accord despite having 63 more horsepower and about 800 more pounds to lug around.

Setting aside efficiency, though, hold the “boost” paddle (also the downshift paddle) for 0.8 seconds or more, and the powertrain will maximize the electric torque boost from the mild-hybrid for the best possible acceleration. Pair the engine with rear-wheel drive, and BMW claims a 0-60-mph time of 5.9 seconds. Meanwhile, xDrive models do the same sprint in 5.8 seconds, thanks to the extra traction off the line. 

Those acceleration numbers are mighty similar to what you get out of the base i5 eDrive40. We drove the EV right after getting behind the wheel of the 530i xDrive, and can confirm the timing feels similar despite the very different ways these two 5ers deliver their power. The 530i doles out its torquey thrust via an eight-speed automatic transmission with smooth and speedy shifts. Maximum torque arrives at an early 1,600 rpm, though there isn’t much in the way of accelerative or auditory reward for holding onto gears to redline. While acceleration feels even more effortless and silent in the i5, the 530i’s engine takes on a muted gruff-and-growly theme through the abundance of sound deadening. There’s a great argument to be made for good-sounding gas engines being the more enjoyable drive partner than an EV, but that’s not the case here, as we prefer the i5 over this generally middling four-cylinder.

BMW invites these sorts of comparisons by making both the gasser and EV take on the same form with nearly identical interiors. It can even be hard to tell them apart from the outside, but you’ll know it’s the 530i coming at you from the more traditional kidney grille with active flaps for cooling.

One rather distinctive point of separation between the 530i and EV is in the handling. The gas-powered 5 Series enjoys the same increase to wheelbase and track as the i5, though each model gets unique chassis components and control systems due to the wide variance of vehicle weights. A base 530i pushes the scales at a mere 4,051 pounds versus the i5 eDrive40’s 4,916-pound curb weight. That’s a massive difference that becomes especially noticeable on narrow, winding roads where the 530i shows its agility. Still, the difference isn’t as stark as you’d suspect considering the i5’s low center of gravity that gives it a sense of stability and body roll control that rivals the 530i’s.

The optional M Sport Suspension was the only suspension available for testing in every 5 Series on hand. It’s still fairly low-tech compared to what’s offered on the full-fat i5 M60 (active anti-roll tech, rear air suspension and rear-wheel steering), but it does come with a more aggressive – albeit passive – damper and spring setup designed to improve handling. As we’ve come to expect from the 5 Series, the 530i xDrive twists its way through a winding road happily with a reasonable amount of body roll and quick reactions from swinging about the chunky, flat-bottom steering wheel. Our test car’s M Sport brakes are likely overkill for most use cases and are hooked up to a responsive pedal for assured stopping power. Overall, it’s quite capable when called upon, but BMW is clearly leaving a whole lot on the table for performance models to come at a later date.

Driven sedately, the M Sport Suspension shows its duality by being a mighty comfortable partner on a rough road. Its dampers do well to eliminate any floatiness over bumps but are still forgiving enough to filter out road imperfections without jostling the cabin too much. It’s essentially exactly as you’d expect it to be: more comfy than a 3 Series, but nowhere near as cosseting as a 7 Series. All that said, the i5 is the more enjoyable daily driver, as it wafts along in comfortable silence without needing to worry about boost to build for off-the-line acceleration or for a transmission to summon a downshift when traffic clears.

The interior experience is essentially identical to the i5 – you can get all the nitty-gritty details about that here. Our impressions remain largely unchanged, but some elements are worthy of being called out, such as the improved iDrive 8.5 software. Activating or turning off your heated/ventilated seats and heated steering wheel is now a breeze. Plus, the always-there bottom row of quick toggles makes switching between tasks a million times easier. The whole system is smoother and quicker to react, and the ventilated wireless phone charging pad is a big improvement over BMW’s previous design that had a tendency to cause our phones to overheat when on the pad for too long.

All of that is great news for anyone considering the new 5 Series, and while the i5 wins in a lot of categories, the 530i makes a hardy case for itself on some key selling points. For example, its trunk is 1.4 cubes larger than the i5’s, and even comes with a spare tire. Its range on a full tank is a hearty 477 miles versus the eDrive40’s 295 miles (only with specific wheel/tire setups). And the rear-drive 530i starts at $61,195, including destination, undercutting the also-rear-drive i5 on price by a not-insignificant $8,900. You might be able to recoup most of that loss by using the federal tax credit lease loophole on the i5 plus fuel savings, but the gap is nevertheless present.

BMW still firmly believes that both the gas-powered and electric-powered 5 Series have a place in this world, and we tend to agree, though our head-nodding is a little more hesitant for the four-cylinder-powered 530i. If you’re going to pony up for a gasoline-powered BMW sedan, it’s hard to not want that sweet inline-six, which, when it arrives, will be $4,700 more than an equivalent 530i xDrive. The 530i is a little easier to dismiss in the context of these more enjoyable variants, but no matter the version, this new 5 Series is fun to drive, features a lovely tech suite and will turn heads – we’ll let you form your own opinion about whether those heads are turning in adoration or disapproval.

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