Last post on Nov 25, 2013 at 11:27 AM
You are in the Sedans
What is this discussion about?
Lexus GS 430, Acura RL, BMW 5 Series, Volvo S80, Audi A6, Infiniti M35, Infiniti M45, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Cadillac STS, Sedan
#3162 of 10348 Took the new 530xi out for a test drive. . . .
Jul 31, 2005 (5:12 pm)
Every month someone posts the sales results for the LPS family here on edmunds. At the top of the list, often, is the BMW 5 (sometimes the Mercedes E), at the bottom of the list, often, is the Acura RL or the Audi A6.
The 530xi (and the 255HP 5 series) haven’t been out long enough to determine what, if any, impact the new urge and AWD will have for the BMW, but there is local evidence that the new engine and the availability of AWD will only serve to make the BMW more popular.
Regardless of what edmund’s editors or Car and Driver editors, etc, have to say on the subject, it is clear that the BMW 5 series is selected (by customers) about 3 times more often than either the Acura or the Audi. The Infiniti, Acura and Audi may have “beaten” the BMW time after time based on comparison test reports and one-off reports such as the ones in “national” newspapers (USA Today comes to mind.)
None of these compares has, apparently, done much, if any damage to BMW’s perception in the market place by those who are buying the cars. Heck, Audi’s A6 came out on top in Automobile magazine’s comparison report – yet Audi still fights for its place at or near the bottom of the sales reports month after month.
Moreover, based only on MSRP, the BMW is often much more money or is lower in content than the Japanese LPS cars; and, a BMW 5 and an Audi A6 when “comparably equipped” often demonstrates a significant price disadvantage for the BMW – yet it still easily outsells the Audi.
Clearly BMW – for whatever reason – is able to market a car that people want regardless of what is said here and in the automotive press.
So, as a member of the BMW club (by virtue of my wife buying a 2005 X3), I went to the BMW Store here in Cincinnati yesterday and asked for a test drive of a new 530xi.
I was given the keys to a $54,500 530xi with the new 6speed Steptronic transmission. I was told that stick shifts and sport package equipped versions (and the sport package does NOT include either bigger wheels and tires or sport suspension) are “ordered” cars only. In fact, the car I was given was an ordered car, for it had a $1200 option that the BMW Client Rep claimed was a “waste” – it had “comfort seats.” BTW, no matter what I did, I could NOT get comfortable in these seats, despite their multiple power articulated capabilities.
A $54,500 the 530xi is, believe it or not, a “strippie” – no upgraded sound system, no satellite navigation, but skinny 225 x 50 x 17” A/S tires and wheels were part of the deal. Although there are really great and colorful interior combinations offered by BMW, this 5 series was built with the popular (apparently) black on black on black interior color combinations – it was confining and depressing. Black gloss wood built into a black dashboard and the interior was awash with dull black leather. The fit and finish, however, was great.
My personal dislike of black interiors is just that, personal. I was told that the black gloss wood could be replaced with birch gloss wood – that would have really been a major improvement. Indeed the interior of this car could only be described as “stark.”
Otherwise, the BMW 530xi automatic was clearly tight, fairly responsive, “adequately” powered (in the same way that an Audi A6 3.2 can be said to be adequately powered.) The 6 speed Steptronic transmission works virtually the same way as the Audi Tiptronic works – i.e., it thinks it is smarter (in full auto mode) than the driver. Thankfully, just like the tip, the step can be shifted manually. Oddly, the Steptronic upshifts when pulled back and downshifts when pushed forward. This seems backwards to me, and I believe it has nothing to do with the fact that the Audi tip is programmed exactly the opposite.
I could easily get used to either configuration – I just wish all the manumatics behaved with the same “logic.” Pick one, that is my message.
The 5 needed the extra grunt the new engine offers. The torque seems to come on a little later than either the M35X or the A6 3.2. The 530xi does not feel slow, but it is, to repeat, only adequately quick. Both the Acura and the Infiniti clearly have more urge than the BMW. Subjectively, the A6 between 0 – 80mph feels slightly peppier.
The new 530xi configured as the one I drove (no sport, unimpressive wheels and tires, etc.) clearly emphasizes luxury. At 85mph it felt like it was barely moving – it was very quiet and stable. Even at 95mph the car did not seem to be in any way even breathing heavily. This new BMW could, were it legal, make the 100 mile run between Cincinnati and Columbus a quiet, comfortable one hour ride, of this I am convinced.
This car was not floaty at all; it was very very comfortable and very very quiet. Even the engine’s sweet sounds were mostly muted even at full throttle at high RPM’s. This is so uncharacteristically BMW, I was slightly disappointed. One of the things I really like about the Audi 4.2 V8 and 3.2FSI engines is the sound they make at full cry. Even the M35X makes more “noise” than the 530xi – although the M’s engine lacks the refinement of either the Audi or the BMW.
I’m “used” to BMW’s turbine-like engines, and although I know it was there, it was muted – too much.
The car was under-tired and although it was typical BMW responsive, it easily pushed its skinny, 50 series, H-rated rubber beyond its comfort zone. I don’t know how much the 18” wheel/tire option costs – it has to be worth whatever it costs, however. I would can the $1200 comfort seats and get the up rated and bigger shoes. Indeed, I would get the “free” transmission and cut the costs an additional $1250, too. I don’t know how much it would cost, but it would seem that the new 530xi would be an even better compromise of luxury and sport if it had been equipped with the bigger wheels and tires, manual transmission, sat nav and high zoot stereo.
My guess is, that it still would have had its wonderful engine still muted too much, isolated its passengers from the road a little bit more than I would like (but I say the same about the A6), but these “swap” changes would’ve transformed this car from the “Buick” of BMW’s into the car that I, for one, always imagined it really is, the BMW of LPS’s.
But, why even bother? When you are, repeatedly, the sales leader – nothin’ you or I say (and no review penned by edmund’s editors either) matters. People are voting with their dollars. BMW is on a roll.
The “buyer” at Ohio’s largest BMW dealer’s revelation that no stick shifts and no sport packages will be ordered for “inventory,” tells me something else. People apparently want a “gentrified” (Buick-like?) BMW 5 – the BMW buyer orders what sells, not what is the most inspiring and enjoyable performer. Luxury is first and foremost, Performance must be, to quote an edmund’s review, “a distant second.”
Drive it like you live.
#3163 of 10348 Re: Took the new 530xi out for a test drive. . . . [markcincinnati]
Jul 31, 2005 (6:03 pm)
Interesting report. I think part of the reason the 5 still sells so well here is that I'm willing to bet that many buyers either arent aware of new competition such as the M35, or they simply arent interested in paying $40+ for an Acura or Infiniti badge. The E still sells at the top too, despite the fact that its now much older than most of the class. That makes me think that people are buying it because of the 3-pointed star, and not because it and the 5 series are still the best cars in the class. BMW selling a lot of luxury leaning 5s backs up my hypothesis. These buyers arent interested in slalom speeds.
While you were testing the 530xi, I was at Audi\MB\Porsche in Hunt Valley, and the keys being handed to me were for a brand new 911 Carrera Cabrio with the 6-speed - the only one they had. The sales guy actually caught some heat for letting me drive it at all. An absolutely amazing car.. I was over 120mph on the highway, and having the top down at that speed was no problem. In my XKR, the wind gets out of control around 80mph. Oh, if only used Porches were affordable. Anyway, that should prove that at least some of us Lexus drivers still know what a real driving experience is. If Lexus could make the SC430 a little more like the 911 Cabrio and a little less like a 2-door ES330, I might actually be interested.
#3164 of 10348 Re: CR Overall Luxury sedan rankings [jrock65]
Jul 31, 2005 (8:36 pm)
Very interesting results, but is that really the E320 or did you mean the E350? Has CR tested a E350 yet?
#3165 of 10348 Re: Took the new 530xi out for a test drive. . . . [lexusguy]
Jul 31, 2005 (8:41 pm)
The E still sells at the top too, despite the fact that its now much older than most of the class. That makes me think that people are buying it because of the 3-pointed star, and not because it and the 5 series are still the best cars in the class.
The E and 5-Series still sit at the top of the charts due in part to status, but more importantly they offer much more choice than anyone else, especially the E-Class. Only Audi offers awd on both their V6 and V8 sedans, but MB has wagons with a V8 or a V6 with or without awd, a diesel, and a AMG models that now comes in wagon form too. The most awesome people carrier on the market, the E55 "Estate" as they say over there. Now why the new A6 isn't doing better is beyond me, it offers as much choice (minus a AMG-like model and the diesel which are niche models) in sedans as Mercedes does.
#3166 of 10348 2006 RL changes
Jul 31, 2005 (8:48 pm)
The dramatically redesigned RL went on sale last year as an all-new model featuring a 3.5-liter VTEC V-6 engine and the groundbreaking Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ system. The increased performance, exciting new styling and an assortment of exciting interior features have pushed the RL to record sales in 2005. For 2006, Acura introduces an optional Technology Package for the RL, which adds three advanced new features:
* Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) - uses a grille-mounted radar unit, motorized seatbelt E-pretentioners on the driver’s and front passenger’s seats and an automatic braking system to monitor potential frontal collisions and help reduce the impact on occupants by alerting the driver, tensioning the seatbelts and slowing the vehicle.
* Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) – To compensate for changing traffic flow, ACC adjusts vehicle speed automatically by applying throttle and/or brake to maintain a consistent following distance.
* Michelin PAX Run-Flat tires - helps provide enhanced safety and security with continuous mobility of up to 125 miles at up to 50 mph following a tire puncture.
New horsepower/torque ratings: 290 horsepower SAE net (Rev 8/04) at 6200 rpm, 256 lbs-ft torque SAE net (Rev 8/04) at 5000 rpm
#3167 of 10348 Re: CR Overall Luxury sedan rankings [jrock65]
Jul 31, 2005 (9:06 pm)
I drove 2006 M35x several times and honestly believe that my 2005 545 is a better car. Actually M35X felt underpowered even compared to my 2002 540.
#3168 of 10348 Re: 2006 RL changes [jrock65]
Jul 31, 2005 (9:24 pm)
"record sales in 2005"
Heh. Some nice spin there. Sales are up 200%!... over a car that was selling 700 units a month.
#3169 of 10348 Re: CR Overall Luxury sedan rankings [SergeyM]
Jul 31, 2005 (9:36 pm)
"Actually M35X felt underpowered even compared to my 2002 540."
Well, that's not surprising. The 540i has a stronger V8 engine and is lighter, while the M35x is a V6 and is encumbered by the weight of an AWD system.
#3170 of 10348 Re: CR Overall Luxury sedan rankings [SergeyM]
Aug 01, 2005 (4:04 am)
You would need to drive the M45 for a more direct comparison. RWD, and a V8. The M35X is a V6 and AWD. Yes it should feel slower than the 540/545
#3171 of 10348 Re: Took the new 530xi out for a test drive. . . . [merc1]
Aug 01, 2005 (6:01 am)
While the number of available choices plays a role I think that the brand is a bigger reason for sales performance. The M comes in 3 primary flavors...if you take the 3-biggest-selling 5-series variants, they still total a higher number of units than the Infiniti M.