I’m getting bolder about asking friends and family to test drive their vehicles. After all, everyone has insurance, and folks are eager to show off their good taste in automotive choices. Every car has a different personality and driving attitude, affected not only by mechanics like steering and pickup/braking, but by color schemes, seat position, and the quality of the controls you use to operate the vehicle.
Ben and I agreed to run the Gasparilla 5K together so he drove down from Ocala in his barely broken-in 2012 BMW 528i. Lunar gray (not too dark), black dakota leather, sport package, navigation, and technology package. First thoughts: feels more like the 7-series’ of yore than like any 5 I’ve experienced. The doors pop open gently…and close gently. The interior is now wider and flatter than in the past. Seats are roomier, less snug…and the hood spans out in front like a pontoon boat.
That said, it is a very nice vehicle to ride in. 18-way power adjustable seats make your most minor whim satisfiable. The navigation screen is much larger in person than it seems in pictures…and the quality of the switches and controls seems better than on the previous 5 or on other BMWs of late. Best part of the interior…the smell! There’s nothing quite like the delicious smell of fresh leather, even if it is baking in the sun all day and quite unpleasant to sit on prior to cooling down.
For 2012, BMW has replaced the 3.0 liter 6-cylinder previously found in the 328i and 528i with a 2.0 liter Twin Turbo 4-cylinder, which apparently makes more horsepower (240 vs. 230) while being more fuel efficient. To someone not intimately familiar with BMWs, I can’t tell a huge difference in feel or sound, although Ben tells me that it’s notable and a little sad to have lost the smoothness of 6 cylinders.
I commanded the keys on the trip home from breakfast and found the main point of interest to be the start-stop function on the new engine. Every time you come to a stop in traffic, the engine purposefully shuts off (feels more like stalling), ostensibly for saving fuel while idling…and restarts instantaneously once you lift off the brake pedal. If you’ve ever driven a Toyota Prius, it is similar to how the hybrid system’s gasoline engine starts up when a certain power level is desired that the electric motor cannot handle. Distilled and refined for the $60,000 experience, it certainly doesn’t make for quick leaps off the line from a dead stop.Â InÂ the ultimate driving machine, it is unexpected and takes some adjustment…but ultimately I would guess a positive innovation for ultimate fuel conservation…especially useful for those regularly stopped in traffic (people not leaping off anything to go anywhere).
Ultra luxurious vehicles with modern comforts that you couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago that also use technology to be more fuel efficient have a special place in my heart. Why not enjoy your drive and know that you’re not screwing the planet/your wallet too?
Also see my review of the Mercedes S350 Bluetec.