I spent about 30 minutes with an SMG E60 530i today. I was both very impressed and also completely turned off with the car.
The impressive part was how smooth the BMW SMG design can perform standing starts and very slow speed maneuvering. Something like a very slow gentle start and then immediately letting off the pedal (which is something where you would have to put in the clutch in order not to jerk/buck) was handled just perfectly. The M3 SMG is essentially the same in this respect also I believe.
Also impressive was the perfectly rev-matched downshifting the SMG performs. Even the downshift from 2nd to 1st at 25+mph (engaging 1st at high rpms) was perfect and smooth -- what a treat SMG must be on an autocross course(I had it set in "Sport" the whole time). None of this is new given the M3 SMG...just restating how SMG performs in the 530i.
The response to a gear selection is fairly quick, but even in Sport not as fast as you would expect. Going to SMG automated mode, it shifted reasonably well; however, anyone riding in the car (who thinks this is an automatic transmission car) wouldn't understand the shifting feeling, especially the 1-2 shift. After just a few minutes, I was perfectly modulating the throttle just a tiny bit, letting off just as it was shifting, and I got to the point where it was nice and smooth letting it shift in automated mode. The higher gear shifts, i.e. 2-3 and up, are not nearly an issue like this.
My biggest complaint about the SMG is that it only has four modes: auto, manual, sport-auto, sport-manual unlike the A1-5 and S1-6 on the E46 M3 SMG. Even in sport-manual with DSC off, it does not come close to the kick-*** shifting the E46 M3 SMG does with its lightning quick/tire-barking shifts in A5, S5 or S6. In that respect the 530i SMG felt like it shifted way too slow for maximum performance. If the 545i SMG performs similarly, I can promise real serious enthusiasts that they will not be completely satisfied with it. In other words, don't order the SMG on the 5-series without fully test driving it first, or at the least, don't expect it to compare to the M3 SMG at all.
The car of course had the sport package with Active Roll Stabilization and Active Steering. These two were pretty awesome in my short drive. ARS is totally seamless to the driver, but what you feel is an incredible response when you lay it into a corner...it feels essentially flat in the corners. The Active Steering I noticed most at very slow speeds where it takes hardly any movement of the wheel to get a lot of steering movement of the front wheels -- full lock in 3/4 of a turn. Parking is a snap and very easy. The strangest thing about Active Steering is how intuitive it felt at slow speeds. Given the reviews elsewhere, I did not expect that. I figured I would be noticing it constantly or something. I didn't evaluate it through stuff like a slow but increasing radius (and therefore speed) corner however, nor did I run it down the highway to get a sense of reported on-center feel issues. Compared to my M5, I don't think either one of these "features" are of great significance. One of the pros of ARS is that in straight ahead driving, the roll bars are at their least resistance setting so one side bumps should be much softer. Well, I hit some sharp bumps like that, and the input to the chassis was a bit more severe than I expected. I think the M5 over those same bumps might have actually been more "supple" and not transmit that "sharp" feeling/sound into the passenger compartment.
I did not care for the seats. My E39 M5 and my E39 540i sport both have very comfortable sport seats. In the E60, it felt like the region of the backrest at the bottom was too "puffy" right where it touches the seat bottom. I couldn't get my tail to feel like I was sitting "in" the seat as opposed to "on" the seat if that makes sense. I played with the lumbar adjustment (thinking that was the problem, i.e. thinking it was adjusted all the way down), but that didn't change this "issue" with me. My biggest issue however was that the headrest was not fore-aft rotate-able like in the E39 where you have maybe 30-40 degrees or more of rotation to help you get just the right fit. Hence, I felt like my head was too far forward compared to my upper back, and I simply could not get comfortable in the car. I can't imagine wearing a helmet in this seat as my upper back would likely be held off the seatback! I don't think (hope
) I'm an anomoly or something. I'm 6'2" tall and weigh 198 lbs.
To me the 530i felt dog slow, but I drove over there in the M5 which has boatloads of kick you in the gut torque just waiting to please you, so I can't really fault the 530 as the M5 has almost twice its power. However, I do fault it in the sense that BMW should not be building a $55k+ sports sedan without at least having a power to weight ratio similar to its competition (you have to buy the 545 for that). I can't imagine anyone buying a 525i who in any way is interested in spirited driving given its power/weight ratio. I think the C&D tests of the E60 530i 6-spd had something like 6.7 0-60 and 15.2@93mph 1/4 mile as I recall.
I don't really care for I-drive, but this one is a huge improvement over the one in the 7-series. Thankfully, BMW also puts the DSC button on the dash unlike the 7-series where you have to drill down through I-drive menu levels to get to it. I played a bit with I-drive and it wasn't too awful; however, I would prefer to have a traditional dash. I didn't care for the interior design with such things as the left door armrest ended too far forward and was uncomfortable.
At the end, it sure felt great to sit back down in the M5 and fire that mutha up
. Not to mention the fact that people were checking out my LMB M5 while it was surrounded with E60's. I missed nothing about the ARS and AS once I was driving the M5 again. In fact, the M5 felt just about perfect
I look forward to driving the E60 M5, but I'm very mixed on my expectations for the car given this E60 experience. I sure hope the seats are significantly different in the M5 since the E39 sport seats are real close between the E39 540i sport and the M5.