The seventh-generation BMW 5 Series was released last week in South Africa, and I got to drive it at the launch event in George. BMW South Africa referred to the 5 Series sedan as a “business athlete” and if I’m honest, I don’t know what that actually means. However, I will share with you what I do know…

The previous six generations of the 5 Series have sold over 7.9-million units in South Africa, just to give you an idea of the how big the luxury sedan segment is, and well, loyalty to the brand. At the event, we got to see these vehicles up close, which were mostly privately owned vehicles all in excellent condition. 

Looking at it, doesn’t it take you back to when you were younger and used to see these vehicles on the road? The fourth-generation doesn’t even look that dated, right? Some good design right there.

The new models (G30) are at least 100kgs lighter than previous-gen, and this time, packed with all the latest tech. Some models will be semi-autonomous, as introduced on the 7 Series. These models can be identified by the camera on the front of the car, below the license plate (pic below). The Steering and Lane Control Assist, along with Active Cruise Control and the Stop-and-Go features is what makes it semi-autonomous. According to BMW South Africa, these features won’t be offered locally: Wrong Way Warning; Lane Change Assist; xDrive; OnStreet Parking Information; WiFi hotspot; and Online Entertainment.

Speaking about models, the following four are available as of last week: 520d (140kW); 530d (195kW); 530i (185kW); and 540i (250kW). The 530e variant will be available from the third quarter of this year. The entry-level 520d does not have sport mode (there’s no pedals by the steering wheel) unlike the rest of the lineup. Pricing for the Standard model starts at R770 500 and goes up to R965 300; the Sports Line at R801 600 and up to R1 006 300; the Luxury Line from R812 200 up to R1 013 000; and the M Sport package starts at R823 300 all the way up to R1 035 200. At the launch event, I got to drive the 530i and 530d and enjoyed both; can’t pick a favourite. The diesel didn’t sound like it, at all. The 530d has a claimed 4.5L/100km fuel consumption; I could never achieve that ’cause I don’t drive efficiently. Both cars were a smooth drive, and you definitely feel that kick in Sport mode. I loved cruising along the coast in these cars, and at one stage a SAPS vehicle moved out of our way, haha! It’s the only time I prefer driving in a laid back environment because you can push the boundaries a bit; and everyone else is so obliging. It was easy driving, we hit a bit of construction work and some traffic, which got a bit frustrating because it was ruining a good drive. At no point I felt the car was “too large” despite it being a big car.

A lot of features introduced on the 7 Series, which I experienced briefly, made it on the 5 Series like the Display Key, Gesture Controls, and Remote Parking.

The Display Key charges wirelessly inside the car as you drive, has a colour display that’s also a little touchscreen so you can scroll through the options. It lets you lock/unlock the car; check range info; status of the central locking; displays the time and for supported models, you can use it for Remote Parking. This lets you manoeuvre in and out of tight spots when you stand nearby, especially if you can’t open the door if the bay is tight (think shopping malls). I tested it myself on the 7 Series, but the feature was demoed at the event. Gesture Controls are cool too, you can use your hand and rotate it clockwise and anti-clockwise to control the volume, swipe to accept or reject a call, and you use a two-finger gesture to create a shortcut like switch to a radio station, or make a phone call to a preselected contact. 

Speaking about Gesture Control, it also serves as another way to access the new 10.25-inch iDrive infotainment touchscreen inside the vehicle. You can also control it with the iDrive controller. The screen features six large tiles that display three at a time and are easy to access, sort of like a giant tablet, which you can rearrange to suit your needs. Just tap into the option to go into it. The display also provides access to ConnectedDrive services and navigation. Real Time Traffic Info (RTTI) is also available for up-to-date traffic info while being navigated. I love that the directions were visible on the head-up colour display on the windscreen, which is now 70% larger, and in higher-res. It was not distracting while driving. 

If you love pairing your handset with the BMW Connected app, there are some features you can take advantage of, especially if you use it for your calendar. The app reads entries in your diary, and uses the location saved for each appointment to let you know how early to leave, so you get there on time. Sort of like what your laptop does as well (I get those notifications on my Macbook), which uses traffic alerts to let you know when is best to leave. The app also lets you send directions/routes from Google Maps straight to your dashboard, without having to type it in again. Nifty. Just get into the car, and off you go in no time. 

These are some of my highlights and features I loved about the new 5 Series. It’s a luxury sedan with some of the best technologies out there by BMW (some of which is on the 7 Series). You can also use voice commands to make calls, or get directions, etc, directly from the steering wheel. How’s this for ultimate luxury – the seats have 8 massage options with three intensity modes (optional). Massage while you’re stuck in traffic? That’d be great, thanks! The car will also support wireless charging on your handset, if your handset has the feature.

BMW South Africa also said that we will get Apple CarPlay support in the middle of this year. Android Auto is still not available locally. Last year the company said (at the 7 Series tech launch) it wasn’t something they were looking at, but we were told that because competitors started offering it across their fleet, they’ve now made it a priority. 

More information and reviews can be found across the web.