Minor updates to this local bestseller should help in its fight for top spot
If It Ain't Broke PHOTO: TORQUE

The adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" must have been the order of the day when BMW's designers and engineers got together to plan and execute the facelift of the 5 Series saloon.

Most of the changes are so slight that the entire presentation of the new model in Munich took a mere 15 minutes. The signature double "kidney" grille is now framed by additional contour lines, the lower air intake has been reshaped, and there's an additional crease in the rear apron. New to the 5 Series, however, is the introduction of four trim variants – Standard, Modern, Luxury and M Sport.

Right after the launch, I took the 530d out for a drive on the autobahn and along some sweeping country roads. It was during these moments that I experienced the 5 Series' most significant improvements.

The first is its modifi ed dampers, which get new internals. Nearly all the vertically moving parts inside each damper are new or revised, aimed at improving its rebound performance.

This keeps the ride comfortable, while controlling body movement better. Sure, the quality of tarmac is generally smoother in Germany than in Singapore, but there were a few instances where the dampers got a good workout driving over pockmarked and bumpy roads. Aside from the slightly audible clunks and thumps of the suspension working, the dampers did pretty well in soaking up these road imperfections.

BMW has also made revisions to the 5 Series' electric power steering. I've never been much of a fan of those systems – most I've tried feel too "detached", but not this one. It offers a nice amount of feedback and, most importantly, feels livelier just off the straight-ahead.

On the engine front, all variants – petrol and diesel – that were available with the pre-facelift 5 Series are still offered here unchanged. BMW Asia has yet to reveal what variants will be arriving in the fi nal quarter of this year, although if I had a say in things, I’d vote for our test car, the 530d, powered by a 258bhp 3-litre, turbo-diesel inline-6.

It zipped along the autobahn with ease (200km/h on the new all-digital instrument cluster being a common sight), and with 560Nm on tap, overtaking was just as easy. As with the engines, the 8-speed automatic transmission is carried over, albeit with a new "freewheeling" function while in Eco Pro mode. This sees the gearbox disengage from the motor every time the accelerator isn’t depressed at speeds between 50km/h and 160km/h, to eke out a little more fuel economy.

Inside the spacious cabin, the standard iDrive infotainment system display is now flanked by chrome strips. The iDrive controller can also be ordered with a touch-sensitive surface to allow for character recognition. We tried out this nifty option by "writing" a contact from the address book, and the system found the name without trouble. Boot space has remained unchanged (520 litres), and access to the cargo compartment is now more convenient – aim a kick at a point under the rear bumper, and the boot opens. This is particularly useful when your hands are full of shopping.

With a slew of enhancements and improvements, the new 5 Series should once again be fighting it out with its perennial “enemy”, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which has also been recently facelifted.

The new 5 Series will have big shoes to fill, however. Its pre-facelift predecessor was the best-selling car here in 2011, with a grand total of 2,397 units registered in that year.

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This article first appeared in the August 2013 issue of Torque.

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