Business Class All the Way by Richard Webb
Nearly twenty years ago, John Frankenheimer’s film, Ronin burst upon our screens with its high level of action and intrigue, and yes, those car chases. The film centres on a team of hired ex-special ops baddies trying to steal a mysterious and heavily guarded briefcase while navigating a maze of shifting loyalties and alliances.
In one of the most realistic car chases of recent times, a BMW 535i (E34) rocketed through the streets of Paris, chased by Robert De Niro’s Peugeot 406. Fast forward to December, and I’m jetting off to Lisbon on the global launch to try the latest, the seventh iteration of the successful 5 Series.
BMW call their 5 Series the ultimate business sedan and for many years, it has been the undisputed leader of its segment. Since launching the first 5 Series over 40 years ago, over 7.9 million cars have found new owners, with the outgoing version the most successful to date.
It’s up to 100 kilograms lighter than its predecessor, thanks to the outer shell being constructed almost entirely of aluminium. That makes the car handle better and reduces fuel consumption considerably. The BMW 540i, for instance, offers 10% more performance with 11% less fuel consumption than its predecessor.
One of the reasons for the 5 Series’ enduring success is the extensive range of engines, and customers will be able to choose between seven engine variants, with four, six and eight cylinders, and a hybrid model.
From the sportiest M Performance version to the electrified iPerformance 5 Series, the newcomer should meet the full spectrum of readers’ needs. The M Performance 5 Series, for example, delivers 462 hp and rockets from standstill to 100 km/h in just four seconds.
The plugin hybrid BMW 530e iPerformance combines average fuel consumption of a mere 1.9 litres with an electric range of 50 kilometres. The car frankly doesn’t look new - even though it has almost all new parts - and you need to see the new one next to the outgoing model to notice the changes. Like VW’s Golf or the new MINI, it’s a gradual evolution of the genre rather than a complete change of direction. That’s because customers have an expectation around what a 5 Series or Golf or MINI is supposed to look like.
Over a wide range of mountain-hugging coastal roads and through urban sprawl, the car displayed a well-built, refined luxury car persona. Traction, body lean and cornering finesse are all about as good as it gets. Hurl the 5 Series into a twisty road and there is simply no drama.
I was presented with the choice of two four-cylinder engines, the 520d and 530i and two six cylinder engines, the 530d and the 540i, but more with more variants will follow, including the Touring and M5.
A clear, bright day greeted me as I eased ‘my’ BMW 540i M Sport out of the Penha Longa hotel (see side bar) and pointed it north along the A12 before traversing back south east the Vasco da Gama bridge, the longest bridge in Europe.
There is something majestic about wafting in semi-automomous mode along the 10.7-mile bridge high in the blue sky. This car is class-leading for its smooth power delivery, urgent response and sporting enthusiasm. The eight-speed auto-box perfectly engages the right cogs for the twists and turns of the N 379-1 through Setúbal and Parra Casais da Serra.
These quieter roads gave me time to play with the new information and assistance systems. It’s normal in a BMW to expect brilliant ergonomics and Initial impressions of the various driver aids suggested there is a lot to learn. There are activation switches and sensitivity adjustments to master but it soon comes naturally. The new iDrive has 70% more screen space and a touch user interface to display real time content and enhanced speech control system, and gesture controls have also been extended. A Microsoft Exchange function, provides business customers with seamless, secure access to their emails and schedules in their company accounts too.
Whether you find yourself part of a group of rogue outcasts and KGB spies, like in Ronin, or not, the 5 Series is the perfect
choice. With more than decades of continual development, the 5 Series - priced between £40,120 and £47,135 - is nothing short of class leading and it’s going to give its business-class rivals sleepless nights.
Located inside UNESCO's World Heritage Sintra-Cascais Natural Park and just 10 minutes away from the sophisticated Cascais Village, romantic Sintra Village and close to historical Lisbon, Penha Longa Resort is a combination of genuine European charm and modern accessibility. I found the resort and the grounds to be exceptional well thought through, but staff thoughtfulness and service to be the jewel in their crown.
Tucked away in a calm and serene area, this large hotel still manages to feel very intimate, all wrapped up in a spellbinding environment. The Six Senses Spa offering state-of-the-art facilities, including an exclusive garden and a water cascade. My time on the launch did not allow me to discover the tennis courts, squash, jogging tracks, horse-back riding but, if the opportunity arises, it’s worth spending quality time there. www.penhalonga.com
By 2021, BMW Group aim to make reliable autonomous driving a reality with ‘ BMW Personal CoPilot’.
Meanwhile, the new 5 Series is an important step in this direction with its partially automated functions enhance safety and comfort today.
The car’s electronic systems support the driver with acceleration, braking and steering and assists with lane changes and avoiding hazards on the road and even offers remote controlled parking.