Test Drive: 2012 BMW 528i xDrive car test drives reviews luxury cars bmw
2012 BMW 528i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

But Dynamic Driving Control is the centrepiece of the 528i’s dual personality that helps make that 98 percent an easy, luxurious, and even efficient affair while hiding an alter ego that attacks onramps and corners with aplomb. Dynamic Driving Control offers settings for Sport+ (hardcore), Sport (sporty), comfort (um, comfortable), and ECO Pro (comfortable and extra efficient). Believe it or not, and as shocking as it may seem, I spent most of the week in ECO Pro, trying to save each drop of fuel, only to waste it during my occasional bursts of Sport+ antics.

ECO Pro mode reduces throttle response, changes transmission mapping, and provides coaching tips to demonstrate how to drive efficiently. What I found was that it gave enough leeway to drive somewhat normally and actually keep up and even stay ahead of traffic while staying within the ECO range. The reward is a readout showing how many extra kilometres you’ve squeezed out per tank. ECO Pro or Normal were fine for me in that 98 percent of my driving time. My 98-percent efficient driving contributed to a reasonable 10.1 L/100 km fuel consumption average.

One efficiency measure that can be turned on or off in any mode is the auto start-stop, which turns the engine off whenever you come to a full stop. It is the most glaring flaw on this car. It is rather coarse and noticeable, the car shuddering every time the engine shuts down at a stoplight or in stop-and-go traffic. For a $70,000 car, as equipped, or even its $56,900 base price, or anything wearing this prestigious badge, this is disappointing for such an esteemed brand. The best way to put it is that I felt let down by a hero.

Beyond the lurching restarts, the engine demonstrates diesel-like refinement at low-revs; in other words, it quietly clatters, and the vibrations trickle through the steering wheel and seats — at one point I was wondering if this was just a massage option, but I checked the feature list, and it’s not.

Test Drive: 2012 BMW 528i xDrive car test drives reviews luxury cars bmw
2012 BMW 528i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Aside from those small refinement hiccups, this is a very impressive engine to move this much weight around so easily. Perhaps the extraction of 241 hp from a 2.0L I4 turbo (peak power produced at 5,000 rpm through 6,500) required these sacrifices, or the 258 lb-ft of torque at 1,250 rpm (and all the way up to 4,800 rpm) that channeled its “inner diesel,” but it’s the first time I’ve ever had occasion to critique BMW on NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness). I think I’m just in shock that I actually had something to criticize.

Once the engine makes it up past 2,000 rpm, it reverts to typical BMW character: smooth, powerful, and audibly pleasing as it accelerates, and purringly quiet at cruising speed, with only a slight drone from the winter tires, the engine turning a lazy 1,700 rpm at 100 km/h, a tick over 2,000 rpm at 120 km/h, and a very modest 2,200 rpm even at 130 km/h thanks to the eight forward gears. In Comfort and ECO Pro modes, the ride, too, is mellow, free of disruptions over all but the roughest pavement, and it is noticeably softer and cushier than either of the stiffened Sport modes. I had little occasion to experience the traction benefits of the xDrive all-wheel-drive system during our unseasonably warm weather, and though I’m sure it was hard at work in the corners that I took aggressively, it did so seamlessly, leaving me with little to comment on except for the feeling of security it gave me.




About Jonathan Yarkony

Jonathan Yarkony is the Senior Editor for Autos.ca, a Brampton-based automotive writer with eight years of experience evaluating cars and an AJAC member.