April 26, 2012
2012 BMW 528i xDrive. Click image to enlarge
Aside from the driving modes available with Dynamic Driving Control, the 528i is a hotbed of the latest safety and convenience technologies. More parking cameras than a TV film crew (rear, overhead sides, and front bumper sides), iDrive interface with a seven-inch high-resolution widescreen display, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, navigation, voice command, Bluetooth and smartphone integration.
I found the iDrive interface intuitive, phone pairing was quick and painless, and the upgraded 16-speaker, 2-subwoofer HiFi sound system (really, people still use the term HiFi? Cool…) was as good as my ears can tell.
The upgraded Comfort seats are excellent, power-adjustable in 18 different ways, but my favourite adjustment is the ability to angle the upper back and head support. To top it off, there are little flaps in the headrest that can be swung out to wrap around one’s head for a feeling of cocoon-like envelopment. As with the seats, the entire interior was appointed in high-quality materials, with an understated design that suits my sense of style, and intuitive ergonomics for all the controls I sought out.
With a driver-focused car such as this, front seats get the lion’s share of legroom, but rear seat legroom and headroom is ample for this executive class, with 918 mm and 973 mm respectively, plenty enough for me (at almost six feet) to sit behind myself comfortably, though not quite enough to stretch my legs. Rear outboard seat passengers are also treated to heated seats and a centre armrest with cupholders, but a large hump for the drive shaft and that folding armrest makes the middle position uninviting for longer trips. LATCH anchors are easily accessed and my daughter’s child safety seat was easy enough to install (and seemed to fit better in this car than in most others), though its low sedan height and roof posed the usual bending awkwardness when strapping her in.
This is a car that made me want to drive out to Ottawa (from Toronto) for lunch with some of our other writers, because it eats up the distance with comfort and composure, and then rewards you at every exit or turn if you choose to push it.
At the end of the week, I was impressed by the capability of the turbocharged N20 in this executive sedan. The power is there for the taking, the eight-speed transmission can take you efficiently to highway speeds, or crack off quick shifts and push the engine to redline in every gear. While the experience is tainted by its coarse start-stop and rough idle, the prestige of this benchmark sedan, the mix of technology, and choice of efficiency or sporting dynamics from a small but powerful engine mean I would still choose it over any pretenders in this segment. Then again, I haven’t had a chance to test the new world-beating Lexus GS 350 yet, so stay tuned for that test drive this summer.
Pricing: 2012 BMW 528i xDrive
Options:$13,350 (Premium Package: auto trunk with smart opener, backup camera, cargo pass-through, Dakota Leather ($3,900); Premium Sound Package: Sirius satellite radio tuner, HiFi sound system ($1,200); Technology Package: high-beam assistant, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, surround view top & side cameras ($1,900); M Sport Package: sport transmission, anthracite trim, Comfort seats, 18-inch M wheels, aluminum trim, M rear spoiler ($3,500); Navigation Package: navigation with voice recognition ($2,000); BMW Apps: smartphone integration ($300); heated seats ($550))
Price as tested:$72,345
Buyer’s Guide: 2012 BMW 5 Series
Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Audi A6
Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Cadillac CTS
Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Hyundai Genesis
Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Infiniti M
Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Jaguar XF
Buyer’s Guide: 2013 Lexus GS
Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Volvo S80