Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sixties envy?

Well, it's actually been a while since I've posted... even though I've driven the 2007 BMW 530i a few times already. Car was loaded with the sport package and the automatic transmission (booo!) with the IDrive system (ick) but no HUD or night vision. Fairly well equipped and a pretty typical loadout on a 5 series.
The car is "Olivine Green" except... it's not GREEN at all. See the picture? Not friggin green at all! It's almost the same exact shade as my STEEL GREY WRX. I saw "green" on the key and thought... green 5er... green 5er... and the grey one blinks. WHUUU??? Onto the car...

So again, another blurb about how IDrive kinda sucks... yeah it does. But that's if you're trying to use it while the car is moving. It really isn't much better than trying to use a touch screen or multiple button system since your attention is still distracted. And if you think about it, your eyes should really be attentive to the road ahead (or around the corner) and even with a HUD, I think all those systems will be inherently flawed because of the complexity of modern in-car accessories/options. They still had manual controls for more common stuff on either the steering wheel or the center console. Also, there's a provision for a "favorite" button you can assign. The IDrive itself is much simplified so I figured it out very quickly and it's got fewer steps to get to your features.

Ideally, voice activation would be able to understand anything you ask. Like "turn up the heat, get me directions to the nearest Burger King, and make the ride sportier." But car computers aren't that smart... yet. Between voice recognition and AI interpretation, I think it will be a few more years before we have a car capable of that.

Well, onto the driving impression. With the sport suspension and the fact that this big-ish car is fairly light for its size (its not much heavier than a typical 3 series and is lighter than the 335is), the car handles quite well. It's very close to 50/50 weight distribution so you notice that the car is nicely balanced and even with the sport suspension, the car is still fairly compliant though corners a bit flatter. I was fairly good over uneven pavement but it doesn't feel like it has a ton of travel or the softness needed to really tackle NYC roads on a regular basis. A non-sport equipped car would probably work much better for that. I thought that the MB E500 sport pack felt much smoother and was quieter with it's Airmatic suspension though it wasn't nearly as responsive and direct.

The car I drove also had active steering... it feels kinda odd/distant as there's no actual direct feedback, but effort scaled well with speed. You're never grunting or winding the wheel a lot. Don't know if it's worth the cost though...

The auto trans... well, I liked it although I think the gearing again, not quite right. Acceleration felt brisk (6.6 to 60) so it definitely had adequate passing power though not the torque of the V8 or a turbo/supercharger. Manual shifts were reasonably quick but I still really don't enjoy the feeling of the shift of an auto. I can imagine how much better the car is with the 6 speed manual trans. It would be interesting to see what the gearing becomes.

In terms of the luxury and fit/finish of the car. Its good... typical BMW. Clean, crisp looking and it feels a little bit more spartan but still quality is high.

I think the BMW is by far a better enthusiast's daily car (and that's me) but for most other people, a Merc would be more suitable if you can shell out the cash. Personally, I haven't tried the Audi but AWD turbo is always my favorite choice of powertrain around here for a daily driver. Good news is that in the upcoming 5 series update, the 535i twin-turbo should become available... and hopefully a AWD (X-drive) variant will be there too with that extra bit of power to compensate for the added weight and inefficencies of an AWD drivetrain. I still love the A6 interior the most in that class however.