I would like to start off by saying that I never really understood BMW vehicles with M Sport packages. I think they are expensive, and they aren’t really representative of what the automaker’s famed motorsport division stands for. And this isn’t just a BMW-specific issue as I feel the same way about the likes of AMG-Line (Mercedes-Benz) and GR-S/GR Sport (Toyota) cars.
And yet, I was graciously given the chance to have the 530i M Sport for a few days. Of course, I am absolutely thankful for such an opportunity, and it is always a joy to get behind the wheel of Bimmer. However, there is this one occasion that got me thinking hard about how to write this review.
As I was pulling into the parking lot of a coffee shop, a customer exiting the premises rolled down his window and excitedly asked me if I was driving an M5. Obviously, I had to tell the truth. He still thought it was a cool-looking ride, though, and then went on his merry way.
I really didn’t know how to feel about the encounter. On one hand, the 530i M Sport really does look good (more on that later). But on the other hand, I was afraid that I’d look like some poser slapping on M badges on a standard BMW. Fears of an actual M5 challenging me to a race come to mind.
Let’s get to the good stuff first. This review shows what the “Life Cycle Impulse” treatment (BMW-speak for a facelift) on the G30 platform looks like in standard guise. The M Sport package includes a different set of bumpers and 19-inch wheels. I must say that I like the way the 530i looks with its bigger air dams and a subtle rear spoiler. The bad-boy image is tempered by the dark-blue color of the test unit and the blacked-out trim pieces.
The inclusion of several M tricolor badges is probably one reason why the guy thought I had Munich’s four-door rocket with me. I’m not too sure about how the brand’s faithful feel about this. But if I had my way, I’d take out the emblems. Other than that, the 530i doesn’t have anything that detracts from its stately demeanor. Pull up to a hotel driveway in it and you’d look like a man (or woman) of culture.
The M Sport treatment makes its way to the interior with more badging and the tricolor stitching. The latter is a very nice touch as it is a subtle reminder of BMW’s sporting heritage. Just like the 520i Luxury, the updated G30 has a tweaked infotainment system that finally comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wired and wireless), and plays its tunes on a set of Harman Kardon surround-sound speakers.
Just like my review of the G30’s previous iteration, the 530i is a reminder of why the 5-Series is my favorite of all BMW sedans. It is long enough to be spacious, but not so large that it spoils the driving experience. The brand’s leather upholstery is not only a treat to sit in, but it also has a certain smell that somehow soothes the souls of those onboard.
Even though the car comes with gesture control, I preferred messing with the physical buttons and switches because they just felt good to the touch. Black headliners tend to make vehicles feel small and cramped, but the 530i’s dark ceiling somehow gives the interior a cozy ambience. The materials used on just about every surface you touch are of the top-notch kind. Simply put, BMW truly knows how to make very nice cabins.
Thankfully, the M Sport goodies don’t stop with just cosmetics. Bespoke sport suspension gives the 530i better manners when the roads are anything but straight. Flick the drive-mode switch to Sport and the dampers become stiffer, the steering gets tighter, and the engine responds more eagerly to each blip of the throttle. Turn-in is sharp for a sedan of its size, and it gave me confidence to carry even more speed into sweeping bends. If I had tried rushing into a corner, I think the 530i’s understeer would’ve been gradual and easy to mitigate.
One would assume that because the car is called the 530i, it would have had a six-cylinder engine lurking under the hood. But in the interest of improving fuel efficiency and reducing environmental impact, BMW is continuing its trend of downsizing engines. So, this “530i” has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger instead.
I was already impressed by a detuned version of this engine in my previous 5-Series review. For the 530i M Sport, the numbers are higher at 248hp and 350Nm. The power curve is very smooth, and the car doesn’t feel strained when pulling away from the lights and getting up to speed. The motor is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. I spent a fair chunk of my test drive on the highway, and the car netted a combined economy figure of 13.5km/L.
Props to BMW for making this type of engine work with the large 5-Series. However, I do miss the signature sound of the automaker’s traditional six-cylinder. I think the exhaust note should be part of the M Sport experience. The 530i does spring into life with gusto when I floor the accelerator, but the noise just isn’t there.
In trying to understand the thinking behind the M Sport package, I consulted with a colleague who knows BMW car culture and actually owns the brand’s products. According to him, there are indeed some people who look down on M Sport vehicles. But there is still a significant chunk of buyers who want the M experience but cannot acquire an actual M car. In addition, original M Sport rides apparently command a premium on the secondhand market. Therefore, the variant with its matching emblems and tricolor trim makes sense.
But even with that explanation, I still think that the M badge must be reserved for the true M cars. The 5-Series and the M5 might look the same, but they are totally different creatures. I feel like things would’ve been just fine by simply calling it the Sport. But all things considered, I really enjoyed driving the car. Even with the higher price tag of P4,890,000, I’d easily recommend it over the less-expensive 520i Luxury.
BMW 530i M SPORT
|2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline
|248hp @ 5,000-6,500rpm
|350Nm @ 1,350-4,250rpm
|4,963mm x 1,868mm x 1,479mm
|The added power and the stiff suspension make this car a good match for keen drivers.
|The exhaust note needs to be altered to complete the M Sport experience.