The BMW 528i strikes an impressive pose at historic Congress Hall in Cape May, N.J.
In the widening free-for-all to replace the Lincoln Town Car, BMW in February expanded its lineup to the industry with its mid-size luxury 5 Series sedans, now part of the company’s Limousine Hotel Shuttle Program launched in 2012.
The program provides special base pricing and specific incentives for the chauffeured transportation industry, and also sweetens the deal with a three-year, 150,000-mile extended service contract. Previously, BMW only offered its standard new vehicle limited warranty of four years or 50,000 miles, with no option to upgrade.
Now that the basic details are covered, let’s take a closer look at the 5 Series. On a recent test drive of a new 2014 528i, what struck me immediately was the sleek design, which gives the sedan a longer appearance than its 16 ft., 1-in. footprint. That’s a positive in an industry where size matters. While rear seating will not accommodate three burly NFL linebackers, it’s more than adequate and comfortable for the bulk of sedan runs, which carry only one or two passengers.
Rear legroom is 36.1 inches, and accommodated the writer at 6 ft., 3-in.
The German automaker sees its competitive edge in the livery market based on the 5 Series’ entry price point, extended warranty, fuel economy and its BMW nameplate that embodies quality and luxury. At the livery base price of $42,540 (includes livery incentive), the 528i delivers a trifecta of performance, quality, and fuel economy that places the vehicle in the price range of other premium and luxury mid-size sedans all vying for more market share in the chauffeured transportation industry.
In addition to the entry-level 528i sedan, the 5 Series also includes a range of 535s and 550s that scale in price from the base 528i mentioned above to $64,770 for the 550i xDrive GT.
The base 528i I drove is equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, 16-valve, twin-scroll turbocharged power plant that delivers 240 horses and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, and averaged as advertised 23-34 mpg in all possible city and highway conditions.
The skinny on the 2014 5s is they have shed their sportier muscle for the sake of a more comfortable ride and creature comforts, which bodes well for targeting chauffeured transportation. The vehicle features four-wheel independent suspension plus front and rear anti-roll bars. You also can select various driving modes — Comfort, Sport and ECO PRO, which monitors and adjusts driving characteristics and conditions to maximize fuel economy. The vehicle also is equipped with an auto start-stop function, which adds to the 5’s stingy fuel consumption.
As you would expect, the 528i is equipped with many standard features and some bonus points as well. I especially liked the ease of using ConnectedDrive, the all-purpose touchpad controller that gives drivers easy access to an array of vehicle data, navigation, communications, entertainment systems and more. And the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) was evident during test days when spring thunderstorms created constant slippery road surfaces.
Racking up more than a week’s worth of driving, the 8-speed automatic transmission was smooth and clocked 0 to 60 mph in a shade over 6 seconds. Braking was assured and precise, and improved aerodynamics (0.27 drag coefficient) and airflow management made for a quiet ride.
The rear seats are sloped a bit which also enhances seating posture and legroom.
As I mentioned, vehicles in this class will do the job for two passengers and the 528i’s 14-cu.-ft. trunk can handle normal passenger luggage. Rear seating offers adequate legroom that accommodates two six-foot adults. To please a long-legged passenger in the rear left seat, chauffeurs can adjust their driving position without being cramped due to the 10-way power adjustable seat combined with telescopic and tilt-away steering wheel. The rear seats are sloped a bit which also enhances seating posture and legroom. The rear cabin is equipped with beverage holders, door bins, rear air conditioning, center armrest, and reading lights.
Given that the automaker has succeeded in the chauffeured transportation industry with its flagship ultra-lux 740Li, the company believes its 5 Series (and BMW panache) offers operators a top-end premium sedan with a price and warranty competitive with similar OEM vehicle offerings.
The 5 Series 14 cu.ft. of trunk space is adequate for most passenger luggage requirements.
Engine: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder
Acceleration: 0-60 mph/6+ seconds
Price: $42,540 (includes $3,000 incentive)
Passengers: 5, 2-3 in rear
Rear seat legroom: 36.1 in.
Rear head room: 38.3 in.
Rear shoulder room: 56.2 in.
Trunk Capacity: 14. cu.ft.
MPG: 23 city/34 hwy
Warranty: Standard 4 yrs/50,000 mi.; additional extended service contract 3 yrs/150,000 mi.; maintenance standard 4 yrs/50,000 mi; additional coverage up to 6 yrs/100,000 mi.
Competition: Cadillac XTS, Lincoln MKS, Mercedes E Class, Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300, Hyundai Genesis