2012 BMW 528i Verdict
There used to be a TV show called "This Is Your Life," in which some unsuspecting soul was led before a TV studio audience and told the story of his or her life through vignettes from people from his or her past. Well, BMW 528i vin wbaxg5c52cdw85305, this is your life as a Motor Trend long-termer. And telling the tale of your tenure here are the voices of your long-term updates, each focused on some notable quirk or quality.
One item that caught my attention immediately was a chilling reminder of the limits of "summer"-spec tires. Here's my advice to fellow SoCal (i.e., desert) dwellers: When you're near the beach on a nice sunny day and decide to drive to a pretty-looking village in the local mountains (like Idyllwild), stop climbing when you see cars descending the opposite way with snow on their roofs and anxious-looking drivers behind their wheels. If you don't have chains in your trunk, turn right around. Playing curling with a BMW as the shiny stone isn't cool, even if the kids in the back think slowly gliding sideways across the road is really neat.
The first proper update, though, focused on the good versus bad of the start/stop system. How much gas does this really save? Cue an impromptu experiment: On the way to work one morning, I veered away from my usual 405 freeway death march and spent the next 96 minutes meandering up the alternate coast route, halting 68 times for lights in the process. A red light, though, doesn't necessarily mean the engine stops; you must be still for 2 seconds first, and often the cars ahead minutely creep forward much too often to actually allow that. Nevertheless, 14.7 minutes of the trip (15.3 percent of it) was spent engine-off. Afterward, I measured the fuel flow while idling (about 0.0041 gal/min) to calculate that I'd saved 0.06 gallon -- 3.9 percent, or about $0.25 in cost. So, during the hour and a half of driving, were the engine's 68 shuddering starts (think a wet dog briefly shaking) worth it? Maybe if the system were a whole lot smoother.
Another update began by asking: Is a car that returns about 25 mpg and scoots to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds simultaneously "Efficient" and "Dynamic"? This gets to the heart of the 528i's main claim that it can successfully juggle the two. And again I reached for numbers to figure this out. If you search for that update, it contains some useful graphs, the first of which was notable for showing how long it actually took for the car's overall mpg number (averaged since its arrival) to stabilize and stop ticking up and down. In this case, the number is about 7000 miles.
For context, I turned to Motor Trend's über-database to sort out 44 loosely comparable premium-brand sedans. Does the BMW's acceleration and cornering grip noticeably excel compared with its EPA combined mpg? The answer to the first question was yes, but not remarkably so. Its cornering grip-to-mileage ratio was more impressive, but still noticeably short of two notable alternatives, the Lexus GS 450h and Infiniti M35h. As I said at the time, the "Efficient Dynamics" sticker on the side window is defensible. But I'd state it more modestly, in all lower-case letters.
A couple other updates weren't so complicated. In one, I was annoyed by the swift arm-swing necessary to slam the BMW's doors shut. (The 535i offers a power-closing feature to solve this.) In another ("Ghost in the Machine") I discussed the power-assisted trunk's spooky tendency to yawn open and closed at will, once even clasping my torso as I reached deep inside for something. Did I actually hear the words "Feeed Meee"? Turned out to be a buggy trunk switch.
And then, 11 months into the car's stay, I clicked on this email from a reader: "I have been reading your reviews of the 2012 BMW 528 which have been a list of complaints and negativity. It is too bad because your readers deserve an objective and professional analysis. Thank you, Oumar Diakite"
I emailed Oumar back and asked if he owned one. "Yes I do own this car and have my share of complaints about it. However, I also realize that it has positive and negative points just like any car out there. Your reviews miss that. The first one was about the tires. OK, I get that. Then it was fuel savings from the start/stop. In the latest one, you compared its consumption with a Lexus hybrid. Why would anyone compare its consumption with a Lexus hybrid?"
"The engine's laggy-turbo response only magnifies the rough start/stop system. Yet you get 25 mpg in the bargain. Is it worth it?"
Was I missing the Bavarian forest for its trees? We back and forthed even more. "Please note," he added, "that I test drove the Audi A6 and the current E-Class prior to committing to the 528i, and find it to be a good balance of sport sedan and luxury car."
Oumar's campaign had me seriously thinking it all over when, at 30,400 miles, the 528's brake pedal began to shudder ominously. And then got worse. Ultimately both front rotors were replaced, requiring me to drive a rental Chevy Malibu during the swap (the dealer had run out of BMW loaners).
And inadvertently, this made Oumar's point. Yes, the 528i's engine could be both more efficient and dynamic; but Mr. Diakite is right. When you step back for a minute -- as he, and finally that Malibu, forced me to do -- you remember again that the rest of this car is still a mighty BMW 5 Series sedan.
Which remains a very good thing.
And that, VIN wbaxg5c52cdw85305, was your Motor Trend life.
|Service Life||16 mo/34,516 miles|
|Price as Tested||$60,470|
|Options||M Sport Pkg ($4800: staggered size 18-in wheels/tires, multi-contour seats, M steering wheel); Premium Pkg ($2250: pwr trunk, f&r park dist warning, Dakota leather upholstry); Tech Pkg ($1850: rear camera, navigation); Driver Asst Pkg ($1350: auto high beams, lane depart, blind spot detect); Comfort Access Keyless Entry ($1000); Prem Sound Sys ($950: 16-speaker satellite radio); Split fold-down rear seat ($475)|
|Average fuel economy||24.9 mpg|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ||23/34/27 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.78 lb/mi|
|Normal-Wear Cost||$1558 (replacement tires)|
|3-Year Residual Value*||$22,930|
|* Automotive Lease Guide|
|2012 BMW 528i|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, RWD|
|Engine type||Turbocharged I-4, aluminum block/head|
|Valvetrain||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|Displacement||121.9 cu in/1997 cc|
|Power (SAE net)||240 hp @ 5000 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||260 lb-ft @ 1250 rpm|
|Weight to power||16.2 lb/hp|
|Suspension, front; rear||Multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar|
|Brakes, F;R||13.0-in vented disc; 13.0-in vented disc, ABS|
|Wheels, F;R||8.0 x 18-in; 9.0 x 18-in, cast aluminum|
|Tires, F;R||245/45R18 96Y; 275/40R18 99Y Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT|
|Track, f/r||63.0/64.1 in|
|Length x width x height||193.1 x 73.2 x 57.6 in|
|Turning circle||39.2 ft|
|Curb weight||3896 lb|
|Weight dist, f/r||49/51%|
|Headroom, f/r||40.5/38.3 in|
|Legroom, f/r||41.4/36.1 in|
|Shoulder room, f/r||58.3/56.2 in|
|Cargo volume||14.0 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|Passing, 45-65 mph||3.3|
|Quarter mile||14.7 sec @ 94.4 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||106 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.88 g (avg)|
|MT figure eight||26.5 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|Top-gear revs @ 60 mph||1700 rpm|
|Airbags||Front, front side, f/r curtain|
|Basic warranty||4 yrs/50,000 mi|
|Powertrain warranty||4 yrs/50,000 mi|
|Roadside assistance||4 yrs/Unlimited mi|
|Fuel capacity||18.5 gal|
|EPA city/hwy econ||23/34 mpg|
|Energy cons, city/hwy||147/99 kW-hrs/100 mi|
|CO2 emissions||0.72 lb/mi|
|Recommended fuel||Unleaded premium|