2003 BMW 5 Series 530D SE 3.0 turbo diesel
German sleepers. If you're going to eat hot hatches for breakfast, why not do it in a German Tuxedo?
Prop shaft boot.
Drive shaft bush.
Rear spring broken.
Bottom ball joints (pair).
Swirl flaps replaced with blanks.
The BMW 530D SE is a luxurious limousine. My particular E60 model was used as demonstrator when the brand new 5 series was introduced back in 2003. Thus it has almost every available option.
A typical winter's day in my Five starts by unlocking the vehicle; where the door mirrors automatically fold out and light the tarmac below. Also, upon unlocking with my key, the driver's seat & steering wheel reposition themselves to my settings after my wife has driven it. I then remotely pop the boot, which immediately springs open (ideal for frightening strangers) and throw in my bag.
The windscreen is already demisted as the car's interior fan was set to come on half an hour before I need to leave for work. Start the car and it chimes a warning for ice displaying the outside temperature, and a striped line drops down around the outside of the rev counter between 4000-5000 RPM. As the engine warms, said striped line disappears to let you know it's okay to flex the loud pedal.
On idle - this is the only time the inline six sounds like a diesel, it is a busier sound that a four - a little like a V8 I like to think. The lights are automatic, but can also be set to always stay on no matter how bright it is outside, which is handy if you'd rather not be shunted by the unobservant.
The steering is low geared so the wheel needs more movement to turn compared to a one series. The standard Xenon lights swivel with the wheel. The heated steering wheel and heated seats are brilliant on cold days. The seats heat your back as well as your behind, and your hands heat up in no time.
Acceleration is effortless if you wish to stir the 218 BHP beast and surprisingly quick beyond 100mph. In seconds you are doing 125mph as this saloon surges its way toward its 149mph top speed*. Overtaking is very safe; any of the top three gears seem capable of turning the countryside blurry.
However, there is a time when the SE tells you it's a large, heavy car set up for comfort. When you take it by the stitched leather collar and start pointing it into some sharp corners, it's as though you're in a fighter jet, but banking the opposite way for all the turns.
You feel like you're doing something thoroughly undignified, like completing an assault course in a beige three piece suit.
Look underneath the car and you'll see the main culprits: two very skinny anti-sway bars front and rear.
The e60 rolls out of the factory on evil run flat tyres; these weigh what feels like twice the weight of normal tyres. Due to their stiff sidewalls, they make the back end do a jelly-like wobble when cornering over an uneven surface. It has a spare wheel and jack, so there is no need to have this demon rubber captivating your alloys.
I have replaced my front tyres and the front end is much less susceptible to tram lining. The rears are soon to follow. To help send them on their way, the DTC button can be held down for 5 seconds, which stops the traction control from cutting in when your rear wheels care for a smoke.
As the SE has an open differential, you will not find it easy light up both rears and impress elderly bystanders with a supreme sideways revolution of a roundabout.
The inside tyre will just spin wildly, giving it a brief glimpse as to what runflat hell will be like. To get the back end out, one must clutch kick in order to violently lose traction*.
An annoying feature presents itself whenever you're running low on fuel or washer fluid. It displays a warning until you sort this low key emergency. The annoying bit is that it displays this warning icon on the instrument cluster AND on the iDrive display where the time would be. So until you address these cries of neglect, you'll be looking at your watch to discover how late you are. It also pings when you start it up and when you turn it off to leave you and your passengers in no doubt that you are an abusive owner. Eventually this relentless barrage of amber warnings sees you angrily swerving into a BP station, brimming it with over priced diesel, and sloshing M&S still water into the washer reservoir.
The BMW 530D is a very comfortable daily driver, it returns 42 MPG even with a bit of spirited driving; and on the motorway, driving as though you have hair in your ears, you can achieve over 50 MPG. It is a cheap car to maintain if you can do a few of the easy tasks yourself. Changing the oil is particularly trouble free, as it has a handy little hatch in the under tray to reveal the sump plug. Which, after 8.2 litres of oil and a core filter have been purchased, is still £140 cheaper than a main dealer service.
If you're thinking of buying one, remember to remove the swirl flaps. They make the engine emissions at idle better, but as they age become brittle and eventually fall off their perch into the workings of your German clock, doing all kinds of damage. Swirl flap blanks can be bought for less than the cost of a tank of diesel, and fitted in an afternoon by anyone who is not scared of their intake manifold and has a decent tool kit.
In summary, this car is a precision piece of machinery, and is by far one of the best high performance diesel saloons available on the second hand market.
* As seen on Youtube and not actually explored first hand.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 4th October, 2013