To be crowned Prom King and Prom Queen usually involves months of dance move polishing, weeks of costume tailoring, and hours of hair gel waxing to look, perform, and dress the best. But did you enjoy the party?

AUTHORITATIVE IN ITS PURSUIT, SUBMISSIVE IN ITS OUTCOME

o be crowned Prom King and Prom Queen usually involves months of dance move polishing, weeks of costume tailoring, and hours of hair gel waxing to look, perform, and dress the best. But did you enjoy the party?

The 5 Series has always been the very last car one could upgrade to in BMW’s hierarchy where driving matters. The 3 is for young execs who did well in their early 30s, while the 5 is for those who don’t want to relegate to the back seats just yet after making it.

Motor heads always described themselves pounding B roads in full Hugo Boss outfits to best describe the occasion of driving one. Yes, Ingolstadt’s 6 might score on every quantifiable measure, and Stuttgart’s E would always be the lounge chair on wheels of choice, but Munich’s 5 has always been that bad boy in town whose engineers wanted that little engineered edginess in them. They know what they want, and if you discover it, you’d be in for a treat.

Because only those who stretched their engineering muscles into the spheres of unknown territory will one flummox upon flaws that in turn become known as character.

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And every single 5 Series has character in it. They’re supposed to be mid size execs, yes they do if you stretch a measuring tape out. But then you’ll notice the concise and clear dials, the angled dash, that immaculate seating position, that heavy and precise steering wheel, and the bolsters hugging your thighs and that perfect weight distribution, those perfect shifts and ratios - stuffs you’ll notice if you throw your measuring tape away and start immersing in it.

By sheer spirit, the 5 Series should’ve been the predecessor of the Porsche Panamera if you think about it. It’s the creation from a true blue blood race car engineer that had his family kidnapped and a gun to their heads while he’s forced to penned out a family car. He sadly obliged, but then he couldn’t help putting what he thought was right at the first place. It became a family sports sedan, but in this context the ‘family’ became the excuse.

‍‍‍The E12 was sporty, and immediately a 535i version was created; the E28 was sporty too, and it spawned the M5 in complete subtlety, and then the E34 M5 reached cult status, the E39 M5 were no longer quiet and shy with the V8 that burbles and wets Madonna’s pants. The 5 Series grew ‍‍‍up by getting younger with each generation, and then the floodgates opened with the E60. Penned by a mad genius who helmed from the future, the E60 was a design masterpiece of like it or hate it but you’ll never forget about it. The F10 535i was the introvert version of the E39 Alpina B10 V8.

No matter how much sensibility was engineered into those cars, BMW always left a sore thumb sticking out to piss or appeal depending on which camp you’re in. And this is what character is all about – the notion of non-conformists, the rebel that hides within. They were four door sports cars before 911s strapped on Turbos to become supercars.

The E60 M5 was perhaps the ultimate expression of it all; an F1-inspired V10 engine thrown into a family car, and a single clutch automated manual to slip the discs out of that 50 year old family man’s spine when it shifts. It is downright maniacal, it screams past 8000rpm, it produces a howl that haunts even the ghosts of Nikolaus Otto, and it gargles up 60 litres of fuel before the trip counter ever reaches 300km.

The transmission is rubbish if you g‍‍‍o by every quantifiable measure where the Audi A6 scores high, such is the same when you listened to Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time you’ll want to punch your ears. Doing it so repeatedly however, it became brilliant if you’re crazy enough to understand it. And this, my friend, is character.

Fast forward to this new G30 M Performance 530i which I’ve driven for a few days, I just can’t help but wonder what kind of wizardry BMW employs to make this car so good. Equipped with 20” wheels and go-fast styling bits plastered all over the car, the 530i M Performance shouldn’t be comfortable - but it is.

But from the outside everyone would’ve thought I’m having so much fun hooning a large four door sports car - I want to, but the draconian European emission taxes means the car ‍‍‍will shift up as soon as it can, the car wants to keep as low a rev range as possible; it wants to deny every accidental kick of the throttle; it wants to protect the spine of that 50 year old looking for some excitement; and unlike all 5 Series of yore where you move up to Sport Plus to partially remove the ESC to allow some angle of slide, Sport Plus is nowhere to be seen in the new one.

The new 530i M Sport understands that it was engineered with all those capabilities of yore, but in the quest to conform to everyone’s expectation, it needs to first be sensible, it needs to beat the A6 at every quantifiable measure, it needs to show the E-Class what a proper lounge chair feels like even when you’re flying through speed bumps with 20” sport wheels, it needs to do all that, and set the bar high, and it does, it really is the most accomplished car in its segment.

Measuring a smidgen smaller than the SWB 7 Series, the 5 Series shouldn’t be agile, but it is. The car is huge, the engine’s tiny, the dimensions were gargantuan, but the nimbleness is there. The dash looked boring in pictures, but the finishing is supple and rich. The design looks 2010, but the software, the technology screams 2020.

And the mantra of expecting A but arriving B also continues with how it looks and its underlying character. The M Performance styling kit on the car makes proverbial plebeians out of the F10 M5, but driving it seems like a psychiatrist just healed the insanity out of what was once a mad genius. It’s just so quiet, so smooth, so efficient, so good in everything that I almost fell asleep at one point from the immense comfort this car cocoons me in.

words by BOBBY ANG | photography by BOBBY & BENG

The end result, they did beat everybody according to every achievable measure - but in reality, they contorted themselves to please everybody around them, just like the Prom King‍‍‍s and Queens that had to keep themselves tidy and immaculate throughout the night, while a certain Swedish dancing queen were feeling the beat from the tambourine, having the time of her live, jiving everyone around her, making everybody seeing that girl, watching the scene, digging the dancing queen.

But it’s there, the kick down that got ignored for a moment until it’s very sure you want to do so - or until you flick the gear into sports mode, that engine that wants to relax as soon as it can to conserve fuel, and the quietest cabin in class that achieves its desired dB scores, but one that filters out the little arguments between the tyres and the roads beneath us during cornering. Heck, the volume knob that was blanked out previously to avoid having the IO sign appearing upside down when you twist it now has an IO sign that appeared upside down when you twist it - because Americans complained that they didn't know what the volume knob is for without a sign saying so.

All these to me just seem to suggest that the 5 Series has lost its character in the pursuit to become the best car in its segment. It is good in everything the segment is measured the same way a Camry is great in everything that segment was measured for, but the slightly noisier, slightly tighter, edgier Mazda 6 is what gets everyone’s attention; and in this context, the Volvo S90 that responds immediately to inputs, crashes through potholes, holds its gears when it detects the slightest form of impatience and its little Swedish flags littered through the cabin and its idiosyncrasies seems to suggest that the Swedes just did what they wanted with the S90 while the 5 Series asked everybody around what they wanted in the new car in BMW’s bid to beat every player in the segment.