The 530i here carries forward the tradition rather well. Unlike the standard cast-iron blocks of the 1200cc 303 from 1933, this one has an aluminium core with magnesium for the upper and lower crankcases – a sign of extreme composite construction. For India, BMW have opted for a spec that reads as 255 bhp@6500 rpm and 30.5 kgm@2400 rpm. Remember to now read the specific output, because if there’s anything BMW will try to do, it is to get the bhp/litre figure to 100. The 535i series and its twin-turbos blow out 306 bhp, but get this, it’s still the same 2996cc. So you get an idea of how much punishment this engine can withstand.
Fire up the engine and the sound of premium unleaded being burnt begins to sound like the New York Philharmonic. Just like BMW’s ‘smellios’, who work around the clock to get the perfect balance of interior perfumes to act on your olfactory senses, BMW must have its own ‘audio-tors’, people who try to make every engine sound like a wet-dream. It has a distinct rumble but gently get the throttle to work and it develops a mind of its own. From a pootle to a full blown wail, it doesn’t take long to alter character. Don’t exert the engine and it will keep forward motion in 6th, the car somewhere around the 80 kph mark and the rpm gauge refusing to decide if 1700 rpm sounds okay or 1800 sounds like overkill. Release all thoughts of playing nanny and it will do a double whammy on you. Push down the gears, once, twice, thrice, four times then watch the badge on the nose actually turn into a propeller and the doors turn into wings. From a standing start, it will leve the equally powerful Audi A6 3.2 in its rear-view mirror. At 60 kph it starts to give its more torquey brother, the 525d, a complex. At 100 kph, it has gobbled up around 250 metres and with 7.5 seconds on the clock it has just entered our records as the fastest accelerating car with our road testing equipment so far. Not batting an eyelid (in this case a corona ring), the 530i goes on to impress the record sheets with 232 kph, as fast as we could dare to go, though frankly it was already starting to run out of breath past 220.
All of these figures can be attributed to the new six-speed gearbox, though I am not too much of a fan of it. It’s fast alright (BMW says 40 per cent over its predecessor), but its action seems too awkward, something like a Quick Draw McGraw. Leave it in sport mode and the difference is more than perceptible. Mid-range too is devastatingly good, the kind of numbers I’ve generally seen on more exotic machinery.
So at this point, the drivetrain gets a 9/10, while the ride and handling pick up a point less. Not many will come to love that steering that demands your utmost concentration at all times, but somehow in isolation, I enjoyed it; razor edged and yet well weighted. After a while you start getting a nagging feeling, the one where the steering wheel starts to feel too thick and a tad irritating. A mm or two less should be it, BMW. Around corners, the car is brilliant, to a point where you know what the rear axle is up to. Every inch around the curve feels alive, as if there’s a secret pact signed by the car and the road in advance. The traction control fights and at a point it gives up, and then the car bites back, bites hard and swift like a hammerhead shark.