In the menacing shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, when uncertainty rules the roost, there are only a few things that are guaranteed to make you grin like the Cheshire cat that just licked a bowl of fresh cream. If you love the road and have a nice set of wheels of great pedigree to stretch the legs and crunch the miles as the landscape gets sucked in through the windshield and ejects through the rear-view mirror in blurred motion, yet the driver remembering every moment spent at the steering wheel with a sense of heightened clarity, then you affirm with certainty that life is sunny.
It is here that the long-awaited, facelifted BMW 5-Series, with its enlarged kidney grille tends to stretch the lips in pleasure and light up the eyes with joy. And, if the 530i in question happens to be the M Sport version, you even let out a whoop. The sculpted metal with sweeping bodylines, the “forward leaning” stance, the more squared headlights with BMW’s patented LaserLight technology and L-shaped DLRs riding on five-spoke, 18-inch wheels shod with Michelin rubbers oozes loads of attitude and intent. Even standing, it’s like a beast straining at the leash.
It’s just not the looks that stirs up the pot of testosterone, it’s equally potent under the hood. The 1,998 cc, twin turbo four-pot engine churns out pulling power of 252 horses in the upper reaches of the rev band, which is mated to an eight-speed Steptronic transmission that allows the 530i to sprint from standstill to 100 kmph in just 6.2 seconds. With these kinds of numbers hiding under its sophisticated and polished exterior, the 530i needs a stretch of road that’s not lined with killjoy speed cameras to unleash the hooligan spirits lurking in the depths of the driver’s heart.
So, when the opportunity to drive the M Sport variant along with spending the weekend at the Ramgarh Heritage on the edge of Panchkula came my way, I floored the peddle with a devilish grin on my face. Despite the inherent sportiness, the first impression the 530i makes is that it’s perfectly composed in crawling traffic. Slot the gearstick in D and select the ‘comfort’ mode, and one can merrily trundle along on city roads at any speeds ranging from 30 to 60 kmph. The adaptive suspension irons out the wrinkles and crinkles on the road to offer a plush and cushy ride to the driver and passengers.
But on an empty stretch of road like the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPH), the moment you switch to ‘sport’ mode and push the gearstick to left and start using the paddle shifters, you will experience what BWM calls as ‘ultimate driving experience’. The 530i is in its elements. The steering becomes heavier, the suspension stiffer, and the whole body feels tauter as you floor the peddle. And the handling will make you feel like the best racing driver, even though it might be just an illusion. That’s when the 530i is at its alive best—it feels sightly fidgety, but a lot more responsive to the slightest of inputs into the steering or the throttle. It’s in this mode I drive the approximately 35-km stretch of the EPH at speeds that cannot be put on record.
On the inside, the perforated Sensatec seats with lumbar support for the driver and passenger, sports leather steering wheel and M Sport specific trim strips add dollops of class, comfort, and luxury. The bigger, 12.3-inch infotainment system that can be operated through the classic rotary dial next to the gearstick makes the whole driving experience quite interactive.
Irrespective of the length of the drive, it’s always a soothing experience to stay in a place that has character, charm, and hospitable staff. That’s what the more-than-300 year old Ramgarh Heritage, a WelcomHeritage property offers.
Once you drive through the main gate, its an oasis of peace and calm. The three-storied structure of the main building has 26 rooms built around the central courtyard. Latticed balconies overlook the main lawn. The rooms are spacious and airy, unlike modern hotel rooms that are more like airconditioned boxes. But the best part of the stay is the extremely friendly staff.
Despite running on low staff strength due to the lingering effects of the second Covid wave in April-May, most of the amenities were available for the guests, except for the swimming pool and the roof-top restaurant.
The food was sumptuous, and the servings generous. The Lal Maas, cooked in a rich gravy that’s accentuated by the subtle flavour of mild spices is highly recommended for all meat lovers.
But a special word of appreciation for Jaideep Singh Chandel, who runs the property for the former royal family, for going out of the way to help THE MAN magazine to take the BMW for a spin on empty country roads. After riding shotgun with me for a short distance, I could tell that he too was impressed with the facelifted 5-Series.
My only complaint with this driving experience is that it got over just too soon. After all, the 530i M Sport is for keeps, even if it is for a short duration.
Transmission: 4 cylinder, 8-speed Steptronic
Power: 185kW/252hp @5,200-6,500rpm-350Nm @1,450-4,800rpm
0-100 kmph: 6.2 seconds
Price: Rs62.90 lakh