Green Power; 4-Cylinder BMW 528i Is Still a “Driving” Machine

The 240-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the BMW 528i has more power than the inline six-cylinder engine it replaced.

Four-cylinder engines aren’t what they used to be.

It is a curiosity of engineering that the 240-horsepower, four-cylinder engine in the BMW Z4 roadster also works in the much larger and heavier BMW 528i sedan.

If you have not previously been tempted by the deep, machined tone of a BMW inline six-cylinder, such as 3.0-liter in the 535i,” the new 528i may define green speed.

Not only can this full-size sport sedan do 0-60 mph 6.2 seconds (just 0.5 slower than the 535i) but it also has fuel-economy ratings of 23 mpg city, 34 highway and 27 mpg combined. The engine has an auto start-stop feature that kills the power at idle, such as a traffic light, and then refires when the driver lifts off the brake pedal or engages the clutch.

The 528i’s turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has more power than the turbocharged 3.0 liter inline six-cylinder it replaces (230-hp), and it has more pulling power from low rpms — 255 foot-pounds of torque from 1,250 to 4,800 rpm versus 200 foot-pounds torque at 2,750 rpm.

I was averaging 25 to 27 mpg around town with some Interstate. And on a 120-mile freeway run, the mileage climbed to 31.3, and I don’t doubt it would have continued to climb if I were a daily distance commuter.

Performance can be surprisingly sharp when the twin-scroll turbo grabs a breath, but even pulling away from a traffic light isn’t dull. The runflat, all-season tires were uncommonly quiet and smooth-rolling. The sleek styling, with a low 0.29 drag coefficient, calms wind noise and is an incremental benefit to fuel economy.

The EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide ranks the 528i at 6 and 6 for air pollution and greenhouse gas scores, out of possible 10s. The 535i has mileage of 21/31 city/highway (21/30 AWD) and also ranks 6/6 at the EPA guide (6/5 for AWD). As a comparator, the Audi A6, with 2.0-liter four-cylinder, ($42,575) scores 6/7 for clean air and has fuel economy of 25/33 city/hwy.

The BMW 5-Series is sold in three engine choices, all turbocharged, in rear or all-wheel drive. The 528i starts at $47,795 (add $2,300 for AWD) and includes an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 535i starts at $53,395 with the six-speed manual and also has auto start-stop and regenerative braking. The 400-hp, V8-powered 550i starts at $62,895, with manual or automatic choices; prices include $895 freight charge from Germany.

The rear-drive 528i test car was $58,775 with options, which included the Tech package, $1,850, with its rearview camera and navigation system. The Sport package, $3,600, may be overkill for this model, but I did like the anthracite (black) headline and the leather steering wheel upgrade. Also in the package are 18-inch wheels, Dynamic Damper Controls (shock absorbers), multicontour seats and shadowline (black) exterior trim.

Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels and runflat, all-season tires, moonroof, xenon headlights, dynamic cruise control, six air bags and four years of free scheduled maintenance.

For actual seating, the 5-Series is a 4 plus 1, the 1 being the center rear position, which is kid-class in comfort. Otherwise, the window seats have adult-size legroom, good footroom under the front seats and a comfortable recline and support. Trunk space of 14 cubic feet may seem low, but the space is square and long. A folding seatback is, oddly, part of the cold-weather package ($1,450), which also includes a heated steering wheel.

Making the change to green power takes some adjustment. The auto start-stop seems more abrupt than other systems I’ve tested, and the engine sound is definitely four-cylinder and not the definitive tone of a BMW inline six-cylinder.

Others may get more satisfaction from making a slightly smaller carbon footprint of the four-cylinder and the peace of a quiet cabin at the stoplight.

BMW abandoned four-cylinder engines for its cars going to North America years ago. The majority of buyers choose automatic transmissions, which rob a good bit of power and defeat the title of “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

But the definition of ultimate may be changing for a new generation of buyers.

2012 BMW 528i

—Body style: large, 5-passenger, rear-wheel drive sedan

—Engine: 240-hp, direct-injection, turbocharged, DOHC 2.0-liter 4-cylinder; 260 foot-pounds torque from 1,250 to 4,800 rpm

—Transmission: 8-speed automatic with Sport and Manual modes and steering-wheel shifters

—Fuel economy: 23/34 mpg city/hwy.; 22/32 AWD; 91 octane

—0-60 mph: 6.2 seconds

—Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons

—Trunk space: 14 cubic feet

—Front head/leg/shoulder room: 40.5/41.4/58.3 inches

—Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 38.3/36.1/56.2 inches

—Length/wheelbase: 198.1/116.9 inches

—Curb weight: 3,814 pounds

—Turning circle: 39.2 feet

—Standard equipment includes: automatic climate control, power moonroof, leatherette upholstery, 10-way adjustable front seats with four-way lumbar, dynamic cruise control, Bluetooth phone connection, auto-leveling xenon headlights with cornering control, 17-inch alloy wheels and runflat (all-season) tires, floor mats, 10-speaker audio system with HD radio and iPod-USB adapter

—Safety features include: 6 air bags, adaptive brake lights, stability and traction controls, 4-wheel disc brakes with brake-fade compensation, brake drying, brake standby and start-off assistant

—Base price: $47,575, including $875 freight charge; price as tested $58,775

—Options on test vehicle: Technology package, $1,850, adds rearview camera and navigation system;

—Where assembled: Dingolfing, Germany

—Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper with full maintenance and roadside assistance

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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