Powerful sedans, small displacement: BMW 530i vs Mercedes E 300

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In the early days, 250 horsepower limousines were powered by V8 engines and in the recent years this was achieved via turbo diesel motors. Now the petrol engine makes a comeback. First comparison test between BMW 530i and Mercedes E 300 will show just how good are the four-cylinder petrol engined models.

It is by no means the first time that these two luxury-class cars compete in a comparison test. And because the current article wants to point out real alternatives to diesel, the war of the petrol engines allows us once again a visit to the good old days.

This what both BMW and Mercedes offer today in the 50,000-euro league: four-cylinder turbo gasoline direct injection motors with two liters of displacement. Which does not mean that they do not stand out, does it? Oh, you realized that we wanted to build a suspense there for dramaturgical reasons?

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No downsizing in terms of performance
The B30B20 engine sits under the hood of the 530i. Oil sump and engine block are made of aluminum, the cylinder liners are coated with iron alloy, two balancing shafts soothe the engine. With the twin-scroll turbocharger (two separate flow channels) and fully variable valve and camshaft control, it achieves 252 hp and 350 Nm at 1,450 rpm.

Very similar values, namely 245 hp and 370 Nm at 1,300 rpm, is what Mercedes indicates for the M 274. It also can variably switch the two overhead camshafts and valves for better cylinder filling and faster response. With all the 200 bar injection pressure of the map-controlled direct injection pump – we still have gentle concerns whether all the technology is sufficient to develop the same sublime sovereignty as the old V8s.

In any case, under the hoods of the two new test cars, the four-cylinder seem a little lost, after all, the dimensions of the engine compartments are designed for the accommodation of six- and eight-cylinder engines, which still exists in the stronger versions. No matter, it is crucial how the two cars go.

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Display Key: Drive the car in front
The BMW starts at the push of a button from the outside thanks to its intelligent key. Thus, the 5 Series can roll alone out of a parking space. Time to set up. Although BMW continues to organize many functions within the cleverly sorted and intuitive iDrive, the system reaches its limits with its combined touchscreen, gesture, rotary-push and voice controls.

Turn the head-up display on or off? For this you have to navigate five steps deep into the submenus. And this flirtation with gestures may work well, but at some point you’ll think about how it looks to others from the outside.

This does not change the basic superiority of the 5 Series in the operation area, because the Mercedes bureaucratized its functions less intuitively. Although most of the numerous assistance systems that are helpful and function very well at BMW can be activated via direct keys, the infotainment is more confusing. At Mercedes they are very proud of the small touch-sensitive square buttons on the steering wheel, because they are similar to those on a Blackberry – which does not sound like an advantage for us.

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BMW furnishes the wide cockpit with more comfortable armchairs and in the more spacious rear with a cuddly seat. The front seats of the Mercedes are padded harder and offer less lateral support. In the back seat what disturbs is the flat back. In terms of trunk volume and variability, on the other hand, there are just as few differences as with the quality of the instrumentation, which can be complemented optionally with head-up displays.

Engine sound? None
Now that everything has been clarified, let us really start. Start button one in the BMW, start button in the Mercedes, move the selector lever back here, press the short knobs down there. The two limousines roll softly. A small boost pressure? It may be, but the automatic transmissions convert the power subtly. In the city, the power of early torque is sufficient and the engines tend to idle at small speed. Everything great. Or?

On the highway, at hard acceleration, the engine sound … – no, no sound. A pretty trivial engine noise is rumbling in the thickly insulated interior of the Mercedes. And it is the same in the BMW. On the highway, there is no doubt about the assertiveness of these four-cylinder – as well as if they accelerate in four or five seconds from 80 to 120 km / h and continue to pace on to 250. The BMW still sprints a little more determined than the Mercedes, which is partly because the E 300 is almost two hundred kg heavier.

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On the other hand, its automatic gearbox switches a bit restlessly and not very sovereign through its nine stages. While it cooperates harmoniously with the more powerful diesel engine of the house, the self-developed 9G-Tronic tangled in the E 300, turn one, then a gear up, then immediately back – even if you have been traveling evenly for a long time, so it hardly adapts to a hectic driving style. It also reacts hesitantly to manual intervention.

That the drive lacks real sovereignty bothers all the more, as everything else is so sublime with the E-Class. Even heavy upheavals on the road seep into the equally optional and magnificent air suspension (2,261 euros). The Mercedes manages to surpass even the BMW, which still bounces quite plush as well with its set-up including adaptive dampers despite a gentle basic tightness.

At the same time, the E has acquired a handling talent in the current generation that no longer fits the old prejudice that it can only be cozy. This is mainly due to the smooth, precise, never nervous steering. The E 300 turns neutral, committed, very, very safe in corners. And that with a relaxed dynamic, which never pushes in the foreground. The entrainment takes over in the 530i, with the sharper, very precise all-wheel steering (1,250 euros) which makes it more agile, snappy and, yes, more compact feeling in turns, gives more peace and stability on the highway when changing lanes. The 5 Series remains extremely safe and brakes even more vehement than the E.

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Consumption decides

However, even with the 530i, you realize that the eight-speed automatic ZF8HP understands better the diesel engines. It turns faster and more accurate than the Daimler gearbox, but more often and not as perfect as usual. And although the drive of the 530i is more convincing overall, it is difficult to speak of a Bavarian engine masterpiece – just because of the roar at high speeds. There used to be sound.

Today the BMW delivers the better performance, needs only 8.9 l / 100 km. The Mercedes requires 9.3 l / 100 km – which is still little.

Such consumption advantages still cannot overcome the sheer force, sound and refinement of the eight-cylinder engines from yesteryear. Hence the E 300 and 530i are not the most outstanding models in their model series.

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1. BMW 530i
475 points
In each chapter, the agile, yet comfortable, spirited, thrifty, vehemently braking, well-equipped 530i wins points for the victory.

2. Mercedes E 300
446 points
Despite the good performance of the gasoline engine in the E-class the Mercedes still can not convince enough – for consumption and manners. Comfort is still sovereign though.

Technical Data
BMW 530i Luxury Line Mercedes E 300 AMG Line
Base price
55.100 € 58.262 €
Lenght x width x height 4936 x 1868 x 1479 mm 4923 x 1852 x 1468 mm
Trunk volume 530 l 540 l
1998 cm³ / 4-Cylinder 1991 cm³ / 4-Cylinder
252 PS at 5200 rpm 245 PS at 5500 rpm
Top speed 250 km/h 250 km/h
0-100 km/h 6,4 s 6,8 s
Mixed consumption
5,5 l/100 km 6,9 l/100 km
Test consumption
8,9 l/100 km 9,3 l/100 km

Via auto-motor-und-sport.de