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Old 24th November 2008, 01:07   #1
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Default FlyingSpur & Dippy's Faceoff : BMW 530d v/s Merc E280 CDI

Here's a few points I thought worth mentioning from my TD's with Dippy. The deed was done over the last couple of days. First the 530D and then the E280 CDI, within a span of just two days, on the same stretch of road. First, I will mention a couple of initial thoughts I was carrying into the TDs.

1. Pretty much everyone on the forum has chosen a 520d/530d over the E280 recently, I was keen on observing the reasons why members have chosen BMW over the Merc.

2. No one escapes the usual BMW is for the self-driven while Mercs are for the chauffeur-driven comment. Well, let's find out for ourselves, shall we?

The BMW was picked up from Navnit (Juhu Galli). Took some time for the TD car to arrive, meanwhile we had a look at the 650i and the M3 Convertible on display. The black TD car arrived shortly after and Dippy took to the wheel, navigating through city traffic all the way to the Lokhandwala back road, while I intentionally seated myself at the back to ovserve the ride on the RFTs. Dippy's driving experience will follow. After a couple of runs on the road, I took over from him. A slight dab at the pedal and we were off gently. Flooring the throttle and all of those 500 torques came thrashing through the tyres, emanating a satisfying exhaust note in the process. Diesels have never sounded better. The needle regularly kept seeing the brisk side of the ton, and refinement levels were very high indeed, as expected of a German saloon. The corners were taken very enthusiastically, and not once did the Bavarian lose footing or feel unsettled. Grip levels are insane and utterly confidence-inspiring. You really have to keep your wits about you to avoid doing something you'd regret later. Handling, indeed. Moving over to the tiptronic mode, the shifts were smooth albeit a little slow. This is no DSG, no matter what anyone says. I did an emergency 120-0 - well not exactly 0, at about 30 I stepped off - and the BMW was calm and poised as ever. Can't really say the same about the sales representative and accompanying driver though. Overall, a very satisfying drive.

A couple of days later, Dippy and myself went over to Auto Hangar where diesel_headrock was waiting to receive us. We had a look at the latest-spec C200K and the E280 CDI, the two cars on display, after which we had a go at the TD car, which was a white E280 CDI with black interiors. One important point to note is that this demo car was of the older spec i.e. before the little but significant features were added at the time of the E220/E230 launch. Amongst other things, the seat adjustment was partly manual and was really annoying, but since the new models have all-electric adjustment I didn't really mention it. We headed to the same stretch of road - IMO, the best way to do a comparitive drive of two cars. Sparse sunday morning traffic meant we were set to have quite a good time with this car. This time I went first. Shifting the 7G-Tronic into D, the car effortlessly glided.......for a grand total of about three seconds, till I floored it !! The motor is unbelievably silent and the tranny shifts through the cogs seamlessly even when floored. Refinement levels even during enthusiastic driving are unbelievable. Again, the ton was crossed effortlessly, and this car felt a lot more relaxed in its ways and mannerisms than the BMW. Cornering though, was a different story. More on that later. All in all, the Mercedes didn't really feel like a car that needs replacement, I honestly believe it can still hold its own against the BMW with ease for a couple of years more. After my run Dippy took over, and will share his own experiences.

Now for a few important points of comparision :

Exterior : Maybe the W211 is getting on a bit, but from no angle does it look dated. I loved the W211 because I hated the W210, and the W211 was a much needed evolution, it made the car look more youthful, coupe-like and a lot more fresh. It is elegant and pleasing to look at. The BMW is quite a looker, no doubt. Aggressive, angular and fantastically proportioned. Beeauuuuuuutiful eagle-wing tail-lamps on the dark complemented by very, very piss-off-or-I'll-bite-your-head-off headlamps indeed. The whole look is just fabulous. I am a Bangle fan and there's no denying it.

Interior : Beige does it for me. I dislike black interiors a lot, and the test car made it very difficult indeed for me to enjoy my brief stay in there, although I did enjoy it anyway. The W211 interiors are something I always liked, very well designed and with all the swoopy curves and wood/beige leather combination, it's a very pleasing sight to me. The display car was endowed with beige interiors. The BMW test car had beige interiors as wel, but somehow I did not like the interiors as much in comparision with the E. There's just a strange feeling of....incompleteness...in that centre console. Aluminium (on black) or wood (on beige) please. The layout of both interiors was quite thoughtful and once you know your way around the controls, it's no biggie to get what you want real quick.

(Side note: iDrive : less said, the better).

Driveability : I did not drive the E280 much in city traffic, maybe Dippy could shed some light on this. The few turns that I took though, the steering felt very light and the car as a whole felt quite manoeuverable. There's no escaping the fact that it's a little dead though. In comparision, I drove the BMW in peak traffic and it was so easy to manage, it did not feel like a big heavy car at all. The steering was a bit of a task in comparision to the E, but again, IMO not such a biggie. I was far more comfortable squeezing the 5 through gaps in traffic than the E. Also, the wing mirrors in the E feel really small while the size and shape of those on the 5 were just perfect. No complaints there.

Comfort : This is something I wont confuse with the ride, as I feel they are two different aspects. Trying to get my seat to position right in the E was downright annoying, and I had to hunt about quite a bit, BUT once I got there, it was a very comfortable place to be in. Much more so than the front seats of the 5. Something which I think is quite important a point to mention. At the back however, it was a slightly different story. The back seat of the 5 was something I found to be more comfortable than that of the E. It's just that the ride of the Merc being superior, the overall experience in the Merc is better than in the BMW, which is compromised by the RFTs.

Ergonomics : The gear shifter on the new BMWs is quite a joy to use, and better than the standard ones found in the Mercs, especially the tiptronic mode. However, the location of the shifter was really a pain for me. I'm 6' 1" and had my seat pushed back quite a bit, and from that position it was such a pain to reach out for the shifter everytime that even though I always prefer the tiptronic mode, I just left it in D even while thrashing the car. The Mercedes though, my my. You really have to look hard to find a fault with the ergonomics of this car, all the switches are placed conveniently and nothing is really an effort to reach.

One important point here is the old-spec E which we drove had the seat adjustment switches effectively in the front right corner of the seat which I found to be very annoying, coupled with the manual adjustment. In the new spec models, the whole set of seat adjustment switches is moved to the door. I prefer them to be beside the seat as they usually are, but this isn't a bad solution either. Perfectly acceptable.

Ride : Definitely, the Mercedes. But honestly, the RFTs are not that bad at all. It's not something you absolutely cannot live with. It does compromise the precision engineering BMW put into their cars a little, but really, unless you have to drive through miles of cart-track to get to a decent road, you'll be just fine with it.

Handling : Definitely the BMW. However, that statement is purely a fact and does not indicate my personal preference. Here is where I'm going to make you guys wonder what's wrong with my head. The BMW was stunning through the corners. This was the first time I was throwing around such a big, expensive car and not once did I think I was pushing it. It went exactly where I wanted it to, it did exactly what I wanted it to, incomparision to the Merc iit feld like a fine-tuned, sharpened track tool. It was all so...manageable and controlled (and at this point of time I must mentioned we were slightly more well-behaved during the BMW TD, but still).

And then there was the Mercedes. Fast, rough cornering, everytime there was a bit of understeer and yet we kept pushing it, a couple of instances of oversteer (due to some silly driving on my part, believe me I'm quite new to this kind of driving) and opposite lock till the car snapped back into line, and off it was, tearing into the horizon again. It felt like it was doing its own thing, barely understanding what I wanted it to do (well at times I myself didn't know what I wanted to do), so out of control as compared to the 530d, and my God, so utterly rewarding! Somehow, the uncertainty of whats going to happen next and the relative misbehaviour of the E around corners as compared it to the 5 made it a much more enjoyable experience. I know I'm off my sockets here, and if you have to live with a car this expensive you'd much rather prefer the BMW's control to the Merc's misbehaviour, but then if you have your sockets around you, such cars won't really be driven this way anyway.

And this is what makes me favour the E just a little more than the 5. The styling, the handling, the relative freshness of the brand and the overall driving experience sure make you think hard about the 530d as a compelling choice, but at the end of the day, the comfort of the E280, the fact that you won't really explore the chinks in the handling in real-time driving conditions.... all of that just puts a little smile on your face at the end of the day, assuring you that you haven't made much of a mistake with the Mercedes.

That said, maybe if I were to park my own money on one of these machines, it would be the 530d, but the point of the above conclusion was that the TD of the E280 CDI was definitely a lot more fun at the end of the day.

Dippy, your experiences please. Public, comments please.

Last edited by FlyingSpur : 24th November 2008 at 01:21.
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Old 24th November 2008, 01:18   #2
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A pretty good report.
I personally feel that the 5 is anyday a better choice than the E.

Thanks for the review.
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Old 24th November 2008, 01:34   #3
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That's an interesting thread title, Dippy. Gives the impression that we took the two cars to Jebel Hafeet in Abu Dhabi and replicated the last racing sequence depicted in the movie RACE....lol !!
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Old 24th November 2008, 01:53   #4
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Fantastic report there flyingspur. Here are my additional notes to this faceoff which are quite similar to yours.

We drove the 530d first and I went for this TD knowing that I would be driving a really fast car. The acceleration on this car is brutal. Once you hit the pedal, you what the 500 Nm of torque is all about. It just throws you back into your seat. While I was not expecting much from the Mercedes to be very honest. I came away very very surprised. Though the torque figures are less on the Merc, the car is not slow by any chance at all. The new 7 speed G Tronic box on the Merc is just fantastic. The gearshifts are just seamless and you just keep going and going. I am very very impressed with this gearbox. Not that the BMW was less fun, its sure was in its manual mode.

In the handling department, there is no competition. The BMW wins hands down. I took turns at the Lokhandwala back road right hander in both cars at similar speed, the BMW just stuck to the road, while the Merc had its tail coming out as I did an opposite lock. I actually enjoyed that though. Coming to the ride, the Merc is way more comfortable than the BMW. The Beemer's ride is quite harsh compared to the Merc thanks to those run flats but it is not as bad as it is made out to be. Both cars were driven on the same patch of bad roads. While you could feel the bumps in the BMW, the Merc just glided over the bad patch.

The BMW steering is more involving while the Merc steering felt a bit dead at times. However I found both the cars quite nimble in traffic and did not seem to be a handful. Coming to the comfort, while I found the Merc's back seat way more comfortable then the Beemer, the driver's seat of the BMW took the cake over the Merc.

It is really difficult to chose between these two cars. While there is no challenging the 5 in the handling, the Mercedes scores in ride quality. The BMW is an out and out driver's car but I was very very impressed with the E, something which I was not expecting. I won't be taking sides here as both of them are really great cars with the precision of German engineering. The BMW is awesome but driving the E today has made me fall in love with Mercedes all over again. The BMW is" The Ultimate Driving Machine" but at the same time seeing the tri pointed star on the car you are driving makes you feel special as well.

A Thank you to diesel_hardrock and Maverick for arranging the Mercedes E and the BMW 5 respectively. Thanks guys

Last edited by Dippy : 24th November 2008 at 11:23.
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Old 24th November 2008, 02:17   #5
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Nice review guys. Your report explains the facts and views that have been expressed over various threads about these two cars. They both hold their strengths in their own departments.
A combination of the E & 5 would be a perfect blend....(hopefully the answer would be a non RFT riding 5 )

Btw flyingspur, i beg to differ on your view of the iDrive. There has been much debate over how hard it is to use,etc. But to really know the trust you must ask a person that uses it on a daily basis. And IMO it works brilliantly.
Although I can imagine why most people think it's crap because it is a bit intimidating at first. But once you are used to it, which may take a few minutes or days for some, it's great fun. Especially once you learn a few shortcuts.
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Old 24th November 2008, 08:27   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sahil View Post
Btw flyingspur, i beg to differ on your view of the iDrive. There has been much debate over how hard it is to use,etc. But to really know the trust you must ask a person that uses it on a daily basis. And IMO it works brilliantly.
Although I can imagine why most people think it's crap because it is a bit intimidating at first. But once you are used to it, which may take a few minutes or days for some, it's great fun. Especially once you learn a few shortcuts.
What I said about the iDrive was because I got a little over five minutes to fiddle with it in traffic, and the learning curve is quite steep. It's not intuitive at all. Three years ago, I had an hour or two to play with the iDrive on a 760iL and I found my way around it without much effort. I've completely forgotten my way about it though. I completely agree with you that once you're in the groove, there's nothing so annoying about the system. Maybe I should have mentioned this in my report, but typing such a long report at midnight made me a little lazy.

Last edited by FlyingSpur : 24th November 2008 at 08:32.
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Old 24th November 2008, 09:29   #7
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You guys sound like Autocar - no criticisms and amazingly equal scores
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Old 24th November 2008, 10:50   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajmat View Post
You guys sound like Autocar - no criticisms and amazingly equal scores
this is the first time I've written a report on a test drive I've done. and I've mentioned a lot of small niggles that I found with both cars. the seat adjustment in the e-class, the small mirrors, the handling etc etc while the interiors and slow transmission of the 530d have also found mention. maybe what if conveyed comes across as an overall feel-good article because I'm not accustomed to taking such big, expensive cars apart.
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Old 24th November 2008, 11:32   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyingspur View Post
slow transmission of the 530d have also found mention.
It's suprising you mention this but i think I know what the culprit is here. Although the 7g transmission on the E has a slight edge here thanks to newer technology.

How many kms had the 530d TD car been driven? BMWs have a "learning period" where in for a few thousand kms the transmission learns your driving style and then adapts itself. Often when too many drivers use the car ,the learning process is confused and adapts wrongly, hence the slow shifting in this case.
There is an insiders trick to this which dealers don't inform you, put the key in and lets all the electronics turn on without the engine starting. Then press the accelerator for 25 seconds and voila your transmission is back to new! This resets the transmission and deletes whatever it has learned. Hence you must do this every few thousand kms to keep the car from locking in a driving style.
Also did you guys drive the car in the sports "DS" mode at all? It really gets the cream out of the engine by keeping it in within the torqueiest part of the rev band. And enables faster downshifts too.
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Old 24th November 2008, 13:25   #10
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Hey great write-up there,both of you. As unbiased as one can be.Had a great time with you'al
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Old 24th November 2008, 18:27   #11
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@ Sahil : Completely new to the BMW trannys. If I knew this beforehand, I would have definitely reset the transmission before setting off. The placement of the shifter and the relative slow shifts compared to the 7G-Tronic were about the only real gripes I had with the ergonomics aspect.
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Old 24th November 2008, 18:56   #12
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Well this is a great review by 2 petrolheads.

So guys i got a query. If given a chance which one of the two would you go for. I know you guys liked the E but in your daily conditions which would you prefer.
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Old 24th November 2008, 20:32   #13
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great review. now how about tding the a6 3.0 tdi quattro and letting us know how it compares to these.
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Old 24th November 2008, 20:59   #14
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Great review guys! It must've been super to tear up the road (wots left of it) in these 2 cars.

But c'mon, if you had to choose one over the other which one would it be?
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Old 24th November 2008, 21:44   #15
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Everyone always talks about how the head wants a Mercedes and the heart longs for a BMW. In my case, strangely, it is the opposite. That is all I will say. I am not delivering a verdict here, for the simple reason that the teutonic perfection achieved in engineering such fantastic automobiles is far above and beyond our personal whims. We will all make the right decision for ourselves should we find ourselves at the milestone of buying one of these.

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great review. now how about tding the a6 3.0 tdi quattro and letting us know how it compares to these.
How about lending us your friend's Audi A6 ??

Last edited by FlyingSpur : 24th November 2008 at 21:48.
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