We Went to Montana, Part 1 - 2011 BMW 528i Long-Term Road Test

2011 BMW 5 Series Long Term Road Test

2011 BMW 528i: We Went to Montana, Part 1

July 15, 2011


About a year ago, I told you I was headed to Montana with our long-term 2011 BMW 528i. I'd planned to blog in semi-real-time, but except for some scattered Facebook updates, I've been on radio silence since leaving town last Sunday. Turns out I had to spend pretty much all my waking hours at the wheel, stopping only to sleep, eat and refuel.

Well, I'm back now and I feel kind of rejuvenated in spite of the near-nonstop driving. That means you can expect a bunch more posts with various thoughts (some interesting, some boring) I had during all those hours alone in the car.

Of course, you can't help but grow attached to a car on a trip like this, and as a couple of you predicted, I never thought about our 528i's jerky throttle response, except when pulling out of my motel in the mornings.

Meanwhile, I became an even bigger, even more annoying fan of BMW's normally aspirated inline six-cylinder engine. (Just how annoying? Well, I attended a media event for a rival automaker, and I took over the dinnertable conversation talking about this engine, until finally an employee of said rival automaker leaned over and said, "OK, we get it. Can we please talk about [X vehicle] that you've come here to drive?!" "Sure," I replied, "as soon as you acknowledge that this inline-6 is better than any of the comparable Vee engines your company builds." Wow, I'm kind of a jerk.)

Note the elevation posted on the sign, which appeared 997 miles into the trip. On this whole drive, we never saw anything higher than 8,000 feet, and most of the driving was at 4,000-5,000 feet. By about 6,000 feet, the N52N engine showed subtle altitude-related fatigue, so merging and passing required a few more revs -- a situation I actually enjoyed, because this engine makes some great sounds when it's working.

Before I left town, I was wondering how I was going to keep track of trip mileage since like all other BMWs, the 528i doesn't have the conventional Trip A/B counter -- there's just one trip counter in the cluster. Then, I found this page within the iDrive menus. Turns out we've always had the "automatic reset" box checked, so the data on this page is zeroed out whenever we clear the trip counter.


I unchecked the box and soon I had a nice trip log going. Here's how it looked when I pulled up at my destination in Greenough, Montana, after using I-15 (and on to I-90 and Montana Hwy 200) the whole way. As several of you noted, traveling through Utah brought both permissive speed limits (at least half a dozen stretches limited to 80 mph) and brief but frequent road construction delays... which pushed down my average speed. I figured I'd take the "fast" route north to Montana and try an alternate route for the return trip.

As for average mpg, well, in-car trip computers tend to be incurably optimistic, but this one really wasn't far off reality. Indeed. Who needs a four-cylinder when you can do this well with an inline-6? Oh, wait, N52N is about to lose its job to a four-cylinder.

I'll have the mpg totals for you shortly. Also, 1,273 miles should have been the halfway point of my trip, but I couldn't resist the call of Glacier National Park, and then, Craters of the Moon National Monument... eh, what's another 350 miles? Oh, right, that's the reason nobody goes on road trips with me.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 15,525 miles

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