We Went to Montana, Part 4 - 2011 BMW 528i Long-Term Road Test
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2011 BMW 5 Series Long Term Road Test

2011 BMW 528i: We Went to Montana, Part 4

July 19, 2011

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Here is the obligatory fuel economy post from my road trip from L.A. to Montana (and back) in our long-term 2011 BMW 528i. Tomorrow I'll fill you on the back-roads driving I did on the way to Glacier National Park (that little detour pushed my total trip distance right up near 3,000 miles) and regale you all (well, all of you who are still reading after my relevation of car-related negligence... "I would have just changed oil and filter myself on the side of the road," wrote vvk. "The next owner is in for a world of hurt," tjpark01 predicted.) with the rest of my photos.

For now, here's a photo of our 528i taken around 10 p.m. (high latitude = long summer days) just off Interstate 90 next to the Blackfoot River. This river of River Runs Through It fame meanders along the interstate (or rather, the interstate meanders along the river), and there are countless scenic places to pull off along the way. This area is also pretty remote, though, and it got even more remote as I turned south on I-15 toward Idaho Falls, my destination for the night.

And that's why I was so pleased by our 528i's respectable rate of fuel consumption (29.3 mpg for the whole trip, with a best tank of 30.8 mpg. I didn't do a fuel economy run on this trip, because I didn't have time. Speed limits were posted at 70-80 mph for almost the whole trip, and I stayed with the flow. I also dug the car's extremely long cruising range -- my best run lasted 531.1 miles. Yep, I'm about to explain myself on that...

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I made this trip alone. I like traveling alone, but when you're alone, you have to exercise some extra caution. On many occasions, on my nighttime drive south on I-15, I'd go 20 minutes without seeing another vehicle. After one of these dry spells, I passed a Mazda RX-8. Way back in the day, we had an RX-8 in our long-term fleet and I remember stopping for fuel after just 200 miles. In this moment, I felt really glad to be in the 528i.

With an easy 400-500 miles of cruising range, I could really choose my fuel stops, so I didn't have to stop just anywhere, didn't have to pull into unfamiliar towns than didn't feel quite safe, didn't have to automatically canvas the area for a gas station if I was stopping for food or coffee. Had I been traveling with someone (or been more familiar with the area), I probably wouldn't have cared as much about range or fuel stops, but as a solo traveler in completely unfamiliar surrounds, this was a good deal and it really endeared the 528i to me.

See, I think a BMW 5 Series should be an excellent road trip car above all else. And when you look at engine performance/personality, ride quality and fuel consumption/range, the 528i ticks all the boxes. Is it as engaging and fun as older 5 Series sedans I've driven? No. But it's still a sedan that you can get in and drive for hundreds, even thousands of miles, and the car feels positively in its element.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 17,156 miles

Below, a fuel stop on U.S. 93 south of Kalispell, Montana, just before a torrential thunderstorm.

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Below, storm clouds over northbound Interstate 15. The skies opened every afternoon I was in Montana. I haven't experienced that since I lived in Memphis during my college years.

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Below, typical western Montana scenery. It never gets old. This state is just stunning.

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