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

2011 BMW 5 Series Long Term Road Test

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2011 BMW 528i: We Went to Montana, Part 5

July 21, 2011


My tight schedule for the Montana trip didn't leave nearly enough time to try out fun back roads.

When I got back to Missoula after my detour to Glacier National Park, I was dying to hop on U.S. 93 (which gets pretty twisty when you cross into Idaho), and then I'd maybe cut over to state highway 75... But it was getting late (already 7 or 8 p.m.), and U.S. 93 looked kind of remote and I didn't have a plan in place for where to stay that night, and so with considerable disappointment, I continued on I-90 to I-15 and pulled into Idaho Falls sometime after midnight. I still have regrets over making the safe choice, and I'm trying to talk my significant other into making another trip up to the far north next summer (or maybe even this fall). I did use U.S. 93 through Nevada, and I found it blissfully serene and light on traffic. Beautiful, too, as seen in the above photo.

So I had to settle for the occasional series of sweeping turns on Montana highways 200 and 83 -- a couple of the roads I used to get to Glacier. Actually, the road that goes through Glacier, Glacier Route 1 or Going to the Sun Road, is very curvy with a lot of elevation gain (and then a steep descent going back down), and could be a lot of fun, but it's posted between 25-40 mph and jammed with tourists who are in absolute awe over the enormous scale of the mountains and the glaciers... which is to say, people like me. However, that translated to a traffic jam worthy of an L.A. freeway, and after two hours of crawling along and stopping to take photos, I had to turn back. That was frustrating, but the scenery is stunning, and if you haven't been here, you should go here... just reserve 2-3 days to get through the traffic. Many photos await after the jump.

And the 528i? Well, it will come as little surprise to you that this isn't a car I'd take out on a "just because" drive. It is, however, a good companion for adventures on unfamiliar roads.


Although the suspension calibration is a little too isolating, car feels balanced and capable through turns. Even without Active Roll Stabilization magic, the body stays pretty flat, and the car's P245/45R18 Dunlop summer tires offer plenty of grip for public roads driving. The steering isn't as talkative as in past generations, but effort levels are good off-center. Of the midsize luxury sedans I've driven, I can see the Jaguar XF(R) being more enjoyable on these roads, maybe even the 2012 Audi A6. I still like the 5 Series, but I'm not as smitten with it as in years past... which is to say that 7-10 years from now, I can't see myself searching for used 2011 528i sedans.

And now for the photos. I had to take a mile-long gravel road to my residence in Montana. That coupled with daily afternoon thunderstorms necessitated a mid-trip self-serve wash in Seeley Lake.




And now we're headed to Glacier National Park.










I stopped here way too many times.


I stopped in Pocatello, Idaho, on the trip north. The Hotel Yellowstone is cool looking and literally about 100 years old. I think it's a Holiday Inn now.


Idaho has many instances of subtle beauty.


Oh, here's my other detour. Against anyone's better judgment, I left my motel in Idaho Falls and hopped on U.S. 20, which eventually takes you to Craters of the Moon National Monument. I spent 45 minutes looking at the lava fields. Then, it was back to L.A. in one shot.



Apparently nobody likes ethanol in Montana and Idaho. I saw this labeling at nearly every gas station. Which suited me and the 528i just fine.


Although I mostly used the iDrive display's split-screen layout, I really enjoyed following along on the full-screen map in unfamiliar parts of Montana. It's like looking at real road atlas.


And we're home.



And here's a chance to hear the 528i's normally aspirated, 3.0-liter inline-6 as I accelerate into the home stretch -- I-15 south into Vegas. You might need to turn your speakers up. Also I didn't do a great job mounting the camera, so there's a lot of distracting shake/noise.

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