The BMW 5-Series is a mid-size premium sedan that slots in between the 3-Series, the automaker's bread-and-butter model, and the flagship 7-Series. Now in its sixth generation, the 5-Series blends a host of powerful gasoline, diesel and hybrid powertrains with a smooth ride and a luxurious interior.
The 5-Series stretches 193.1 inches long, 73.2 inches wide and 57.6 inches tall, dimensions that make it roughly the same size as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, one of its closest rivals. Unlike the E-Class, the 5-Series is not offered as a station wagon in the United States.
Called F10 internally, the 5-Series wears an elegant front end that consists of headlights with rounded angles and a clean, uncluttered bumper. BMW has managed to retain its classic twin-kidney grille design while simultaneously complying with strict European pedestrian safety norms.
Although undeniably modern-looking, the 5's rear end is an evolution of the design that first appeared on the E34 model that was introduced in 1988. It is equipped with LED tail lamps that make the car instantly identifiable after the sun goes down.
To better square off against the competition, BMW recently gave the 5 a mid-cycle facelift that adds new trim bits and a revised air intake up front, as well as an additional crease in the rear bumper.
Inside, the 5-Series offers seating for up to five passengers and 14 cubic feet of trunk space. It can be ordered with a host of different trim surfaces, including real wood and brushed aluminum.
The functional, driver-oriented dashboard features a color display for the latest generation of BMW's ConnectedDrive infotainment system. ConnectedDrive enables the passengers to get directions with real-time traffic information, surf the internet on the go, change the climate control settings or pick a different radio station by either using the touch screen, the iDrive knob mounted next to the gear selector or the car's voice control system. Alternatively, passengers can manually input an address by using a touchpad-like surface integrated into the top of the iDrive controller.
In addition to serving as the center piece for the infotainment system, the dash-mounted screen also displays album covers and the images transmitted by the rear view camera.
A 5-Series come standard with Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, automatic Xenon headlights, auto-dimming ambient lighting, 12-volt power outlets and an integrated garage door opener.
Under The Hood
The 5-Series is available with three gasoline-burning engines, a turbodiesel unit and a hybrid powertrain.
The entry-level 528i is equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill that makes 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. Only available with an eight-speed automatic transmission, it returns 23 mpg on the city and 34 mpg on the highway, making the 528i the most fuel-efficient 5-Series ever offered in North America.
The mid-range 535i uses a turbocharged straight-six that is rated at 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft. of torque. It logs 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway when bolted an eight-speed automatic transmission and it propels the 535i from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.
The available six-speed manual transmission lowers city and highway fuel mileage to 19 and 29, respectively, without having an effect on performance.
M5 aside, the most powerful 5-Series is the 550i, which boasts a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 equipped with BMW's Valvetronic variable valve timing and lift system. Mated to either an eight-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual unit, the eight-cylinder mill makes 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft. of torque, enough to send the car from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat.
The 550i returns 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission. The figures go up to 17 and 25, respectively, with the more efficient automatic unit.
The diesel-burning 535d packs a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six that sends 255 horsepower and 413 lb-ft. of torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is not offered.
All models equipped with an automatic transmission can be ordered with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system at an extra cost.
The ActiveHybrid 5 is a puzzling vehicle. It adds a costly gasoline-electric drivetrain but offers barely any fuel economy or performance benefits.
To create the ActiveHybrid 5, BMW took the 300 horsepower, 300 lb-ft of torque 3.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged inline-six cylinder from the 535i, along with its eight-speed automatic transmission and then added a 55 horsepower, 155 lb-ft of torque electric drive system. The result is a combined peak of 335 horsepower and the ability to drive up to 37 miles per hour on electric power alone.
The electric power for the motor is provided from a lithium-ion battery with 96 cells and a usable capacity of 675 watt hours. BMW says the ActiveHybrid used both a 14.6-volt power supply and a 317-volt supply, with the two systems linked together through a voltage transformer.
Acceleration comes in at 5.7 seconds to sprint from a dead stop to 60 mph, which is ever-so-slightly quicker than the 535i. The all-important fuel economy numbers: 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, which is barely better than the significantly less-expensive 535i's 20/30 mpg figures.
Integrated into the standard Driving Dynamics Control is an ECO PRO mode, which is essentially a mode for those looking to hypermile. It modifies the driving systems for maximum efficiency, including making more frequent use of all-electric mode.
In ECO PRO mode, the combustion engine can be switched off and fully decoupled while coasting at speeds of up to 100 mph. Like all gas-electric hybrids, the ActiveHybrid 5 is also equipped with start-stop to eliminate fuel waste at traffic lights or in stop-and-go traffic.
Another way the ActiveHybrid 5 helps to deliver improved fuel efficiency is through the use of the navigation system to analyze driving conditions based on a selected route, and adjust accordingly. This enables the drive components to be primed to deliver maximum efficiency based on available data.
If you aren't in the mood for a leisurely drive, the ActiveHybrid 5 also offers Sport+, Sport, Comfort and Comfort+ (if optional Dynamic Damper Control is specified) modes. Other technologies included are Park Distance Control, a rear-view camera, Surround View, High-Beam Assistant, Parking Assistant, Active Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning, BMW Night Vision with pedestrian recognition and Head-Up Display.
The list of option includes ceramic controls, heated seats, multi-contour seats, park assist, soft-close automatic doors, a power rear sunshade with manual rear side sunshades, night vision with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, a rear-view camera, side and top view cameras, a rear-seat entertainment system and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Regardless of model denomination, the 5-Series comes standard with dual front, front-side and full-length side curtain airbags, electronic traction and stability control systems, active head restraints and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Buyers looking for a mid-size luxury sedan have plenty of other cars to consider. In addition to the aforementioned E-Class, the 5-Series squares off against the Audi A6, the Jaguar XF, the Lexus GS 350 and the Infiniti Q70.
The ActiveHybrid 4 squares off against the Lexus GS 450h, the Infiniti M Hybrid and the Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid.