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- and diesel-burning engines 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¬Ďs 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.
In addition to Bluetooth and USB connectivity, all 5-Series come standard with 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 and a single diesel unit.
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.
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.
Optional safety features include automatic high beams, a rear-view camera and night vision with pedestrian detection.
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.