The Car Connection BMW 5-Series Overview
The BMW 5-Series has been one of BMW's biggest car families over the years, with wagons and supercars all wearing the 5er badge.
The current car, new for the 2017 model year, includes a hatchback, a sport sedan, and a sedan model. Gas engines and plug-in hybrids are on the map, and a diesel model is in the cards as well.
The 5-Series is a core vehicle in the German automaker's lineup. Rivals include the Jaguar XF, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Cadillac CTS.
MORE: Read our 2017 BMW 5-Series review
The high-performance variant of the 5-Series, the M5, is covered in a separate entry. The current M5 is powered by a twin-turbocharged V-8 that makes up to 600 horsepower. A new M5 is expected for the 2018 model year.
The new BMW 5-Series
A new, seventh-generation BMW 5-Series arrived in 2017 (dubbed G30 in BMW-speak). The new sedan borrowed some chassis components from the bigger 7-Series, but none of the carbon fiber in its construction.
The new BMW 5-Series is more than 120 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, despite being marginally larger and wider. Although the newest 5-Series borrows heavily from the outgoing model, the nose and tail are recognizably different with shorter overhangs, bigger headlights, and a more pronounced grille.
Under the hood of 2017 models are a turbo-4 that makes 248 horsepower, or a turbocharged V-6 that makes 335 hp in the 530i and 540i respectively. From the beginning, the sedans are offered with standard rear-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. Roughly two months after the 530i and 540i go on sale in the U.S., they will be followed by a plug-in hybrid 530e iPerformance model, and a V-8-powered M550i xDrive.
Although the 5-Series has roots as a sport luxury sedan, the new 5-Series is a technological showcase. A 10.2-inch touchscreen sits dead center in the dash and controls myriad functions including connected apps that can help find a parking space in a busy lot. The 5-Series also includes active lane control systems that can follow and read clear roads for more than 30 seconds without driver input.
BMW also included a revised electronic steering system in the new 5-Series and a rear-wheel steering system compatible with all-wheel drive, a first for the brand.
The 2017 BMW 5-Series went on sale in February 2017.
BMW 5-Series history
The 1997-2003 5-Series, known by the E39 chassis code name to insiders and enthusiasts, is considered one of the best examples of the model by those who appreciate a relatively simple but premium-feeling driver's car. BMW had made some major improvements in interior appointments, driving dynamics, and quality/reliability going into this generation.
In 2004, the BMW 5-Series was all-new, and that generation was a radical shift design-wise, incorporating a sleek, rounded front with swept-back headlamps, along with the so-called "Bangle Butt"—incorporating a downward-sweeping belt line and named after its designer, Chris Bangle, in back. This generation of 5-Series, called the E60 within BMW, failed to hit the mark with some longtime BMW fans. It's tough to offer a single criticism, but its swept-back exterior, smooth sheet metal, and more formal, less driver-focused instrument panel never went over very well with Bimmer loyalists. Factor in an armada of new tech features and a more isolated driving experience, and the 5 didn't always feel like the well-honed sport sedan it once was.
Initially, the E60 5-Series used engines carried over from the E39 car. So for the first couple of years, buyers were able to choose between the 525i's 184-hp, 2.5-liter inline-6 or the 530i's 225-hp, 3.0-liter inline-6. For 2006, output was upped to 215 hp for the 2.5 and 255 hp for the 3.0, and a new 360-hp, 4.8-liter V-8 arrived in the 550i; it replaced the 4.4-liter used in the 540i.
Overall, this last generation of 5-Series was seen as very tech-focused. Among the features available in the 5 during these years was a night vision camera, active roll stabilization, active steering, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, and a head-up display. To top it all off, the iDrive was judged by most as particularly frustrating here, though for 2010, the 5-Series was updated with the new fourth-generation iDrive system, which was much easier to navigate.
In 2010, BMW added a new body style to the 5-Series line, called the 5-Series GranTurismo (GT). This model is a cross between a hatchback and a sedan, offering a clever trunk/hatch area as well as added rear-seat leg room to rival that of the larger 7-Series. The 5-Series GT is the closest thing that U.S. customers can get to a 5-Series wagon now, as that body style is no longer sold in this market, although it's available elsewhere.
The F10 5-Series, which was introduced for 2011, was a return to some of the styling cues abandoned from the E39 and offered more accessible technology and a more direct driving feel. The 5-Series shared a number of components with the latest 7-Series model and again with the expanding 6-Series range. There were a variety of models including rear-wheel-drive 535i (300-hp turbocharged inline-6) and 550i (440-hp twin-turbo V-8) variants, as well as all-wheel-drive xDrive models, with an entry 528i as the first stop in the lineup.
The 528i was powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that 240 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque.
For 2013, BMW phased in a new twin-turbo V-8 (keeping the 550i name that previous normally aspirated V-8 cars wore) that offered more horsepower and torque (445 hp and 480 lb-ft), along with much-improved fuel economy. Also, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 joined the lineup, combining a 300-hp turbo-6 with a 54-hp electric-motor system and 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery, and all 2013 5-Series models got a new configurable gauge cluster. A "contactless" trunk opener that lets you open the trunklid by waving your foot underneath the trunk was available that year as well.
Also for 2013, an all-new version of the BMW M5, a performance legend, was offered with a 560-hp, 4.4-liter V-8 and 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The 5-Series received a mild visual refresh and some modified infotainment options for 2014.