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BMW 5-Series

The Car Connection BMW 5-Series Overview

The BMW 5-Series is a collection of vehicles sharing some running gear, but ranging widely in body styles and powertrain types. Today's 5-Series lineup includes sedans, sports sedans, and a hatchback; with gas engines and turbodiesels, with a plug-in hybrid on the way.

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.  

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.

MORE: Read our 2016 BMW 5-Series review

The new BMW 5-Series

The current F10 5-Series, which was introduced for 2011, marks a return to some of the styling cues abandoned from the E39 and offers more accessible technology and a more direct driving feel. The 5-Series shares a number of components with the latest 7-Series model and again with the expanding 6-Series range. As before, there's a wide 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 now part of the lineup.

The new base model was introduced in 2012, called 528i and powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4. It produces 240 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, and actually makes the 5-Series a bit quicker than with the previous naturally aspirated inline-6. It also returns better fuel economy ratings—up to 34 mpg highway with the 8-speed automatic.

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. A rear-seat entertainment system was made available, navigation became standard, and the iDrive interface and controller were modified to include a touch-sensitive control knob for written inputs and gesture capability. In what is likely this generation's last or penultimate model year, the 5-Series receives some modest changes for 2015, including the deletion of the Modern Line appearance package.

A plug-in hybrid version of the 5-Series is on the horizon, with the 530Le already announced for the Chinese market. This vehicle will use the same basic plug-in drivetrain that has found its way into the X5 and will be made available in most BMW products within the next few years. It retains its rear-drive layout, but all-wheel drive may also be available, as it is in the X5.

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 Car Connection Consumer Review

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Monday, August 22, 2016
2016 BMW 5-Series 4-Door Sedan 535d RWD

Excellent ride, great acceleration for a Diesel.

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We were in the market to replace my wife's 2007 G35 Infinite Sport. We ran into a lot of problems with the add-on packages that did not equal the ones in the G35 Sport. My car is a Jaguar, so one our first... + More »
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Thursday, February 11, 2016
2015 BMW 5-Series 4-Door Sedan 535i xDrive AWD

As I age I want a more compliant ride with the usual BMW feel-this delivers it to me.

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Almost 12k miles on it now and no real issues. The ride is what I want, and, after pressing the "sport" button each time i start the engine, the responsive gas pedal takes me where i want to go. Once you get... + More »
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Sunday, November 29, 2015
2015 BMW 5-Series 4-Door Sedan 535i RWD

Nice, but a little dated, it needs a styling and feature upgrade to catch up with Mercedes and Audi.ypur -

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This is my fifth Bimmer and the nicest by far in terms of luxury and quiet cruising. The 300hp, 3L six has been around for quite awhile so it not only gives the owner bullet proof reliability, but performs... + More »
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