- Handles like a smaller car, but has big-car stability on the highway
- Velvety, responsive engines
- Manual transmissions offered across the line
- Powertrains quite efficient in real-world driving
- Wide range of useful technology options
- iDrive remains unduly complex
- Back-seat isn’t as roomy as it should be
- Ridiculously high sticker price when extensively optioned
- Crash-test performance is an embarrassment
The 5-Series sedans and wagons aren't the most practical or the best values in their class, but they're very enjoyable to drive.
The automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com perused what top critics said regarding the 2008 5-Series. Then, in order to provide you the best information to use when considering the BAM 5-Series, TheCarConnection.com's editors included their own review of the sport sedans.
The 5-Series is BMW's family of mid-size sport sedans and wagons; the 2008 BMW 5-Series gets a slightly updated look this year, with rear LED lights, a new headlight design, a new steering wheel, and revised door panels. A head-up display is newly available, and the iDrive system now has eight programmable "favorite" buttons. All engines are now fitted with the second generation of BMW's direct fuel injection for improved fuel economy.
Most notably, the 2008 BMW 5-Series now gets the stellar 300-hp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo 6-cylinder that's been offered already on the 3-Series. But in keeping with BMW's no-longer-intuitive naming practice, it's called the 535i. A 230-hp, 3.0-liter six is the base engine in the 528i. A 360-hp, 4.8-liter V-8 model is badged 550i. Either is paired with a 6-speed automatic or manual gearbox. With the available Sport Package, 535i and 550i models come with paddle shifters. All-wheel drive is also offered on six-cylinder models in the 5-Series line, called the 528xi and 535xi, respectively.
Besides the sedan, there's a single 535 xiT Sports Wagon. It brings added utility with the same feature-laden performance as the sedan. It's reviewed separately. Fold-down rear seats are optional on the sedan.
Whether you go for the base 528i or the top 550i, the 2008 BMW 5-Series models have beautiful balance between handling and ride quality. They're absorbent but firm, and impressively refined. Each of the engines is smooth and quite responsive, but there's a wide difference between them; the 528 delivers satisfying performance, especially with the manual gearbox, while the 550 feels like a sophisticated musclecar, with a more aggressive V-8 sound and plenty of torque. Both engines deliver impressive fuel economy in real-world driving.
BMW fits the 5-Series with excellent front seats, built with lots of side support across the bottom cushions and seatbacks. The back seats also are quite comfortable, but the 5-Series has less space than many cars this size. The priciest 20-way power front seats have adjustable lateral and lumbar support and an articulated backrest.
The 2008 BMW 5-Series models come well equipped. The astonishing tech on the options list sets the lineup apart from rivals. Variable-ratio steering, adaptive headlights, a head-up display, automatic high beam headlights, and a head-up display are just a few features that add effectively to the 5-Series' safety.
They're needed, because the car performs poorly in crash tests. The IIHS says it's only "marginal" at side-impact protection, while the NHTSA gave it just three stars out of five for driver protection.