- Clean exterior
- Simpler, more appealing dash
- Revamped iDrive
- More direct driving experience
- Flexible backseat and cargo space (Gran Turismo)
- Grabby brakes at low speed
- Tech goodies have a learning curve
- Gran Turismo's handling
The 2012 BMW 5-Series appears somewhat conservative on the outside, but it packs an armada of advanced-tech firepower, and new fuel-efficient engines, without interrupting its sport-sedan mission.
The 2012 BMW 5-Series is a line of stylish mid-size sport sedans. Tjey focus on efficient performance and advanced high-tech features but BMW hasn't forgotten about luxury and comfort.
BMW redesigned the 5-Series models for 2011. The new version is intended to be more of a driver's car than the former (E60) version that was sold through 2010. At the same time, BMW has made some serious steps toward making the latest 5er more fuel-efficient without compromising performance. Some U.S. 5-Series models adopt a new 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected 4-cylinder in the 528i.
The new 528i, which we hadn't yet driven at the time of posting, makes 240 horsepower, and its peak torque is reached at just 1,250 rpm; the model also comes with Auto Start/Stop technology, which smartly shuts off the engine at stoplights, along with Brake Energy Regeneration and other fuel-saving tech, to yield EPA ratings of 23 mpg city, 34 highway. The 528i is offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive (xDrive), and joins the 535i and 550i models, powered by turbo V-6 and V-8 engines, respectively. The top 400-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine can launch the 5-Series to 60 mph in about five seconds, but most will be happy with the 535i and its 300-hp, turbocharged six. The 5-Series is the rare mid-size luxury car to retain manual transmissions on the options list.
The high-tech hardware could overload the car, but the 5-Series fends off artificial feel with good tuning. The steering is about the best in its class, with natural on-center feel, lots of feedback in corners, and on some models, rear-wheel steering that lightens the parking-lot load.
Driving Dynamics Control helps the 5-Series fit your need, whether that's taking on a canyon road or bringing the kids to school. With four settings-Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+-it affects throttle response, steering assist, and transmission shift points, as well as the performance of these active suspension systems, so there's a dramatic difference in overall feel just from Comfort to Sport. Sport+ allows a separate mode that some might appreciate for track driving.
BMW has dropped its usual 5-Series wagon. In its place is a new Gran Turismo hatchback. In the attempt to blend SUV and wagon into a Euro-familiar shape, something's been lost. The Gran Turismo delivers lots of room and a high rear seat, but its handling is off and its proportions aren't as nice as those of a traditional wagon.
The 2012 BMW 5-Series has a very traditional sport-sedan interior, if you look at seating layout. Front seats are comfortable and supportive, with an extending lower cushion that gives more support to taller drivers. There's plenty of trunk space, but backseat space remains a shortcoming. BMW 5-Series GranTurismo models are an exception; with a slightly elevated backseat, lots more legroom, and plenty of headroom-plus a great view out-the GT is an ideal choice for shuttling around adults. Throughout all the models, the interior is impressive, with good-quality, tactile switchgear.
BMW's iDrive system still has its stranglehold on the center of the cabin and on most secondary controls and systems. BMW unveiled a new version of iDrive in 2010 and it's better than prior versions, with clearer menus and more favorite buttons. It's not as simple as a swath of switches, and it's not easy to learn, but it gets better with exposure.
With the 5-Series, BMW keeps with its reputation for equipping its vehicles very much as luxury cars, while it leaves plenty of room for upgrades. On the safety option list are adaptive headlights, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warnings. All 5-Series cars get power features, wood trim, leatherette seat coverings, and heated side mirrors; spend more and leather is an option, as are heated rear seats, navigation, and upgraded audio.