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The BMW 5-Series is the German automaker's mid-size family of vehicles, a regular rival to the likes of the Audi A6, Cadillac CTS, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It's been locked in a duel with the E-Class in particular for decades in sedan form, though it too now comes in wagon variants and as the hatchbacked Gran Turismo.
That stiff competition has forced BMW in the latest 5-Series to turn back the clock on the bloat that's crept in. It's now more in touch with its roots, with more responsive handling than in the previous version, though it's still longer, heavier, and wider than before.
The 5-Series models still deliver a nuanced ride-and-handling package that eludes lots of other luxury mid-size sedans--all while earning some impressive fuel efficiency.
The look of the latest 5-Series models aren't exactly an about-face, but they steered away from a controversial era in BMW design and brought back the more upright, classic-sport sedan designs that seemed to reach a couple of generations back. The 2014 BMW 5-Series gets some further improvements, with a more strongly outlined kidney grille, a sharper taillamp design, and LED headlights that are now optional across the range. Inside, the 5-Series isn't quite cockpit-like, but it's driver-centered, and we like the pushed-out corners and low, horizontal dash. New Luxury Line and Modern Line trim packages for 2014 help give more visual touches, and interior colors and themes have been revamped.
Engine offerings have changed dramatically for the entire BMW lineup over the past several years, and the 5-Series is at the heart of it. Go with the base 528i and you get a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet. It does the job well, and the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission responds quickly when needed. In 535i models, the 3.0-liter turbocharged six makes 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft, while a new twin-turbocharged V-8 in the 550i makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft. In the 550i, a new turbocharged V-8 now makes 445 horsepower--45 more than the outgoing model. The 0-60 mph sprint in this model is said to take just 4.5 seconds, which isn’t far off the pace of the M5. Manuals tend to be very limited in this class; but driving enthusiasts will find it noteworthy that most of the 5-Series models (except for the ActiveHybrid5, 535d, and xDrive all-wheel-drive versions) can be had with a manual gearbox.
Those who want to invest a little more into being (and looking) green have a couple of additional options. The ActiveHybrid5, with a 300-hp turbocharged six-cylinder engine plus a 54-hp electric-motor system and 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, remains a strong-performing option. There's also a new 2014 BMW 535d diesel model, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six making 255 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, the latter of which is said to be available from just 1,500 revs.
The 5-Series offers a pretty extensive set of integrated electronic features and options governing steering and suspension. Yet with some driving time on a curvy, dynamically demanding road, we think you'll agree that the driving experience feels remarkably connected and direct, and the turbocharged engines that BMW has introduced to the lineup the past several model years are every bit as responsive as their predecessors, if not more so.
Instead of a wagon version, there's the striking 5-Series Gran Turismo, which blends some station wagon and SUV cues into a shape that's not quite sedan or crossover. In the Gran Turismo, the elevated backseat space is excellent—limousine-like by most accounts—and the tailgate can be opened in two different ways. This year BMW has squared off the corners a bit at the back of the GranTurismo so as to increase cargo space and bring its look more in line with the rest of the lineup. On sedans, backseat space remains one of the few weaknesses.
The 5-Series offers safety features like an Active Blind Spot Detection system, a Lane Departure Warning system, Xenon Adaptive Headlights with automatic high beams, and a new second-generation night-vision system with pedestrian detection. Occupant safety is great, too, and the 5-Series sedans have earned almost entirely top-tier scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and federal government.
For 2014, a rear-seat entertainment system is also available for the first time. iDrive is also under the spotlight for 2014. Navigation is now included; and this iDrive version 4.2 includes a new interface with a touchpad that should make destination entry faster. There's also new BMW ConnectedDrive technology that offers dictation functions for replying to text messages and a Concierge Service for hotel reservations and other travel tasks.
- Classic sport-sedan profile
- Responsive, efficient powertrains
- Excellent handling
- Quiet cabin for a sport sedan
- Backseat space and cargo versatility (Gran Turismo)
Next: Interior / Exterior »
- Technology learning curve
- Tight backseat space (sedan)
- Gran Turismo's handling