- The profile of a classic sport sedan
- Strong and efficient
- Quiet, opulent inside
- Great handling
- Backseat space and cargo versatility (Gran Turismo)
- Learning curve for all the technology
- Gran Turismo's handling
- Tight backseat space (sedan)
Whether it's more of a classic sport sedan or a technology-packed tourer you seek, the 2015 BMW 5-Series fills both roles admirably.
The 2015 5-Series has lost a bit of its intense connection to enthusiasts' hearts and minds in the past decade, as excellent models like the Cadillac CTS, Jaguar XF, and Audi A6 (and A7) eased in. But the 5-Series remains quite in touch with its long-earned roots, with classic mid-size sport-sedan proportions and sharp, responsive driving dynamics — in several flavors.
To counter that, BMW did smartly turned back the clock just a bit with the current 5-Series, cutting through some of the design clutter and all-things bloat that had crept in. No matter which model you claim as yours—there are sedans and more upright Gran Turismo hatches, with variants that span from economical turbo fours and sixes up to a turbo V-8, or to frugal hybrid and clean-diesel models—they all deliver a nuanced ride-and-handling package that eludes lots of other luxury mid-size sedans, good performance, and some impressive driver-oriented technology.
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.
All of the 5-Series' engine lineup is modern, turbocharged, and both stronger and more fuel-efficient than most rival models' powertrains. 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. But for those who need to cover more highway miles, the indisputable pick for frugal types is the BMW 535d diesel model, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six making 255 horsepower and 433 pound-feet of torque.
Across the lineup, those engines are every bit as responsive as their predecessors, if not more so. And overall, the driving experience feels direct and connected. 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. And with something called Driving Dynamics Control, you can select the right mode for your driving style and the conditions at the time -- from Eco Pro to Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ settings.
The BMW M5, meanwhile, still makes 560 horsepower, though it’s now available with a Competition Package that lifts output to a heady 575 horsepower. It’s available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission.
Instead of a wagon version, there's the striking 5-Series Gran Turismo (available only as a 550i; there's no 528i GT, or diesel, or hybrid) that offers limo-like rear seats and a flexible cargo area that feels first-class--with only the Lincoln MKT and extended-length versions of the Audi A8 and 7-Series coming close. The seats can be reclined, heated, ventilated, and stimulated with massaging functions. As for the rest of the 5-Series lineup, you'll find all the support and comfort you want in the front seats -- just as much as in the larger 7-Series, really -- but the back seat can be too tight for taller adults.
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—except for a 'marginal' result in the IIHS small overlap frontal test.
With the 2015 5-Series lineup, BMW gives you the choice to get either a traditional sport sedan, a sporty luxury sedan, or a technology-rich powerhouse that will really appeal to those who appreciate innovation. It's mostly a matter of checking the right option boxes and being okay with an additional $10k, or even $20k, tagged onto the bottom-line price. Standard is impressive, but it's the upgraded audio, heated rear seats, a rear sunshade, or one of many available trims and trim package that starts to distinguish it in a now crowded class.
Last year BMW's iDrive interface was significantly revamped, with navigation now included. Thanks to a touchpad, allowing you to trace out letters for destinations and phonebook entries, we've found this system easier to navigate in a hurry. The automaker has also added so called ConnectedDrive technology, with dictation functions for text-message replies, plus a Concierge Service.
BMW has dropped the Modern Line appearance package for 2015, but the Luxury Line remains, offering a special look and a few exclusive features. Add either the Sport Package or M Sport Package and you get a sport suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, and an M Sport steering wheel, plus other dress-ups and extras. Also for 2015, Black Nappa leather is more widely available -- at no charge with either of these packages, actually.