Although the 5-Series is definitely a sport sedan, it’s first and foremost a luxury sedan—one that places a tremendous emphasis on technology. The instrument panel has also been re-contoured, with some more expressive creases that flow through to the door trim. Front seats are as comfortable and supportive as we’ve come to expect from BMW, with extendable lower cushion supports for taller drivers (like this one) and an excellent driving position overall.
Weaknesses? There are few, but backseat space remains one. There’s simply not as much useful legroom as in most rivals this size, and the back of the front seat has a hard-plastic pocket. 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.
While the 2011 BMW 5-Series provides a large impressive trunk, the GranTurismo also wows with respect to cargo. With a two-piece tailgate that can be opened and configured in several different ways, the GranTurismo provides some of the benefits of a wagon without the station wagon look.
The interior of the 5-Series is impressive, with good-quality, tactile switchgear. But the iDrive interface still remains the center point of the dash; you'll need it to access many vehicle functions, but the 5-Series benefits from the fourth-generation system that was introduced for 2010 on the 5-Series—including a much-improved menu structure and hot buttons for main-menu categories. Simply put, iDrive has finally reached its potential in being a relatively intuitive interface that might not be as easy as buttons to some, but you probably won’t need to read manuals to digest and use it on the fly.
In the 535i Gran Turismo and 550i GranTurismo models, we're a fast fan of the limo-like rear seats and the flexible cargo area. Fitted with two rear seats and a console, the 5-Series GT does a convincing impression of a first-class cabin, depending on the airlines you frequent. The seats can be reclined, heated, ventilated, and stimulated with massaging functions. Only the Mercedes-Benz R-Class and Lincoln MKT approach its second-row seat comfort, and neither performs as capably.
And the GranTurismo’s cargo layout is just plain cool. When the seats fold forward, panels that separate passengers from cargo can be opened for quick and easy access to luggage. From another angle, the Gran Turismo lets you load in cargo through a trunk-like opening, or open the whole tailgate to expose a package shelf and seatback that both move out of the way when Costco gets too tempting.