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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
the most powerful wagon BMW has ever offered
Car and Driver
“extremely balanced machine that can handle aggressive driving maneuvers”
“The fine chassis is happiest with the six-cylinder engines”
Car and Driver
virtually lag-free response
Kelley Blue Book
The 2009 BMW 5-Series thrills with its turbocharged six and great road manners; the other engine options are almost obsolete in comparison. All-wheel drive is also offered on six-cylinder models in the 5-Series line, the 528xi and 535xi.
With its twin-turbo inline-six, this 2009 BMW is, in fact, "the most powerful wagon BMW has ever offered in the U.S.," according to Car and Driver. Kelley Blue Book compares it to the 5-Series sedan and says it offers "virtually lag-free response [with] zero-to-60-mph sprints just a couple ticks slower than the V8" sedan, at a fuel cost that is "very close to the base engine's." Car and Driver calls the six-cylinder “excellent” and feels the twin-turbo six “renders the V-8 obsolete.” Edmunds notes the 5-Series lineup has a “confusing” array of engine options—confusing because the numbers on the decklids no longer match the displacement of the engines, as has been BMW’s tradition. The 528i has a 3.0-liter inline-six with 230 horsepower, the new 535i has a twin-turbocharged version of the same engine with 300 horsepower, and the 550i sports a V-8 engine with 360 horsepower.
Each engine comes with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions; the automatic includes paddle shifters that may be of use in high-performance driving or on mountain roads. The optional Steptronic six-speed automatic available for the 2009 BMW 5-Series has four different modes, according to the Washington Post: "'Drive,' for shifting in the manner of a regular automatic transmission; 'Sport,' for more spirited, semiautomatic shifting; 'Steptronic,' for manual shifting without a clutch; 'paddle drive,' for manual shifting via 'paddle shifters' on the steering wheel." Kelley Blue Book test drivers were especially enamored of this vehicle's "faster shifting automatic" transmission.
According to Edmunds, the 5-Series "is an extremely balanced machine that can handle aggressive driving maneuvers on winding back roads as well as it dispatches weekday commutes on crumbling expressways,” Car and Driver remarks, “The fine chassis is happiest with the six-cylinder engines,” since the V-8 “feels surprisingly ponderous and much larger than the smaller-engined cars—still a gratifyingly fast and powerful four-door, but no longer a sports sedan.” The Sports Wagon has excellent handling and braking, along with a firm but absorbent ride and impressive standards of refinement inside the cabin. However, with all-wheel drive—requisite in the 2009 BMW 5-Series Sports Wagon—the steering feel isn't quite up to the standards of the rear-wheel-drive (sedan) model. Edmunds reports that this BMW wagon "is by far the most satisfying to drive," with "exceptional ride and handling dynamics...that can handle aggressive driving maneuvers on winding back roads as well as it dispatches weekday commutes on crumbling expressways."
Fuel economy for the 5-Series is better than average, according to ConsumerGuide, which reports EPA estimates of 17 mpg city and 27 mpg highway; the test drivers at the Washington Post find that the 2009 BMW they tested averages 25 mpg overall. Fuel economy across the lineup ranges from 15/22 mpg for the manual-equipped V-8 550i to 18/28 mpg for a manual-shifting 528i.
The 2009 BMW 5-Series has some brilliant engine options and smart-shifting transmissions, but its optional active steering is a blemish on otherwise world-class dynamics.