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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 2010 5-Series sedans and wagons aren't the most practical or the best values in their class, but they're a joy to drive. Following the recent 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six-cylinder optional engine upgrade, there's not much to report for the 2010 BMW 5-Series lineup besides some new wheels.
The base engine on the 5-Series is the 230-horsepower, 3.0-liter six in the 528i; The 300-hp turbo six arrives in the 535i; and there's also a 360-horsepower, 4.8-liter V-8 model called the 550i. 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. The twin-turbo, 300-hp six is the clear favorite of reviewers. 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." With its twin-turbo inline-six, the Sports Wagon is also "the most powerful wagon BMW has ever offered in the U.S.," according to Car and Driver.
Each engine comes with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, and for the available Sport Package, 535i and 550i models come with paddle shifters. All-wheel drive is also offered on six-cylinder models in the 5-Series line, the 528xi and 535xi. The optional Steptronic six-speed automatic available for the 2010 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.
The 2010 535 xiT Sports Wagon model brings more useful utility while offering the same luxury and performance as the sedan. The Sports Wagon has excellent handling and braking, along with a firm but absorbent ride and impressive standards of refinement inside the cabin. 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 2010 BMW 5-Series Sports Wagon-the steering feel isn't quite up to the standards of the rear-wheel-drive (sedan) model. Still, compared to other wagons, Edmunds reports the Sports 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 averaged 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 2010 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.