Times are a changing—even at BMW—and for 2012 the base engine in the 5-Series sedans is no longer an in-line six-cylinder—it's a turbo four.
The new 528i makes 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet, and its peak torque is reached at just 1,250 rpm; the model also comes with Auto Start/Stop technology, which smartly shuts off the engine at stoplights, along with Brake Energy Regeneration and other fuel-saving tech, to yield EPA ratings of 23 mpg city, 34 highway. The 528i is offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive (xDrive), and joins the 535i and 550i models, powered by turbo V-6 and V-8 engines, respectively. The top 400-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine can launch the 5-Series to 60 mph in about five seconds, but most will be happy with the 535i and its 300-hp, turbocharged six. Manual or automatic transmissions are offered on all 5-Series sedans—in a class where manuals are sometimes limited to the sportiest variants.
In all, if you don't mind a slightly more agricultural four-cylinder sound in place of the sonorous six, the base 528i does the job well, too—and much more frugally—while feeling considerably stronger in most situations compared to the base, naturally aspirated six in the 528i last year. The excellent eight-speed automatic helps make the most of it, smartly responding quickly when needed.
While the 5-Series is packed with enough performance-related technologies to make any serious enthusiast wary, the driving experience feels remarkably connected and direct. Despite all the onboard electronics and sensors, BMW keeps it real—or at least feeling that way. The electric power steering in the new BMW 5-Series is the best you’ll find in a sedan its size; it has a great, natural sensation on center and plenty of road feel in tight corners. Even more confidence-inspiring—and making the 5-Series come across as a smaller, more tossable car—is BMW’s Integral Active Steering, which steers the rear wheels slightly in the opposite direction below about 35 mph, or in the same direction at higher speeds, to either help enhance stability or aid parking.
Driving Dynamics Control helps the 5-Series fit your need, whether that's taking on a canyon road or bringing the kids to school. With four settings—Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+—it affects throttle response, steering assist, and transmission shift points, as well as the performance of these active suspension systems, so there’s a dramatic difference in overall feel just from Comfort to Sport. Sport+ allows a separate mode that some might appreciate for track driving.