The 5-Series is packed with enough performance-related technologies to make any serious enthusiast wary; but rest assured, the driving experience feels remarkably connected and direct, and the turbocharged engines that BMW has introduced to the lineup the past several model years are every bit as responsive as their predecessors, if not more so.
Last year BMW made a new turbocharged four-cylinder the base engine in the 5-Series sedans, with the new 528i making 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet. Its peak torque is reached at just 1,250 rpm, and the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission makes the most of it, responding quickly when needed. 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, as with the six-cylinder 535i and the V-8 550i, is offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive (xDrive). 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 a class where manuals are very limited, driving enthusiasts will find it noteworthy that most of the 5-Series models can be had with a manual gearbox. The only exceptions are the ActiveHybrid 5 and the xDrive all-wheel-drive versions, which only come with an automatic.
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 that had previously been used in the 528i.
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. Add 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, and you end up with an even more nimble, tossable car--although some think that you sacrifice some of the natural steering feel.
All of the 5-Series models get BMW's Driving Dynamics Control, which helps the 5-Series fit your need, whether that's taking on a canyon road or bringing the kids to school. This year BMW has added Eco Pro to the existing Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ settings. The system affects throttle response, steering assist, and transmission shift points, as well as the performance of the active suspension systems, so you can truly dial in a particular performance attitude--including Sport+, which is configured especially for track-driving enthusiasts.
Beyond the 528i, dedicated green-performance fans should consider 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. It delivers its power through the eight-speed automatic transmission, and can get to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds (which is about as quick as the 535i).