Looking at the features and options for the 2014 BMW 5-Series might be cause for concern: With so many performance-related technologies acting on the steering and suspension, how can they all keep the driving enjoyment intact, right?
Yet with some driving time on a curvy, dynamically demanding road, we think you'll agree that the 5-Series has a strong, direct driving feel, urged on by responsive turbo engines.
Engine offerings have changed dramatically for the entire BMW lineup over the past several years. Today, in the 528i, BMW fits a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The sound it emits is somewhat agricultural but it does its job well, too. It's also more frugal than the inline-6 it replaced. Peak torque arrives at a low 1,250 rpm, and BMW pairs it with excellent 8-speed automatic shift programming to make the most of the small-displacement engine.
The 535i adopts a 3.0-liter, 300-hp turbo-6, while the 550i's twin-turbo V-8 churns out 445 hp and 480 lb-ft, which propels it to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, not far off the pace of the M5.
The 2014 BMW M5, meanwhile, still makes 560 horsepower, though it's now available with a Competition Package that lifts output to a heady 575 horsepower. It's available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission.
With a 1.3-kwh lithium-ion battery unit, a 54-hp electric motor, and a 300-hp turbo-6, the ActiveHybrid5 remains a strong-performing option for those who want to put give their conspicuous consumption a hall pass. It can scoot to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, nearly as quickly as the 535i.
As for the diesel, it's a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six and will be appearing in a 535d sedan only. Estimated performance from this engine is 255 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, the latter of which is said to be available from just 1,500 revs.
Manuals tend to be very limited in this class; most 5-Series cars (except for the ActiveHybrid5, 535d, and xDrive all-wheel-drive versions) can be ordered with a manual transmission.
Every 5-Series has driver-selectable Driving Dynamics Control. It can tune the car's various systems-throttle response, steering weight, even adaptive damping-to give it a broad range of on-the-road personalities. Leave it in the new eco mode for fuel efficiency, or dial it up to Sport+ for that all too rare track weekend, and the 5er's electronic brain responds accordingly.
It doesn't overwhelm the car, though. Despite all the algorithmic add-ons, the 5-Series still feels like a car enthusiasts should enjoy. Its power steering may be electric, but its feedback is better than in most rivals, and active rear steering can help low-speed maneuvers by moving the rear tires in the opposite direction of the fronts at speed below 35 mph. Some of the intuitive steering feel we prefer goes away, but the setup makes the 5-Series a more tossable machine.