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 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.
Engine offerings have changed dramatically for the entire BMW lineup over the past several years, and the 5-Series is at the heart of it. Go with the base 528i and you get a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet. 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; 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.
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. The 0-60 mph sprint in V-8 model is said to take just 4.5 seconds, which isn’t 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.
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, remains a strong-performing option for those who want to put give their conspicuous consumption a hall pass. 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).
As for the diesel engine, 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; but driving enthusiasts will find it noteworthy that most of the 5-Series models (except for the ActiveHybrid5, 535d, and xDrive all-wheel-drive versions) can be had with a manual gearbox.
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.
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.