The Car Connection BMW 5-Series Overview
The BMW 5-Series is a mid-size luxury four-door sedan that has been available in various body styles throughout its lifespan. At times, it's been a wagon, tall-riding hatch, or an ultra-powerful sedan. The most current 5-Series is a sedan-only affair.
The newest 5-Series bowed in 2017 and now includes the related M5 sedan. (The high-performance variant of the 5-Series, the M5, is covered in a separate entry.)
The 5-Series is powered by a broad spectrum of powertrains including a turbo-4, turbo-6, plug-in hybrid, or a twin-turbo V-8.
Rivals include the Jaguar XF, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Cadillac CT5.
MORE: Read our 2020 BMW 5-Series review
The new BMW 5-Series
A new, seventh-generation BMW 5-Series arrived in 2017 (dubbed G30 in BMW-speak). The new sedan borrowed some chassis components from the bigger 7-Series, but none of the carbon fiber in its construction.
The new BMW 5-Series is more than 120 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, despite being marginally larger and wider. Although the newest 5-Series borrows heavily from the outgoing model, the nose and tail are recognizably different with shorter overhangs, bigger headlights, and a more pronounced grille.
Under the hood of the latest models are a turbo-4 that makes 248 horsepower, or a turbocharged V-6 that makes 335 hp in the 530i and 540i respectively. From the beginning, the sedans are offered with standard rear-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. Roughly two months after the 530i and 540i went on sale in the U.S., they were followed by a plug-in hybrid 530e iPerformance model, and a V-8-powered M550i xDrive. A year later the vaunted M5 joined the lineup.
Although the 5-Series has roots as a sport luxury sedan, the new 5-Series is a technological showcase. A 10.2-inch touchscreen sits dead center in the dash and controls myriad functions including connected apps that can help find a parking space in a busy lot. The 5-Series also includes active lane control systems that can follow and read clear roads for more than 30 seconds without driver input.
BMW also included a revised electronic steering system in the new 5-Series and a rear-wheel steering system compatible with all-wheel drive, a first for the brand.
In 2020, V-8-powered models including the M550i xDrive and M5 received modest power increases and Apple CarPlay was made standard without a subscription required.
BMW 5-Series history
The 1997-2003 5-Series, known by the E39 chassis code name to insiders and enthusiasts, is considered one of the best examples of the model by those who appreciate a relatively simple but premium-feeling driver's car. BMW had made some major improvements in interior appointments, driving dynamics, and quality/reliability going into this generation.
In 2004, the BMW 5-Series was all-new, and that generation was a radical shift design-wise, incorporating a sleek, rounded front with swept-back headlamps, along with the so-called "Bangle Butt"—incorporating a downward-sweeping belt line and named after its designer, Chris Bangle, in back. This generation of 5-Series, called the E60 within BMW, failed to hit the mark with some longtime BMW fans. It's tough to offer a single criticism, but its swept-back exterior, smooth sheet metal, and more formal, less driver-focused instrument panel never went over very well with Bimmer loyalists. Factor in an armada of new tech features and a more isolated driving experience, and the 5 didn't always feel like the well-honed sport sedan it once was.
Initially, the E60 5-Series used engines carried over from the E39 car. So for the first couple of years, buyers were able to choose between the 525i's 184-hp, 2.5-liter inline-6 or the 530i's 225-hp, 3.0-liter inline-6. For 2006, output was upped to 215 hp for the 2.5 and 255 hp for the 3.0, and a new 360-hp, 4.8-liter V-8 arrived in the 550i; it replaced the 4.4-liter used in the 540i.
Overall, this last generation of 5-Series was seen as very tech-focused. Among the features available in the 5 during these years was a night vision camera, active roll stabilization, active steering, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, and a head-up display. To top it all off, the iDrive was judged by most as particularly frustrating here, though for 2010, the 5-Series was updated with the new fourth-generation iDrive system, which was much easier to navigate.
In 2010, BMW added a new body style to the 5-Series line, called the 5-Series GranTurismo (GT). This model is a cross between a hatchback and a sedan, offering a clever trunk/hatch area as well as added rear-seat leg room to rival that of the larger 7-Series. The 5-Series GT is the closest thing that U.S. customers can get to a 5-Series wagon now, as that body style is no longer sold in this market, although it's available elsewhere.
The F10 5-Series, which was introduced for 2011, was a return to some of the styling cues abandoned from the E39 and offered more accessible technology and a more direct driving feel. The 5-Series shared a number of components with the latest 7-Series model and again with the expanding 6-Series range. There were a variety of models including rear-wheel-drive 535i (300-hp turbocharged inline-6) and 550i (440-hp twin-turbo V-8) variants, as well as all-wheel-drive xDrive models, with an entry 528i as the first stop in the lineup.
The 528i was powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that 240 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque.
For 2013, BMW phased in a new twin-turbo V-8 (keeping the 550i name that previous normally aspirated V-8 cars wore) that offered more horsepower and torque (445 hp and 480 lb-ft), along with much-improved fuel economy. Also, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 joined the lineup, combining a 300-hp turbo-6 with a 54-hp electric-motor system and 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery, and all 2013 5-Series models got a new configurable gauge cluster. A "contactless" trunk opener that lets you open the trunklid by waving your foot underneath the trunk was available that year as well.
Also for 2013, an all-new version of the BMW M5, a performance legend, was offered with a 560-hp, 4.4-liter V-8 and 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The 5-Series received a mild visual refresh and some modified infotainment options for 2014.