2010 BMW 5-Series Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 22, 2009

Whether as a sedan or wagon, the 2010 BMW 5-Series is a distinctly sportier, tech-savvy alternative to luxury rivals-without giving up any comfort.

TheCarConnection.com has researched a range of road tests on the new BMW 5-Series to bring you some of the most useful observations from other reviewers. Then here, TheCarConnection.com's editors bring you their own overall Bottom Line assessment, including firsthand driving impressions.

The 2010 BMW 5-Series sedan and wagon return for a final model year, while the new 2010 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo points the way for an all-new, mid-size BMW range. The Gran Turismo's based on new-generation sheetmetal and running gear; this 5-Series sedan and wagon are part of the last-generation BMW lineup and will drift out of showrooms by summer 2010.

The 2010 5-Series sedan and wagon bear the hallmarks of an older school of BMW styling-one that's being left behind. With elaborate curves and sculpturing on the body sides, the 5-Series looks disjointed and complicated from some angles. It's far from the conservative streak seen in BMWs past, and it's been controversial on this car and on others sharing its theme: the 7-Series, the 6-Series, and the first-generation Z4. Wagons look a bit more balanced. The interior's one arc after another, with a deep black hole in the dash for the LCD navigation screen and a general favoritism for exotic surfaces instead of functional spaces. It's challenging as a piece of art-it's far more challenging as a place to do driving work.

The 2010 5-Series sedans and wagons aren't the best-looking, most practical or the best values in their class, but they're a joy to drive. Following the recent 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six-cylinder optional engine upgrade, there's not much to report for the 2010 BMW 5-Series lineup besides some new wheels. The base engine on the 5-Series is the 230-horsepower, 3.0-liter six in the 528i; The 300-hp turbo six arrives in the 535i; and there's also a 360-horsepower, 4.8-liter V-8 model called the 550i. Each engine comes with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, and for the available Sport Package, 535i and 550i models come with paddle shifters. All-wheel drive is also offered on six-cylinder models in the 5-Series line, the 528xi and 535xi.

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The 2010 535 xiT Sports Wagon model brings more useful utility while offering the same luxury and performance as the sedan. The Sports Wagon has excellent handling and braking, along with a firm but absorbent ride and impressive standards of refinement inside the cabin. However, with all-wheel drive-requisite in the 2010 BMW 5-Series Sports Wagon-the steering feel isn't quite up to the standards of the rear-wheel-drive (sedan) model.

Seating in either the sedan or Sports Wagon is commendable. The front seats in the 2010 BMW 5-Series are among the best in any mid-size luxury sedan. They're very firm and supportive yet comfortable; in back, they're also quite cozy, but there's a bit less space than most cars this size. The front seats are among the best in any luxury vehicle in this price range.

Standard safety features on the 2010 BMW 5-Series include front side airbags, tubular head-protecting airbags for front and rear outboard occupants, and electronic stability control. Rear side airbags are optional. However, the surprising news is that the 5-Series did not perform well in crash tests. When the federal government tested a 5-Series, it earned a three-star rating in frontal protection for the driver-the lowest mark typically awarded-but five stars in the other dynamic tests. The bad news didn't end there; the insurance-industry-supported IIHS found the 5-Series sedan to be just "marginal" in side protection and "acceptable" for the sedan and wagon in the seat-based rear-impact test.

The array of standard features on the 2010 BMW 5-Series is as extensive as rival models, but it's the astonishing list of high-technology options that really differentiates it from the competition. They include an active steering system that may be a driver's aid or a lifesaver, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, a head-up display, active cruise control, high-beam assist, front and rear parking aids, night vision, a lane-departure warning system, heated rear seats, and a power rear sunshade. BMW's pesky iDrive is standard, and its unintuitive operation blemishes the high-tech fun.

7

2010 BMW 5-Series

Styling

Reviewers are ambivalent about the 2010 BMW 5-Series sedan's styling, but the wagon's elongated silhouette is widely appreciated.

The 2010 5-Series sedan and wagon bear the hallmarks of an older school of BMW styling-one that's being left behind. With elaborate curves and sculpturing on the body sides, the 5-Series looks disjointed and complicated from some angles. It's far from the conservative streak seen in BMWs past, and it's been controversial on this car and on others sharing its theme: the 7-Series, the 6-Series, and the first-generation Z4. Wagons look a bit more balanced. Edmunds deems the 2010 BMW 5-Series a "wolf in a flamboyant sheep's clothing." Car and Driver says, "Styling doesn't appeal to all," and calls it "somewhat controversial." According to Cars.com, "The 5 Series' design was a radical departure for BMW when it debuted in 2003, but its dramatically raked hood and squared off rump are more widely used by many automakers today, meaning the 5 Series now blends fairly well into the flow of traffic."

The interior's one arc after another, with a deep black hole in the dash for the LCD navigation screen and a general favoritism for exotic surfaces instead of functional spaces. It's challenging as a piece of art-it's far more challenging as a place to do driving work. Automedia notes the 5-Series' "lack of fanciness extends into the interior, with down-to-business seats and familiar BMW gauges." Motor Trend cuts down the 5-Series' cabin, calling it "a dark and cold cockpit." While Kelley Blue Book states "the overall air of firm luxury remains," Edmunds points out that "competitors offer more stylish and less austere environments." ConsumerGuide disagrees and says it features "elegant interior d├ęcor." Automobile says "the cabin is handsome but not as elegantly turned out as that of the new E-class."

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9

2010 BMW 5-Series

Performance

The 2010 BMW 5-Series has some brilliant engine options and smart-shifting transmissions, but its optional active steering is a blemish on otherwise world-class dynamics.

The 2010 5-Series sedans and wagons aren't the most practical or the best values in their class, but they're a joy to drive. Following the recent 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six-cylinder optional engine upgrade, there's not much to report for the 2010 BMW 5-Series lineup besides some new wheels.

The base engine on the 5-Series is the 230-horsepower, 3.0-liter six in the 528i; The 300-hp turbo six arrives in the 535i; and there's also a 360-horsepower, 4.8-liter V-8 model called the 550i. Edmunds notes the 5-Series lineup has a "confusing" array of engine options-confusing because the numbers on the decklids no longer match the displacement of the engines, as has been BMW's tradition. The 528i has a 3.0-liter inline-six with 230 horsepower, the new 535i has a twin-turbocharged version of the same engine with 300 horsepower, and the 550i sports a V-8 engine with 360 horsepower. The twin-turbo, 300-hp six is the clear favorite of reviewers. Kelley Blue Book compares it to the 5-Series sedan and says it offers "virtually lag-free response [with] zero-to-60-mph sprints just a couple ticks slower than the V8" sedan, at a fuel cost that is "very close to the base engine's." Car and Driver calls the six-cylinder "excellent" and feels the twin-turbo six "renders the V-8 obsolete." With its twin-turbo inline-six, the Sports Wagon is also "the most powerful wagon BMW has ever offered in the U.S.," according to Car and Driver.

Each engine comes with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, and for the available Sport Package, 535i and 550i models come with paddle shifters. All-wheel drive is also offered on six-cylinder models in the 5-Series line, the 528xi and 535xi. The optional Steptronic six-speed automatic available for the 2010 BMW 5-Series has four different modes, according to the Washington Post: "'Drive,' for shifting in the manner of a regular automatic transmission; 'Sport,' for more spirited, semiautomatic shifting; 'Steptronic,' for manual shifting without a clutch; 'paddle drive,' for manual shifting via 'paddle shifters' on the steering wheel." Kelley Blue Book test drivers were especially enamored of this vehicle's "faster shifting automatic" transmission.

The 2010 535 xiT Sports Wagon model brings more useful utility while offering the same luxury and performance as the sedan. The Sports Wagon has excellent handling and braking, along with a firm but absorbent ride and impressive standards of refinement inside the cabin. According to Edmunds, the 5-Series "is an extremely balanced machine that can handle aggressive driving maneuvers on winding back roads as well as it dispatches weekday commutes on crumbling expressways," Car and Driver remarks, "The fine chassis is happiest with the six-cylinder engines," since the V-8 "feels surprisingly ponderous and much larger than the smaller-engined cars-still a gratifyingly fast and powerful four-door, but no longer a sports sedan." The Sports Wagon has excellent handling and braking, along with a firm but absorbent ride and impressive standards of refinement inside the cabin. However, with all-wheel drive-requisite in the 2010 BMW 5-Series Sports Wagon-the steering feel isn't quite up to the standards of the rear-wheel-drive (sedan) model. Still, compared to other wagons, Edmunds reports the Sports Wagon "is by far the most satisfying to drive," with "exceptional ride and handling dynamics...that can handle aggressive driving maneuvers on winding back roads as well as it dispatches weekday commutes on crumbling expressways."

Fuel economy for the 5-Series is better than average, according to ConsumerGuide, which reports EPA estimates of 17 mpg city and 27 mpg highway; the test drivers at the Washington Post averaged 25 mpg overall. Fuel economy across the lineup ranges from 15/22 mpg for the manual-equipped V-8 550i to 18/28 mpg for a manual-shifting 528i.

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9

2010 BMW 5-Series

Comfort & Quality

Not everyone is happy about the layout of the 2010 BMW 5-Series interior, but it scores high for its almost absolute comfort and quiet.

Seating in either the sedan or Sports Wagon is commendable. The front seats in the 2010 BMW 5-Series are among the best in any mid-size luxury sedan. They're very firm and supportive yet comfortable; in back, they're also quite cozy, but there's a bit less space than most cars this size. The front seats are among the best in any luxury vehicle in this price range.

The Washington Post describes the 2010 BMW 5-Series wagon as "plush, the motorized equivalent of an exclusive condominium...prestigious." According to Autoblog, this BMW 2010 offers "10-way power front seats standard in all models" and "supportive seating is provided in both the front and rear," adding that "even adults won't mind sitting in the commodious backseat." Kelley Blue Book reports that the 2010 BMW 5-Series 10-way adjustable seats (20-way adjustment is an option) are "the most comfortable and supportive in the class," whether one is traveling on the open freeway or curving back roads.

The Auto Channel attests that the 5-Series 2010 BMW wagon has "all the positives of the 5-Series sedans with the added advantage of a cargo area that can carry all the family's presents to Grandma's house for Christmas." Edmunds points out the 5-Series sedan "has 14 cubic feet of trunk capacity."

There's little to complain about when it comes to the quality and finish 2010 BMW 5-Series' cabin. "Build quality and materials inside the 5 Series are still outstanding," Edmunds says. Anachronistically, the 5-Series' standard upholstery is vinyl, Automedia observes, probably a nod to its civil-service duties as a fleet machine in Germany.

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2010 BMW 5-Series

Safety

The 2010 BMW 5-Series has plenty of safety features, but it's a severe underachiever in crash tests.

The 2010 BMW 5-Series performs poorly in side-impact crash tests and in driver-side front impact tests-remarkably so for such an expensive vehicle, leading to its very low safety score. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the BMW 5-Series only three stars for driver front-impact protection. The insurance-industry-supported Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found the 5-Series sedan to be just "marginal" in side protection and "acceptable" for the sedan and wagon in the seat-based rear-impact test.

However, the 2010 BMW 5-Series incorporates an enviable list of safety standards. Edmunds says the 5-Series' standard safety equipment includes "stability control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and front-and-rear side-curtain airbags. Rear-seat side airbags are optional and, due to safety concerns, you must specifically request that your dealer activate the bags if you order this option."

According to Autoblog, there's also some active and passive safety equipment worth noting: "Lane Departure Warning system provides an immediate but discreet notification when the car crosses into another lane without turn signals...[while the] body structure [is] engineered for excellent occupant protection in full and offset frontal impacts, side impacts and rear impacts,"

ConsumerGuide says "visibility is only average over the shoulder and to the rear." Edmunds also notes that the all-wheel-drive 5-Series comes with Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control.

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9

2010 BMW 5-Series

Features

The sky's the limit here with features; the 2010 BMW 5-Series is almost a perfect 10, if it weren't for the still-difficult iDrive interface.

Standard equipment on the 5-Series includes a sunroof, power front seats, automatic climate control, iDrive, and vinyl upholstery. The 535i adds lumbar support for the front seats and xenon headlights, while the 550i gets leather upholstery and auto-dimming mirrors. Edmunds states that the 2010 BMW 5-Series wagon "is only available as a 535xi." Standard features here include "17-inch wheels, a sunroof, power front seats, leatherette upholstery, automatic headlights and wipers, automatic climate control, BMW Assist telematics and iDrive control interface." Autoblog reports that the BMW 2010's "vehicle and Key Memory allows users to personalize many electronic comfort, convenience and security features."

The array of standard features on the 2010 BMW 5-Series is as extensive as rival models, but it's the astonishing list of high-technology options that really differentiates it from the competition. The high-tech options include an active steering system that may be a driver's aid or a lifesaver, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, a head-up display, active cruise control, high-beam assist, front and rear parking aids, night vision, a lane-departure warning system, heated rear seats, and a power rear sunshade.

Kelley Blue Book lists Bluetooth wireless connectivity for cell phone users, as well as a 10-speaker AM/FM radio-CD player combination. Other features available include ventilated front seats and heated rear seats; active steering; a head-up display; keyless ignition; HD and satellite radio; and a night-vision system.

BMW's pesky iDrive is standard, and its unintuitive operation blemishes the high-tech fun. Edmunds advises that the 2010 BMW's complicated "iDrive is still as user-friendly as a shift knob made of razor wire." Car and Driver calls iDrive "a curse"; stating that it "complicates most functions," ConsumerGuide suggests it may even constitute a safety hazard, as it "diverts the driver's attention from the road." Edmunds finds it "cumbersome to use," while Kelley Blue Book, which praises its many technological gadgets, deems iDrive "improving but arduous."

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2010 BMW 5-Series 4-Door Sports Wagon 535i xDrive AWD

Love my BMW 535xit

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I ordered my car new from BMW back in 2010. One of the last E61's imported. I ordered all the options but the M decor package. Up until the last six months my BMW has been very reliable. Love the wolf in... + More »
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