2015 BMW 5-Series Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 4, 2015

Whether it's more of a classic sport sedan or a technology-packed tourer you seek, the 2015 BMW 5-Series fills both roles admirably.

True, the BMW 2015 5-Series may have lost some of its intense connection to enthusiasts over the past decade, as great cars like the XF, CTS, and A6 hit the road. The 5-Series remains in touch with its long-earned reputation for responsive handling and crisp sport-sedan looks, even while it's blossomed into a family of cars.

BMW turned back the clock with the current 5-Series, cutting through some of the design clutter accumulated over the years. The family now includes a bulbous-bodied Gran Turismo hatchback, and a huge range of powertrains-4-, 6-, and 8-cylinders, gas and diesel and hybrid among them.

With any the 5-Series delivers nuanced handling, an excellent ride, and lots of impressive technology.

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The look of the latest 5-Series models aren't exactly an about-face, but they steered away from a controversial era in BMW design and brought back the more upright, classic-sport sedan designs that seemed to reach a couple of generations back. The 5-Series now wears a thicker twin-kidney grille, more prominent taillights, and on request, LED headlights. The cabin has lost some intimacy as the 5-Series has grown, but the driver focus and low-set dash still are lovely.

All of the 5-Series' engine lineup is modern, turbocharged, and both stronger and more fuel-efficient than most rival models' powertrains. Go with the base 528i and you get a turbo-4 with 240 hp and 260 lb-ft. It does the job well, and the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission responds 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. In the 550i, a new turbocharged V-8 now makes 445 horsepower--45 more than the outgoing model. The 0-60 mph sprint in this model is said to take just 4.5 seconds, which isn't far off the pace of the M5. 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.

On the green side of the lineup, an ActiveHybrid5 pairs an electric motor and battery pack with a 300-hp turbo-6. The long-distance specialist is the BMW 535d diesel, with its turbodiesel-6 netting 255 hp and 433 lb-ft of torque.

Across the lineup, those engines are every bit as responsive as their predecessors, if not more so. And overall, the driving experience feels direct and connected. 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. And with something called Driving Dynamics Control, you can select the right mode for your driving style and the conditions at the time -- from Eco Pro to Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ settings.

The 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.

There's no wagon in this 5er lineup. The Gran Turismo 550i subs in with limo-size rear seats and a useful cargo area with lots of space behind its seats. The seats can be reclined, heated, set to massage or ventilate. As for the rest of the 5-Series lineup, you'll find all the support and comfort you want in the front seats-as much as you'll find in the bigger 7-Series, really -- but the back seat can be too tight for taller adults.

The 5-Series has options for lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, and night vision. By the NHTSA and IIHS standards, it's a very good crash-test performer, save for a "marginal" small-overlap result from the IIHS.

With the 2015 5-Series lineup, BMW gives you the choice to get either a traditional sport sedan, a sporty luxury sedan, or a technology-rich powerhouse that will really appeal to those who appreciate innovation. It's mostly a matter of checking the right option boxes and being okay with an additional $10k, or even $20k, tagged onto the bottom-line price. Standard is impressive, but it's the upgraded audio, heated rear seats, a rear sunshade, or one of many available trims and trim package that starts to distinguish it in a now crowded class.

Last year BMW's iDrive interface was significantly revamped, with navigation now included. Thanks to a touchpad, allowing you to trace out letters for destinations and phonebook entries, we've found this system easier to navigate in a hurry. The automaker has also added so called ConnectedDrive technology, with dictation functions for text-message replies, plus a Concierge Service.

BMW has dropped the Modern Line appearance package for 2015, but the Luxury Line remains, offering a special look and a few exclusive features. Add either the Sport Package or M Sport Package and you get a sport suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, and an M Sport steering wheel, plus other dress-ups and extras. Also for 2015, Black Nappa leather is more widely available -- at no charge with either of these packages, actually.

8

2015 BMW 5-Series

Styling

The 2015 BMW 5-Series gets it right in all the traditional ways as a sedan, with classic sport-sedan proportions and a great stance.

BMW recast the latest 5-Series to recapture its "driving machine" past. With its lean, masculine lines and sport-sedan profile, it shows.

Now on the road for four years, this generation of 5-Series led the way as BMW turned away from tall, glassy cabins and reverted to a slimmer, leaner, less ornate look. A quick refresh with a new grille and front-end design came last year.Luckily, they didn't mess with the 5er's near-perfect silhouette and stance. A Luxury trim level is available for anyone that wants a distinctive grille and wheels; for a bolder look yet, there's an M Sport bundle of trim.

The driver still gets a focused work environment inside the latest 5-Series, with a low-cut dash and a great sensation of space. The central bank of controls angles toward the driver, and BMW divides the front passengers with a wide, deep console. The trim looks conservative-and in basic black, a bit drab-but there's lots to love in the 5-Series' straightforward interior design.

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8

2015 BMW 5-Series

Performance

There's a potentially daunting level of on-board technology, but it doesn't get in the way of the responsive, athletic personality you might expect.

BMW loads up the latest 5-Series with all kinds of technology, but is that a good thing?

In this case, it works out in favor of electronic brainpower. The 5-Series has an exhilarating take on the road. It's regained some of its direct connection lost in previous generations, and its latest turbo engines feel stronger and more responsive than those they replace.

On the 528i, BMW fits a 240-hp turbo-4 with 260 lb-ft of torque. Its worst sin is a tractor-like engine note. Forgive that and it starts working hard at low engine speeds, putting out peak torque at 1,250 rpm, and moving around the mid-size sedan with similar strength as older inline-6 models. It connects to an excellent 8-speed automatic.

The classic turbo-6 appears in the 535i, making 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. A twin-turbo V-8 550i churns out 445 hp and 480 lb-ft, and takes only 4.5 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standstill, which isn't too far off the pace set by the M5.

That M5, by the way, still throws of a stunning 560 hp (or 575 hp with a new Competition package). A 6-speed manual can be swapped out for a 7-speed dual-clutch.

BMW only sells its most fuel-efficient powertrains in the sedan body. The 3.0-liter turbodiesel-6 in the 535d turns in 255 hp and 433 lb-ft. This is a confident and relaxed long-distance tourer, one you don't have to drive carefully to get excellent fuel economy.

The ActiveHybrid5 draws power from a 54-hp electric motor, a 1.3-kwh lithium-ion battery unit, and a 300-hp turbo-6. With the 8-speed automatic, it's a strong performer, capable of hitting 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds, or the same time as its gas-only turbo-6 kin. The hybrid is one of the few 5-Series cars (along with the diesel and AWD models) that can't be opted into a manual transmission.

Most 5-Series cars struggle with low-feedback electric power steering, though BMW has the weighting better than many rivals. An active rear-steer setup nudges the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the fronts at speeds under 35 mph, which helps parking while not upsetting high-speed stability. It doesn't feel natural, but it lends some tossable feel to what's become a pretty big vehicle.

BMW's adjustable driving-mode system sifts through the drivetrain to deliver economy, comfort, normal, and sport responses. Steering, shifting, throttle, even available adaptive dampers get in on the act. With so-called Driving Dynamics Control, it's possible to come up with your own custom feel-light steering, lightning-quick shifts-or dial it up to Sport+ for weekend track time.

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2015 BMW 5-Series

Comfort & Quality

If you need a roomy back seat, the GranTurismo is the way to go; but no matter which model, you'll find superb front seats and a refined ride.

The 2015 BMW 5-Series is a sport sedan, but it doesn't give up much in passenger comfort. Its rear-wheel-drive layout can't deliver all the interior space of a front-drive rival, but with its quiet, tight cabin and available space, it's a satisfying vehicle for more than just the driver.

Up front, the 5er has supportive seats that live up to the usual BMW hype. Taller drivers will appreciate the extendable bottom cushions on the front seats. Even passengers with back issues can find a good seating position, and a place to relax for a hundreds-mile ride.

BMW biases interior space to the front seat, so the back suffers in comparison to pedestrian machines like the Accord and Passat. Back-seat leg room takes a noticeable hit, compared to other luxury mid-sizers, but BMW trims the back of the front seats in hard plastic and makes it even more of an issue.

Gran Turismo models have better rear accommodations, with a higher seating position and more headroom, thanks to the higher roofline. The hatchback coughs up 17.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the raised back seat, but that back seat can be folded down to open up a truly spacious cargo hold. A two-piece tailgate flips and folds open in a few ways, too. The Gran Turismo comes close to the benefits of a real wagon, albeit with a look that's a little...different.

In many drives of the current 5-Series, cabin appointments and fit and finish have been first-rate. Switchgear clicks with satisfying feel, and some trims are truly plush.

BMW puts iDrive at the center of the dash, and of most secondary operations. Navigation is one of the many standard functions that rely on iDrive's controller knob, which now has a touch-sensitive surface that accepts fingertip handwritten entry.

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2015 BMW 5-Series

Safety

The 2015 BMW 5-Series has a solid safety record, whether that applies to accident avoidance or occupant protection.


The 2015 5-Series earns good but not perfect crash-test scores from the IIHS and the NHTSA.

The NHTSA gives the 5-Series five stars overall, with a single four-star rating for frontal protection. The IIHS calls it “good” in most tests, save for a “marginal” rating in the small-overlap test that mimics hitting a telephone pole.

To the usual standard safety gear, BMW adds options for rear-seat side airbags. Blind-spot monitors are an option, as are lane-departure warnings and a new night-vision system with pedestrian detection.

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2015 BMW 5-Series

Features

Traditional luxury isn't forgotten in the 2015 BMW 5-Series models; but if you're willing to check some option boxes you can get some of the world's best tech extras.

The 5-Series can be ordered as a luxury-tinged sedan, as a sporty four-door, or as a tech-rich powerhouse.

All models come with power features; cruise control; automatic climate control; Bluetooth and USB connectivity; and heated mirrors standard.

Major options include premium leather, adaptive front seats that inflate and deflate bolsters for more support in corners, and a hard-drive navigation system. Heated rear seats, upgraded audio, and a rear-seat sunshade also are offered.

BMW revamped its iDrive interface last year. The new touchpad surface can accept Palm Pilot-style handwritten input for phone numbers and addresses, and it's very easy to use. The system now also accepts dictated text messages.

Adaptive headlights and adaptive cruise control are options. The latter can stop the car from low speeds if the car detects an imminent accident. A rearview camera and parking sensors are options.

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2015 BMW 5-Series

Fuel Economy

Between the four-cylinder 528i, the diesel 535d, and the ActiveHybrid 5, there's a lot of 'green' in the 2015 BMW 5-Series model line.

The 2015 BMW 5-Series spans quite a range of models, including rear and all-wheel drive, four, six, and eight-cylinder engines, a diesel, and a hybrid. All versions have EPA combined ratings of 20 mpg or more.

Green-car shoppers will want either the 535d diesel or the ActiveHybrid5. While the ActiveHybrid5 gets 23 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway, it's the 535d that's the mileage leader, earning 26 mpg city, 38 highway. It's just as good, if not better, in real-world driving, we've noted -- as we averaged nearly 37 mpg in a cold-weather, mixed-driving loop.

At the base level, the 528i can be very efficient as well. With the economical four-cylinder engine, it's rated up to 22 mpg city, 34 highway, with the eight-speed automatic. And at the middle of the lineup, the 535i is a good compromise for those who want more performance but don't have much tolerance for a guzzler.

Throughout the lineup, on gasoline models, you get Auto Start/Stop technology, which smartly shuts off the engine at stoplights. And on all models, there's Brake Energy Regeneration and other fuel-saving technologies.

5-Series Gran Turismo models do lose some mileage, due to additional weight and less effective aerodynamics, but you might find the tradeoff in additional practicality worth it.

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February 11, 2016
2015 BMW 5-Series 4-Door Sedan 535i xDrive AWD

As I age I want a more compliant ride with the usual BMW feel-this delivers it to me.

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Almost 12k miles on it now and no real issues. The ride is what I want, and, after pressing the "sport" button each time i start the engine, the responsive gas pedal takes me where i want to go. Once you get... + More »
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November 29, 2015
2015 BMW 5-Series 4-Door Sedan 535i RWD

Nice, but a little dated, it needs a styling and feature upgrade to catch up with Mercedes and Audi.ypur -

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This is my fifth Bimmer and the nicest by far in terms of luxury and quiet cruising. The 300hp, 3L six has been around for quite awhile so it not only gives the owner bullet proof reliability, but performs... + More »
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March 24, 2015
For 2015 BMW 5-Series

Awesome driving experience

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Heaven on wheels. Good looks and super reliable. Head turner
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Styling 8
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