2016 BMW 5-Series Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
June 13, 2016

Buying tip

Especially if you're considering a relatively common or popular build of the 2016 5-Series, consider leasing; BMW tends to offer some pretty

The 2016 BMW 5-Series lineup keeps its classic sport-sedan essence but gives you a whole lot of choices—including a limo-like Gran Turismo.

The 2016 BMW 5-Series family may be ripe for an all-new generation next year, but it remains right in tune with its sport-sedan roots—offering classic mid-size sport-sedan proportions, sharp, responsive driving dynamics, and just the right amount of luxury as you need it. And it's all without compromise, thanks to some of the world's leading powertrain, chassis, and safety technology, of course.

Yet the 5-Series doesn't have it as easy today as it did a decade or two ago. Today enthusiasts' hearts and minds are also being won by models like the Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Jaguar XF, and Audi S6 and S7.

To that, we'd say that the current 5-Series does a pretty great job countering its rivals, and the prevailing currents of complex, sometimes overwrought sport-sedan designs, with this current generation of the 5-Series, which fights the bloat and returns to a traditional, almost retro look, with a lowered belt line, more greenhouse space, and less of a wedge-like profile. The Bangle Butt and BMW's dabbling with modern, more malleable cues are distant memories; this generation has been a return to form—one that most people will agree has aged very well, with the current car now into its sixth year.

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Two years ago, the 5-Series received a series of minor improvements, with a more strongly outlined kidney grille, a sharper taillight design, and LED headlights that are now optional across the range.

The lineup for 2016 remains a well-coordinated family of sedans and more upright Gran Turismo hatches, with variants that span from economical turbo fours and sixes up to a turbo V-8, or to frugal hybrid and clean-diesel models. They all deliver a nuanced ride-and-handling package that eludes lots of other luxury mid-size sedans, good performance, and some impressive driver-oriented technology.

At the base level, the 528i includes a frugal yet surprisingly strong turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, making 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet. It responds quite brilliantly with the 8-speed automatic transmission, reacting quickly when needed, and lugging along happily at low rpm for fuel efficiency when the revs aren't warranted. BMW 535i models step up to the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6, making 300 hp and 300 lb-ft, while a twin-turbocharged V-8 in the 550i makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft. The 0-60 mph sprint in V-8 model takes just 4.5 seconds, which isn’t far off the pace of the M5. In 535d guise, the 5-Series gets a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6, which makes 255 hp and 433 lb-ft of torque and gives the 5-Series a relaxed and confident driving feel.

The ActiveHybrid5, with a 300-hp turbocharged 6-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).

Manual transmissions are becoming very rare in this class, but the 5-Series offers plenty of them. Most of the 5-Series models (except for the ActiveHybrid5, 535d, and xDrive all-wheel-drive versions) can be had with a manual.

The BMW M5 continues to be the performance leader of the lineup, and really one of the performance icons of the world car market. This generation makes 560 hp, 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, and performance is thrilling, if a bit detached and digital.

Inside, the 5-Series isn't quite cockpit-like, but it's driver-centered, and we like the pushed-out corners and low, horizontal dash. Front seats are excellent, and the ride is firm but supple and quiet. About the only thing you might find off-putting is the lack of back-seat space in the sedans. And then you'll want to consider the 5-Series Gran Turismo (available only as a 550i; there's no 528i GT, or diesel, or hybrid) that offers limo-like rear seats, and a flexible cargo area that feels first-class.

The 5-Series offers safety features like blind-spot monitors, a lane-departure warning system, xenon headlights with automatic high beams, and a new second-generation night-vision system with pedestrian detection. Occupant safety is great, too, and the 5-Series sedans have earned almost entirely top-tier scores from the IIHS and federal government—except for a "Marginal" result in the IIHS small overlap frontal test

BMW recognizes that not everyone wants the same kind of 5-Series, so it gives you the choice to get either a traditional sport sedan, a sporty luxury sedan, or a technology-rich powerhouse. To get those three cars—luxurious and lavishly equipped—it's mostly a matter of checking the right option boxes and being okay with an additional $10,000—or even $20,000—tagged onto the bottom-line price.

But the base 528i sure isn't a bad pick as it is, without any options. There you'll find rain-sensing wipers, power heated mirrors, xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control, and dynamic cruise control all included. Last year BMW sweetened the standard kit with steering wheel, LED fog lamps, and enhanced Bluetooth/USB/smartphone integration standard across the lineup. As well, the Comfort Access system is now included in 550i models. Across the rest of the lineup, provided you're willing to spend that extra money, the softer Dakota leather, dynamic multi-contour front seats, Harman Kardon premium audio, and upgraded trims put the 5-Series in line with most rivals in terms of equipment.

For 2016, a power tailgate is now standard on 550i models and a standalone option for most other models in the lineup, while Harman Kardon surround sound is standard on the 550i and a Bang & Olufsen sound system is offered as a standalone option for the 550i exclusively.

Most of the 5-Series models manage better-than-expected fuel economy—there's hardly a pick outside of the ultra-performance M5 that doesn't achieve at least 20 mpg combined, according to the EPA. Smaller-engined 5-Series and turbodiesel models can boast highway figures into the low 30s.

8

2016 BMW 5-Series

Styling

The BMW 5-Series has classic sport-sedan proportions and a great stance.

The current version of the BMW 5-Series may be entering its sixth year on the market, yet it manages to fit right in with BMW's current lineup. Give credit to a design that's lean, masculine, and rather ageless, it seems—with classic sport-sedan proportions.

It makes sense that this model still fits right in so late in its product cadence, as it signaled a change in the look of BMW sedans—a look that was mostly followed by the revamp of the 3-Series a couple of years later. It marked a return to a more upright look, with a visually lower belt line, more of a greenhouse, and less of a wedge-like look, as well as more formal styling in back. Remember the "Bangle Butt?" It's distant history at this point, and the current 5-Series returns to the classic form that hasn't been followed in the same way since the early 2000s and the E39 5-Series.

The 5-Series departs the most from its driver-oriented sport-sedan past inside. It's still driver-centered, but just in a different way. Rather than a cockpit-like layout there's a rather low, horizontal dash layout and pushed-out corners that altogether helps maximize a feeling of spaciousness. Major controls and displays are angled six degrees toward the driver, and to store away electronics, out of sight, there’s a rather wide center console that opens wide.

Throughout, there are well-coordinated exterior trims, and a refreshed dash appearance with a new iDrive controller and touch pad. Most of the materials and trims look and feel conservative, but there's a lot to like about the simple, clean instrument-panel design.

Last year BMW gave the 5-Series what was effectively a light mid-cycle refresh, with a facelift that included some new lines around the familiar kidney grille, plus a more aggressive-looking lower air intake below. Realistically, it brought a few fresh details, and some functional upgrades, including a more detailed, dramatic taillight design and xenon adaptive headlamps. Also, side indicator lights are now integrated into the exterior mirrors.

The previous Modern Line look was dropped last year, although the Luxury Line is still offered and includes more visual touches, including unique treatments for items such as the grille and wheels. An M Sport package takes that in an even bolder performance direction.

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8

2016 BMW 5-Series

Performance

Responsive and athletic are ways to describe how the 5-Series drives—if you don't let all the technology get in the way.

The 2016 BMW 5-Series—just like nearly every other sport sedan on the market—embraces a number of high-tech systems, aiming to improve performance without making ride too punishing or the driving experience too involving at times you don't want it. It's definitely a cause for worry for some sport-sedan purists. But we can say that overall, the 5-Series manages to tow that line better than most luxury sport sedans today.

From steering and suspension, to turbocharged powertrains and even available hybrid hardware, the 2016 BMW 5-Series loads on the performance-related technologies. Yet even on some of the most curvy, dynamically demanding roads, the driving experience feels remarkably connected and direct, and the new-generation turbocharged engines are actually more responsive than their predecessors. 

At the base level, the 528i includes a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, making 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. If you don't mind a slightly more agricultural 4-cylinder sound in place of the sonorous sixes of the recent past, the base 528i does the job well, too—and much more frugally—while actually feeling stronger than the base sixes used in the last-generation car. Peak torque for the turbocharged-4 is reached at just 1,250 rpm, and the excellent 8-speed automatic transmission makes the most of it, responding quickly when needed, and lugging along happily at low rpm for fuel efficiency when the revs aren't warranted.

BMW 535i models step up to the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6, making 300 hp and 300 lb-ft, while a twin-turbocharged V-8 in the 550i makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft. The 0-60 mph sprint in V-8 model takes just 4.5 seconds (4.3 seconds with xDrive), which isn’t far off the pace of the M5.

The BMW M5 continues to be the performance leader of the lineup, and really one of the performance icons of the world car market. This generation makes 560 hp, though it’s now available with a Competition Package that lifts output to a heady 575 hp. It’s available with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission, and performance is thrilling, if a bit detached and digital.

In 535d guise, the 5-Series gets a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6, which makes 255 hp and 433 lb-ft of torque and gives the 5er a relaxed and confident driving feel. It doesn't need to be driven in any particularly careful way to return great mileage, yet it feels strong where you need it, in mid-speed city driving and highway passing.

Those who want to invest a little more into being (and looking) green have a couple of additional options. 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.

Manual transmissions are becoming very rare in this class, but the 5-Series offers plenty of them. Most of the 5-Series models (except for the ActiveHybrid5, 535d, and xDrive all-wheel-drive versions) can be had with a manual gearbox.

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 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.

Across the lineup, the 5-Series has electric power steering that, while relatively numb and devoid of feedback, does have just a bit of road feel and is one of the better-weighted systems in this class. 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.

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8

2016 BMW 5-Series

Comfort & Quality

The 2016 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo is the way to go if you need a roomy back seat; but all versions offer a refined ride and comfortable interior.

Thanks to all the engineering effort that results in the 5-Series, this sport-sedan lineup for the most part doesn't sacrifice much comfort for all the performance it offers. The only caution is that, with its mid-size proportions and rear-wheel-drive layout, it simply doesn't offer as much interior space as some family-oriented sedans.

That said, provided you're okay with a somewhat tight back seat, the quiet, refined cabin, firm but compliant ride, and great interior trims will likely please passengers nearly as much as the driver.

The 2016 5-Series has front seats that are essentially just as good as those in the larger 7-Series; they're as comfortable supportive as we’ve come to expect from BMW, with extendable lower cushion supports for taller drivers. Even on base models they're the kind that, even with back issues, you could rack hundreds of miles per day in.

Back-seat space is one of the downsides of the 5-Series package. Compared to mainstream affordable mid-size sedans like the Volkswagen Passat or Honda Accord, the 5-Series will have you wondering how a car around the same size can feel so much smaller inside. Compounding the matter for those in back, there's a hard-plastic pocket at the back of the front seats that can add to the impression, pressing up against knees.

We've had drive time in a wide range of 5-Series models in recent years, and we haven't found its cabin appointments to be anything but impressive and first-rate. The switches and buttons feel good-quality and satisfying, while seat upholsteries and trims are plush and comfortable.

BMW's iDrive interface still remains the center point of the dash; you'll need it to access many vehicle functions. Navigation is now included, and alongside a revised controller you get a touchpad device that recognizes individual characters traced with your finger. And for 2016 that system has been upgraded to include a Mobile Office suite, capability for two phones, and media browsing via Bluetooth.

BMW has also tweaked the 5-Series package inside just a bit in recent years. Cupholders became larger, as did storage compartments in the newer cars, and there's also a rather wide, spacious center console.

For buyers more interested in backseat space, consider the 5-Series Gran Turismo. These models don't drive quite as athletically as the 5-Series but they have an elevated seating position, with lots more legroom as well as plenty of headroom (and a good view outward). The Gran Turismo also offers full hatchback convenience, with 17.7 cubic feet of cargo space back there, and seats that can be folded forward for larger cargo.

You'll also want to focus in on the Gran Turismo if cargo space is critical. While 5-Series sedans come with a reasonably spacious trunk, the GT's two-piece tailgate can be opened and configured in several different ways. There's no 5-Series wagon in the U.S. market this time around, so the GT is the closest thing in the lineup if you don't want to go full-fledged crossover.

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8

2016 BMW 5-Series

Safety

In accident avoidance and occupant protection, all the bases are covered in the 2016 BMW 5-Series.

The 2016 BMW 5-Series has a lot going for it, with some of the world's best active-safety technology on board. Yet it doesn't quite ace all the crash tests.

The BMW 5-Series is one of the few models among luxury sedans for which full crash-test results have been issued from both U.S. agencies. They're good, but not perfect, with a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA and "Good" results across the board from the IIHS. A "Marginal" result in the IIHS small overlap frontal test is the only worrisome grade, however.

Although its scores aren't perfect, your chances of getting in a crash in the first place are likely considerably lower than in many other vehicles. The 5-Series has a great reputation for occupant protection in the real world; factor in accurate steering plus one of the best-tuned electronic stability control systems, and we expect that this sedan will be confidence-inspiring at critical moments.

The 5-Series includes a full array of airbags. Rear side bags are optional, and the 5-Series has a number of high-tech safety extras. The brakes also have composite front rotors, and electronic aids that help dry or save the brakes, which should help performance in a wide range of conditions.

Blind-spot monitors, lane departure warnings, xenon headlights with automatic high beams, and a new second-generation night-vision system with pedestrian detection are all available and might further increase safety.

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9

2016 BMW 5-Series

Features

You can get some of the world's best tech features here, if you're willing to add quite a bit of extra cost; but traditional luxury isn't forgotten either.

BMW recognizes that not everyone wants the same kind of 5-Series, so it gives you the choice to get either a traditional sport sedan, a sporty luxury sedan, or a technology-rich powerhouse.

To get those three cars—luxurious and lavishly equipped—it's mostly a matter of checking the right option boxes and being okay with an additional $10,000, or even $20,000, added onto the bottom-line price.

But the base 528i sure isn't a bad pick as it is, without any options. There you'll find rain-sensing wipers, power heated mirrors, xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control, and dynamic cruise control all included. Last year BMW sweetened the standard kit with steering wheel, LED fog lamps, and enhanced Bluetooth/USB/smartphone integration standard across the lineup. As well, the Comfort Access system is now included in 550i models.

Across the rest of the lineup, provided you're willing to spend that extra money, the softer Dakota leather, dynamic multi-contour front seats, Harman Kardon premium audio, and upgraded trims put the 5-Series in line with most rivals in terms of equipment.

For 2016, a power tailgate is now standard on 550i models and a standalone option for most other models in the lineup, while Harman Kardon surround sound is standard on the 550i and a Bang & Olufsen sound system is offered as a standalone option for the 550i exclusively.

Among the many, many options offered in the 5-Series lineup, you'll find things such as heated rear seats, a rear sunshade, or one of many available trims and trim packages. Tech options include blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warning, xenon headlights with automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability for traffic, and a night-vision system with pedestrian detection. An advanced backup camera and sonar parking assistant are also available.

Last year BMW's iDrive interface was significantly revamped, with navigation now included. A touchpad allows you to trace out letters for destinations and phone book 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.

The previous Modern Line appearance package has been dropped, 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.

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7

2016 BMW 5-Series

Fuel Economy

There's a lot of "green" in the 2016 5-Series lineup—and that holds true whether you're thinking hybrid, diesel, or just good fuel efficiency.

The 2016 BMW 5-Series can be about as green as you want it to be. Or not at all.

At the base level, the 528i can be very efficient as well. With the economical 4-cylinder engine, it's rated up to 23 mpg city, 34 highway, 27 combined with the 8-speed automatic, according to the EPA. At the middle of the lineup, the 535i is a good compromise—it's rated at 20/31/24 mpg—if you want more performance but don't have much tolerance for a guzzler.

Throughout the lineup, on gasoline models, you get start-stop technology, which smartly shuts off the engine at stoplights. Across the lineup, there's Brake Energy Regeneration and other fuel-saving technologies.

Even at the top end of the 5-Series lineup, BMW has made progress. With the new, more fuel-efficient turbocharged V-8 engines in the 550i models, there are no longer any non-performance models in the lineup with EPA combined ratings much below the 20-mpg mark. (We should note that the uber-sports sedan M5 earns marks of 14/20/16 mpg, but that's expected.)

Of course, for efficiency-minded shoppers, the new 535d diesel model and Active Hybrid 5 will get the most attention. The Active Hybrid 5 gets 23/30/26 mpg on the highway; yet it's the 535d that's the mileage leader, earning 26/38/30 mpg highway. It's just as good, if not better, in real-world driving, we've noted—especially driven as a 5-Series should be driven—as we averaged nearly 37 mpg in a cold-weather, mixed-driving loop.

As for the 5-Series Gran Turismo models—as low as 18/26/21 mpg—you'll need to look at the numbers themselves, somewhat lower than for sedans, and consider whether their additional weight and less effective aerodynamics are worth it for the extra practicality.

Throughout the lineup, adding all-wheel drive will have minimal penalties: most models lose a single mpg across the board.

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August 22, 2016
2016 BMW 5-Series 4-Door Sedan 535d RWD

Excellent ride, great acceleration for a Diesel.

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We were in the market to replace my wife's 2007 G35 Infinite Sport. We ran into a lot of problems with the add-on packages that did not equal the ones in the G35 Sport. My car is a Jaguar, so one our first... + More »
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August 17, 2016
For 2016 BMW 5-Series

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This is the 2cnd Bmw grand turismo I've bout the first was the 520gt which I loved but my next one was a535 GT which is outstanding it's the fastest car I've ever had,the engine is twin turbos also it has all... + More »
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