2009 BMW 5-Series

8.2
2009 BMW 5-Series

The Basics:

The 5-Series cars are a joy to drive, though they aren't the best values or more practical vehicles in their segment.

Whether as a sedan or wagon, the 2009 BMW 5-Series is a distinctly sportier, tech-savvy alternative to luxury rivals—without giving up any comfort.

Last year BMW upgraded its engine lineup by adding a twin-turbo, 300-hp six. This year, it's mostly carried over, with few mechanical changes.

Base cars offer a 230-hp, 3.0-liter inline-6, under the 528i badge. The 535i (above) is joined by a 360-hp, V-8-powered 550i. All engines can be coupled to a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. Sport-package cars come with paddle shift controls when they're automatics. All-wheel drive is an option on inline-6 cars.

One of the best 5-Series cars is the 535xiT Sports Wagon. With the same luxury and tech touches as the sedan, the Sports Wagon has the most useful body style, as well as excellent braking and handling and an absorbent ride. The only flaw is standard all-wheel drive that hones off some of the car's steering feel.

In all models, seating is commendable. In front, BMW fits bucket seats that support passengers with firm cushions and a good ride height. The back seat has less space than in some competitive cars, but the seats themselves are cozy.

All 5-Series cars come with the usual airbags and stability control. BMW makes rear-seat side airbags available as an option. That said, the 5-Series hasn't performed very well in crash tests. The NHTSA gave it three stars for driver protection, and the IIHS called its side protection "marginal."

All 5-Series cars come with power features, cruise control, and leather. Options veer strongly into the high-tech lane: there's variable-ratio steering, a head-up display, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, night vision, heated rear seats, and lane-departure warnings. BMW's futzy iDrive interface also comes standard. It's saddled with unintuitive command structures that blemish the high-tech fun.

The 2009 BMW 5-Series features styling that may not appeal to everyone, but it's still elegant.

Edmunds calls the 5er a "wolf", just one that wears "flamboyant sheep's clothing."Car and Driver finds the look "somewhat controversial,"while Cars.com says the dramatic look "blends fairly well"into traffic.

Motor Trend punts on the interior, and says it's "dark and cold."Kelley Blue Book comments on "the overall air of firm luxury,"but Edmunds says the 5er's rivals have "more stylish and less austere environments."Automobile feels the interior is "handsome,"if not "as elegantly turned out"as that in vehicles like the Mercedes E-Class.

The 2009 BMW 5-Series thrills with its turbocharged six and great road manners; the other engine options are almost obsolete in comparison. All-wheel drive is an option on the 528xi and 535xi 6-cylinder models.

With its twin-turbo inline-6, this 2009 BMW is, in fact, "the most powerful wagon"ever offered by BMW in America, Car and Driver says. Kelley Blue Book says the 6-cylinders are "just a couple ticks slower than the V8,"and Car and Driver says the new inline-6 "renders the V-8 obsolete."

A 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic can be paired with each engine. The automatic has four different drive modes, reports the Washington Post, including one that allows manual shifting via paddles. Kelley Blue Book loved the "faster shifting automatic."

Car and Driver prefers the inline-6; it says the V-8 "feels surprisingly ponderous."Sources agree the Sports Wagon has all the sedan's handling goodness as well as refinement. Edmunds reports that this BMW wagon has "exceptional ride and handling dynamics."

Gas mileage hits EPA ratings of 17 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for the wagon. Across all cars, it ranges from 15/22 mpg for the 550i manual to 18/28 mpg for the 528i manual.

The 2009 BMW 5-Series offers superior comfort for its class, though its cabin can appear a bit plain.

The Washington Post describes the 5-Series wagon as "plush"and "prestigious."Autoblog says "supportive seating"is so good, "adults won't mind sitting in the commodious backseat."The New York Times considers the 5-Series to have a "cold, synthetic-looking interior."It thinks it "badly needs a makeover."Edmunds says "competitors offer more stylish and less austere environments."

Kelley Blue Book says the BMW's seats are the "comfortable and supportive."

Fit and finish are "outstanding,"Edmunds reports. The base seats are vinyl, Automedia reports-likely due to the 5-Series' use as a fleet vehicle in its home market.

The 2009 BMW 5-Series has performed poorly in some crash tests, leading to a low score here.

The NHTSA says the 5-Series is only worth three stars out of five for frontal protection. The IIHS says it's "marginal"when it comes to side impact protection.

The 5-Series has a long list of safety gear, which Edmunds says includes an option for rear-seat side airbags, which must be activated by a dealer.

Lots of features make the 2009 BMW 5-Series sedan and wagon a pleasurable ride, but the iDrive system detracts from the cabin's function.

Every 5-Series comes with automatic climate control, power seats, a sunroof, vinyl upholstery, and iDrive. The 535i has xenon headlights. The 550i has leather and auto-dimming mirrors. Wagons come with a sunroof, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, power front seats, and iDrive."

Other available features include Bluetooth; a 10-speaker sound system; ventilated front seats; heated rear seats; a head-up display; active steering; keyless ignition; satellite and HD radio; and night vision.

Buying Tips:


BMW is known for offering some factory-subsidized deals with especially low monthly payments, so if the 5-Series' sticker price has you a little intimidated, you might want to check out lease possibilities.

Other Choices:

  • 2008 Mercedes-Benz E Class
  • 2008 Audi A6
  • 2009 Cadillac STS
  • 2009 Saab 9-5

Reason Why:

BMW's chief rival here is the Benz E-Class; among wagons, it's the Audi A6 Avant. The Mercedes puts stronger emphasis on passenger comfort, and it has a more spacious interior, not to mention a more relaxed ride. Audi's wagon comes only with a V-6 engine, but all-wheel drive is standard. Handling isn't as crisp as with the BMW, and technology features lag. Cadillac's STS is a worthy sedan rival with lots of performance verve; it just lacks BMW's prestige. Saab's sport wagon is dated, but still has lots of space and an offbeat appeal. The Infiniti M sedans have brisk performance and high-tech features, but the cabin lacks the refinement of the BMW.

The Bottom Line:

Whether as a sedan or wagon, the 2009 BMW 5-Series is a distinctly sportier, tech-savvy alternative to luxury rivals—without giving up any comfort.

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