The BMW 5 Series has been around for a long time, and the 2016 model is expected to be the last of its generation, at six years old. It has aged well with its traditional looks (updated for 2015).
Some impressive challengers have a lot to offer, namely the Cadillac CTS, Audi S6 and S7, and Jaguar XF. Still, the 5 Series endures, with responsive driving dynamics, the right amount of luxury, but most of all some of the world’s best powertrains, chassis and safety.
The 5 Series is vast, from sedans to Gran Turismo hatchbacks, and engines including an economical turbo four, smooth inline six-cylinder, turbocharged V8, hybrid, diesel, all offering that great BMW ride and handling. There’s nothing new for 2016 except a standard Harman Kardon surround sound system and power trunk lid on the 550i.
The 528i uses a strong turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 535i takes a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six with 300 hp and 300 lb-ft, while the 550i boasts a twin-turbocharged V8 with an awesome 445 hp and 480 lb-ft. There’s also a high-performance M5, but the 550i is nearly as quick, with a zero-to-sixty time of just 4.5 seconds.
On the economy side, there’s the relaxed and confident 535d, with its 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline six making 255 hp and 433 lb-ft. The ActiveHybrid5 uses a 300-hp turbocharged six with a 54-hp electric motor system and 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It’s nearly as quick as the 535i.
The M5 is a performance icon. It makes a humongous 560 horsepower, and is available with a Competition Package that boosts it to 575. Choose between a six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed twin clutch and be thrilled either way.
Manual transmissions are available in the 5 Series models except for the hybrid, diesel and xDrive all-wheel-drive cars.
Fuel mileage runs the gamut of the engines, with the 528i bringing a strong 22 mpg city/34 mpg highway, pretty great for a luxury sedan, even better than the hybrid. Even the 4.4-liter V8 in the 550i brings mileage that’s not much below 20 combined. Of course it’s the 535d diesel that wins, with 26/38. In one city/highway run in cold weather, we got 37 mpg.
The 5 Series get top crash-test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and federal government, except, significantly, for a Marginal rating in the IIHS telephone-pole (small overlap frontal) test.
The BMW 5 Series includes the 528i ($50,200), 535i ($55,850), 535d ($57,350), Active Hybrid5 ($62,100), and 550i xDrive ($68,600).
The 528i comes standard with dual-zone climate control, dynamic cruise control, LED fog lamps, and Bluetooth/USB/smartphone integration, power heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and xenon headlamps.
The 5 Series is lean and masculine, with the classic proportions of a sports sedan. It’s got a fairly low beltline and fairly large greenhouse. the 2015 facelift brought new lines around the kidney grille and air intakes, as well as a dramatic taillamp design.
The 5 Series falls short of feeling like a cockpit, but it is driver-oriented, with simple, clean gauges and switches canted six degrees toward the driver. The dash is low, with pushed-out corners that make the cabin in front feel spacious. The center console is wide, behind the iDrive controller and touchpad. Most of the materials and trims are nicely understated.
The front seats are excellent, although space in the rear is lacking in the sedan, so if you need more you can choose the Gran Turismo hatchback.
Like its competitors, the 5 Series uses high technology to improve virtually every aspect of its performance, but it does a better job of many luxury sports sedans of keeping the driver involved, without over-involving him or her. Steering, suspension, turbocharged engines, even the hybrid hardware, all are enhanced by technology. The ride in all models is firm, while being supple and quiet.
On the curviest and most demanding of roads, the driver feels connected to the car. The electric power steering, although relatively numb and devoid of feedback, is still weighted better than most of the cars in this class. BMW’s Integral Active Steering slightly steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction at under 35 mph, to tighten parking; or it steers them in the same direction above 35 to enhance stability. It makes the 5 Series more nimble.
The 528i’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine conveniently reaches its torque at a mere 1250 rpm and responds brilliantly with the eight-speed automatic transmission. It responds quickly and motors along happily at low rpm for good gas mileage.
The 3.0-liter turbocharged six in the 535i picks up the pace, with 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, and if that’s not enough, the burly twin-turbocharged V8 in the 550i uses its 445 hp and 480 lb-f to rocket you from a standing start to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, not much behind the M5 with its 560 horsepower. We found the M5 to be thrilling, if a bit detached and digital.
The 255-horsepower 535d diesel feels strong where you need it, both in the city and passing on the highway, thanks to its whopping 433 pound-feet of torque. 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, also offers strong performance; it accelerates nearly as quickly as the 535i.
Manual transmissions are very rare in this class, but the 5 Series provides them in the 528i, 535i and 550i, with rear-wheel drive.
Driving Dynamics Control offers you five modes: Eco Pro, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+, to adjust throttle response, transmission shift points, and steering assist. When you add the versatility of the available active suspension, you can tune yourself an attitude that works on the track.
The 5 Series is getting long in the tooth, and it has serious rivals that are newer and more snazzy. But if you’re a BMW fan, with so many variants to choose among, you probably won’t be disappointed.