The 2017 BMW 5 Series is built on a new platform, with more aluminum and high-strength steel in the chassis, to make it lighter and stiffer.
It’s 1.2 inches longer than before, all of which makes its way to rear legroom. For now there are just the sedans, the 530i and 540i, but they will soon be joined by a plug-in hybrid 530e, and a powerful M550 xDrive.
There are two new engines, turbocharged inline four and six cylinders, 2.0 and 3.0 liters. The 248-horsepower four in the 530i is refined and rarely feels pressed; it can accelerate from zero to sixty in about six seconds, about the same as the Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S90. The turbo six delivers 335 horsepower and can shoot the 540i from zero to sixty in less than five seconds.
There’s one transmission, an excellent eight-speed automatic. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive is available with both models.
The revised suspension, especially the available adaptive dampers, turn the car into an athlete. Even the standard run-flat tires don’t stiffen the ride too much.
It hasn’t been crash-tested and probably won’t be, because of the price. Its active safety systems, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and self-steering, work well, but cost about five grand. It will steer itself down the highway for 30 seconds. It will also veer and correct itself, when the sensors misjudge something. It’s a problem with most cars that steer themselves.
The 530i is EPA-rated at 24/34 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined, on Premium gasoline. 530i xDrive is 23/33/27 mpg City/Highway/Combined. The 530i is 120 pounds lighter than previously, and its engine is more efficient, with its direct fuel injection.
Same goes for the six in the 540i, rated 20/30/24 mpg.
The 530e iPerformance model goes on sale in April, designated a 2018 model. It will be the first plug-in hybrid 5 Series, using a 9.2-kwh battery pack with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
The 530i ($51,200) and the 540i ($56,450) come with leatherette upholstery, automatic climate control, a 10.2-inch touchscreen, navigation, Bluetooth, 18-inch wheels with run-flat tires. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
A rearview camera is optional, part of a driver assistance package that includes a new head-up display. Adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking are optional.
Also optional: Bowers & Wilkins audio, Apple CarPlay wireless, smart cold weather package with heated seats front and rear, surround-view camera, touchscreen key, and remote parking feature.
Fresh styling for the new 5 Series includes bigger grilles and headlamps, and a more aerodynamic front bumper with two corner air intakes and a large center scoop. Behind the grille are shutters that open or close depending on the temperature of the engine coolant.
The profile resembles the new BMW 7 Series, but claims some individuality with two character lines under the rear windows.
At the rear there are new LED taillamps and an aggressive bumper with two chrome exhaust tips.
The cabin is quiet and refined, with upgraded interior materials including a sound-deadening headliner. The seats are tops for luxury midsize sedans. At least the optional multi-contour seats are, with adjustable bolstering and long leg cushions.
The standard leatherette upholstery BMW calls SensaTec is nice. Of the expensive optional leather combinations, the softest is Nappa (available with a massage function). Some of the color combinations in the leather options are a bit extreme, and the contrast stitching, quilting, and piping can look busy. We liked the Night Blue, and the Mocha too, but the quilting steals all subtlety.
In the rear there’s good headroom and legroom, with 1.2 inches more than before. The trunk is a big 18.7 cubic feet.
In the high-tech department, BMW is still behind the pack, only within range of the other midsize luxury sedans like those from Mercedes or Volvo; that said, it doesn’t present a wall of screens like the Mercedes E-Class. The 10.2-inch touchscreen sits on top of the dashboard, with its crisp integrated display dominating the instrumentation. The 8.0-inch LED instrument cluster is new and much needed to replace an obsolete LCD. There’s better app integration, and easy transition between functions.
The new engines feel good. The four cylinder neither feels like a four nor accelerates like one, with 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s smooth and always there. The inline six cylinder is smooth and fast, with 335 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. Zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds, with all-wheel drive to get it off the line without wheelspin. It puts the final nail in the coffin of the V8. In fact, it steals the name 540i from the departed V8 model.
With such a good eight-speed automatic transmission, a manual transmission isn’t missed. It has paddle shifters, but we didn’t use them much because the transmission’s shift logic was spot-on.
Despite the hard run-flat tires, the ride of the BMW 5 isn’t harsh on rough pavement. With the optional adaptive dampers, handling and ride are above average. The three modes are Normal, Comfort and Sport. Comfort isn’t too soft and Sport isn’t too firm.
Another option is rear-wheel steering BMW calls Integral Active Steering. It counter-steers the rear wheels at low speeds to tighten turning, in parking lots, for example. At high speeds, it quickens the turn-in to corners, but we found it unnerving, like the rear end was skating through turns. In cars without rear steering, the 5 Series is flat, composed, and low drama. So, we’d be inclined to pass on the active steering.
The electric power steering (standard) is recalibrated for 2017, but there’s still a big dead spot on center, in Comfort mode (the default mode). The Sport mode adds some weight to the steering, which is especially felt with the optional and thick M Sport steering wheel. The steering doesn’t feel linear on curvy roads.
We found the optional M Sport brakes reduced stopping distances, but it’s hard to justify their very high cost unless you take the car to the track, and this isn’t an M3.
The all-new 5 Series offers outstanding powertrains, with the new inline four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines with turbocharging and direct injection, and an eight-speed automatic that’s about perfect. The handling might take optional adaptive dampers to find its optimum, but maybe the base suspension will be fine.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.