BMW and sport sedans go hand in hand, and there’s a full roster of models to prove it. The 5 Series, though, has always been at the perfect price point for those wanting a premium sport sedan that could comfortably seat five yet still be enjoyable to drive.
But the market demands more these days from midsize luxury sedans. Improved efficiency is now part of the equation along with increased safety via assisted driving and connected technology. Oh yeah, and it still has to be comfortable, too. This meant BMW couldn’t leave well enough alone, so for the 2017 model year there’s an all-new lineup of 5 Series sedans.
Like all other 5 Series before it, this new 2017 model is available in multiple powertrain and engine combinations. But first, let’s start with the basics.
In order to improve efficiency, the chassis has been lightened by up to 137 pounds compared to the previous model. BMW used more aluminum and high-strength steel in strategic places to keep weight down. Most of the exterior body panels are aluminum and have been designed to give the car a slimmer look.
The interior has also been lightened, albeit visually, with a new dash and heavily updated center control area that mirrors the sleeker exterior design. Most importantly, the new dash improves visibility and the overall feeling of space.
Initially, only two variants will be offered: the 530i, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and the 540i, with a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder. Shortly after that, two additional variants will be made available: a plug-in hybrid, the 530e, and a turbocharged V8-equipped performance model, the M550i. The 530i and 540i can be had in either rear- or all-wheel drive, while the 530e and M550i will be available only with all-wheel drive. Regardless of configuration, all 5 Series sedans will feature an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The 530i is rated at 252 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The engine delivers solid shove from a stop, and even at higher speeds, it feels responsive to inputs. You can tell it’s working hard in some situations, however, so if you want universally effortless acceleration, the 3.0-liter engine is the better choice. That engine produces 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque and delivers smooth torque and power instantly at all points in the rev range.
If you’re a previous BMW owner, you’ll catch onto the latest iDrive user interface very quickly. Even if you’re not, it’s easy to get accustomed to. The 10.5-inch high-resolution screen now accepts multitouch inputs, so there are multiple ways to interact with the system. The 5 Series also features gesture controls that can accept and reject calls, raise and lower volume, and navigate around the menu structure with a wave of your hand. Gesticulators beware, you may want to turn this feature off because your hand motions will cause iDrive to react.
Other features of the new system include Wi-Fi, wireless charging and wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity. In conjunction with BMW’s Connected app, some unique new features are available through your smartphone including a skill from Amazon’s Alexa that will enable some basic vehicle monitoring and a built-in LTE modem that can access weather and let you know the likelihood of finding street parking at your destination. Pretty nifty stuff, if you have the patience to learn how to use all of it.
BMW’s Display Key is also available on the 5 Series. The Display Key puts a small color display and transceiver inside the key, so that it can receive vehicle status information from the car, and even allow you to start and stop the engine, and either pull in or pull out of a particularly tight parking spot from outside the vehicle. Definitely a cool party trick, but it also causes the key to become humorously large, and it’s yet another device that you’ll need to keep charged.
During a short rainy drive between San Francisco and Sonoma, both the 530i and the 540i felt more than capable of delivering long-distance comfort and the kind of performance necessary to uphold the 5 Series’ reputation as a sport sedan. The smoother power delivery of the 540i makes it the one to get if you like the idea of always having something in reserve, but the 530i will satisfy everyone else.
Overall, there were no surprises. BMW’s “just right”-size sedan combines solid engine choices, cutting-edge technology and numerous options wrapped in a svelte, new body. It might not be groundbreaking on any level, but it does all the things a midsize luxury sedan is supposed to do without losing its uniquely German look and feel.