At first glance, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the all-new BMW 5 Series for the current car. But make no mistake, the seventh-generation sedan is here, and there seems to be a lot more to it than meets the eye. BMW says the car “will cut a sporty, elegant and stylish figure,” and while we don’t disagree, it looks more like an evolutionary move to bring the 5 Series closer in line with the recently restyled 3 and 7 Series — at least on the surface.
The new car is 1.2 inches longer, 0.3 inches wider, and 0.6 inches taller, while still being 137 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, thanks to a high-strength steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber diet. There’s more room inside, where the styling seems to borrow heavily from the 7 Series (never a bad thing), and rear-seat passengers enjoy an extra 1.2 inches of legroom. Massaging seats are now optional up front, with 16-way power buckets standard.
Up front, the big headlights extend from the fenders to the kidney grilles à la 3 Series, while crisp sheetmetal with lower body “hockey stick” crease and fender trim look to be straight out of the 7 Series’s playbook. Out back, the lines do look cleaner, but the slightly bigger taillights don’t look much that different from ones on the current car. The aerodynamics — a class-leading 0.22 drag coefficient — and weight loss combine with the new architecture to for make a stiffer and better handling sedan. Considering that the 5 Series is already one of the best driver’s sedans in the world, that’s a pretty big deal.
Following the 7 Series’s lead, the new 5 Series is poised to become the technological leader in its segment. On top of already available features (gesture control, head-up display, active cruise control, remote control parking), it will also debut BMW’s new Steering and Lane Keeping Assistant, and Intelligent Speed Assist, which can take over steering, braking, and acceleration for short periods of time, at speeds up to 130 miles per hour.
Power comes from a host of new engines from BMW’s new modular architecture. The entry 530i has the new 2.0-liter turbo four, which makes 252 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 comes in 6.2 seconds, and top speed is an electronically-limited 155 miles per hour (a hybrid, the 530e, will also debut with similar performance numbers). The 540i will feature a 3.0-liter straight-six that cranks out 340 horses and 332 pound-feet. Both cars will be available with all-wheel drive xDrive sytems, and engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic that uses GPS for navigation-assisted shifting — similar to the system found in the 7 Series and Rolls-Royce models.
But perhaps the most notable development is the M550i xDrive, the most powerful 5 Series at launch. With the next-generation M5 still in development, the M550i will be the top dog, with its twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 pumping 455 horses and 479 pound-feet of torque, taking it from zero to 60 in four seconds — a cool 0.2 seconds quicker than the current M5. With this car slotting below BMW’s iconic sport sedan, we can’t wait to see what the next-generation M5 can do.
The evolution of BMW models has always been a measured one. The new 5 Series is by no means a break from tradition, but it’s a big step forward for the model, and its technological advances should be enough to put competitors Audi and Mercedes on notice. Pricing should start in the low to mid $50K range (the current 528i starts at $50,200) when the 530i and 540i debut on February 11, with the 550i going for a bit more when it arrives in March.