True, the BMW 2015 5-Series may have lost some of its intense connection to enthusiasts over the past decade, as great cars like the XF, CTS, and A6 hit the road. The 5-Series remains in touch with its long-earned reputation for responsive handling and crisp sport-sedan looks, even while it's blossomed into a family of cars.
BMW turned back the clock with the current 5-Series, cutting through some of the design clutter accumulated over the years. The family now includes a bulbous-bodied Gran Turismo hatchback, and a huge range of powertrains-4-, 6-, and 8-cylinders, gas and diesel and hybrid among them.
With any the 5-Series delivers nuanced handling, an excellent ride, and lots of impressive technology.
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The look of the latest 5-Series models aren't exactly an about-face, but they steered away from a controversial era in BMW design and brought back the more upright, classic-sport sedan designs that seemed to reach a couple of generations back. The 5-Series now wears a thicker twin-kidney grille, more prominent taillights, and on request, LED headlights. The cabin has lost some intimacy as the 5-Series has grown, but the driver focus and low-set dash still are lovely.
All of the 5-Series' engine lineup is modern, turbocharged, and both stronger and more fuel-efficient than most rival models' powertrains. Go with the base 528i and you get a turbo-4 with 240 hp and 260 lb-ft. It does the job well, and the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission responds quickly when needed. In 535i models, the 3.0-liter turbocharged six makes 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft, while a new twin-turbocharged V-8 in the 550i makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft. In the 550i, a new turbocharged V-8 now makes 445 horsepower--45 more than the outgoing model. The 0-60 mph sprint in this model is said to take just 4.5 seconds, which isn't far off the pace of the M5. Manuals tend to be very limited in this class; but driving enthusiasts will find it noteworthy that most of the 5-Series models (except for the ActiveHybrid5, 535d, and xDrive all-wheel-drive versions) can be had with a manual gearbox.
On the green side of the lineup, an ActiveHybrid5 pairs an electric motor and battery pack with a 300-hp turbo-6. The long-distance specialist is the BMW 535d diesel, with its turbodiesel-6 netting 255 hp and 433 lb-ft of torque.
Across the lineup, those engines are every bit as responsive as their predecessors, if not more so. And overall, the driving experience feels direct and connected. Manuals tend to be very limited in this class; but driving enthusiasts will find it noteworthy that most of the 5-Series models (except for the ActiveHybrid5, 535d, and xDrive all-wheel-drive versions) can be had with a manual gearbox. And with something called Driving Dynamics Control, you can select the right mode for your driving style and the conditions at the time -- from Eco Pro to Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ settings.
The BMW M5, meanwhile, still makes 560 horsepower, though it's now available with a Competition Package that lifts output to a heady 575 horsepower. It's available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission.
There's no wagon in this 5er lineup. The Gran Turismo 550i subs in with limo-size rear seats and a useful cargo area with lots of space behind its seats. The seats can be reclined, heated, set to massage or ventilate. As for the rest of the 5-Series lineup, you'll find all the support and comfort you want in the front seats-as much as you'll find in the bigger 7-Series, really -- but the back seat can be too tight for taller adults.
The 5-Series has options for lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, and night vision. By the NHTSA and IIHS standards, it's a very good crash-test performer, save for a "marginal" small-overlap result from the IIHS.
With the 2015 5-Series lineup, BMW gives you the choice to get either a traditional sport sedan, a sporty luxury sedan, or a technology-rich powerhouse that will really appeal to those who appreciate innovation. It's mostly a matter of checking the right option boxes and being okay with an additional k, or even k, tagged onto the bottom-line price. Standard is impressive, but it's the upgraded audio, heated rear seats, a rear sunshade, or one of many available trims and trim package that starts to distinguish it in a now crowded class.
Last year BMW's iDrive interface was significantly revamped, with navigation now included. Thanks to a touchpad, allowing you to trace out letters for destinations and phonebook entries, we've found this system easier to navigate in a hurry. The automaker has also added so called ConnectedDrive technology, with dictation functions for text-message replies, plus a Concierge Service.
BMW has dropped the Modern Line appearance package for 2015, but the Luxury Line remains, offering a special look and a few exclusive features. Add either the Sport Package or M Sport Package and you get a sport suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, and an M Sport steering wheel, plus other dress-ups and extras. Also for 2015, Black Nappa leather is more widely available -- at no charge with either of these packages, actually.
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