2008 BMW 5 Series Rating Breakdown
2008 bmw 5-series
EPA est City/Hwy
18/28
Starting at
$44,300
Engine
3.0L I6
Power
230 hp

Starting at

$44,300

Engine

3.0L I6

Power

230 hp

City/Hwy

18/28

Seats

5


The Car Connection Expert Review
Marty Padgett

Marty Padgett

Editorial Director

DISLIKES
  • iDrive remains unduly complex
  • Back-seat isn’t as roomy as it should be
  • Ridiculously high sticker price when extensively optioned
  • Crash-test performance is an embarrassment
bmw 5-series 2008

Though it’s been retouched, the 2008 BMW 5-Series still has styling that wanders over the line of artfulness.

The 2008 BMW 5-Series has a body with avant-garde details that meet with mixed reviews.

BMW designer Chris Bangle has alienated some hardcore BMW-philes, Automobile observes, with his new styling themes. The BMW 7-Series was the first example of his dramatically curved theme; this 5-Series plies the same lines and surfaces with a more subdued result. Still, Car and Driver says, Styling doesn't appeal to all, and calls it somewhat controversial.

Edmunds deems it a wolf in a flamboyant sheep's clothing, but changes for the new model year are slight. Automedia reports, Despite revised front and rear styling, for instance, the 2008 5 Series sedan doesn't look markedly different from previous years. The slightly updated look for 2008 includes rear LED lights, a new headlight design, a new steering wheel, and revised door panels.

The interior strikes a more traditional path. Automobile says the new cabin is handsome but not as elegantly turned out as that of the new E-class. Still, its colors, materials, and shapes will appeal to those who favor Barcelona chairs over Barcaloungers. Automedia notes its lack of fanciness extends into the interior, with down-to-business seats and familiar BMW gauges. Motor Trend cuts down the 5-Series 's cabin, calling it a dark and cold cockpit.

Though it’s been retouched, the 2008 BMW 5-Series still has styling that wanders over the line of artfulness.

The 2008 BMW 5-Series thrills with its turbocharged six and great road manners; the other engine options are almost obsolete in comparison.

The 2008 5-Series has brilliant engines and smart transmissions. Avoid the active steering and you'll find its dynamic profile is world-class, too.

Edmunds calls the engine lineup "confusing" since the engine displacement doesn't correspond to the badge numbers anymore. The 528i has a 3.0-liter 230-hp inline-6; the 535i supersedes that with twin-turbocharging and output of 300 hp. The 550i gets a V-8 with 360 hp. In terms of power, Edmunds adds that the new six-cylinder engines shared with the 3 Series offer more power than the outgoing units, especially the 300-hp 535i that exhibits virtually no turbo lag. Car and Driver calls the six-cylinders excellent and the V-8 superb, but feels the twin-turbo six renders the V-8 obsolete, especially since the V-8 version is very expensive. The 528i feels capable of matching BMW's claimed 6.5-second 0-to-60-mph huff, they add. The New York Times agrees, reporting like the bears ' proverbial porridge, it delivers just-right heat, and adding that while the turbo six accelerates to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, the V-8 is only slightly quicker at 5.5 seconds.

Each engine can be combined with a 6-speed, either automatic or manual. On some models, the automatic has paddle shift controls; on others, all-wheel drive is an option. Car and Driver agrees that the smooth auto transmissions shift even faster now, though the New York Times says it adopts a spacey looking (and somewhat spacey acting) console shifter that is clumsy to press the shifter 's side button to toggle forward for reverse, back for drive. But the lever works beautifully when you use it to shift gears manually. Edmunds says it 's an unnecessarily different and complex way of doing a fairly straightforward thing.

Gas mileage ranges from 28 mpg highway on manual 528i sedans to 15 mpg city for V-8 manual sedans.

In terms of handling, the 5 Series "feels so natural that you barely notice turning the grippy, well-designed steering wheel," according to the New York Times. Car and Driver feels that The fine chassis is happiest with the six-cylinder engines, since the V-8 feels surprisingly ponderous and much larger than the smaller-engined cars 'still a gratifyingly fast and powerful four-door, but no longer a sports sedan. The available Active Steering trips up its driving demeanor, though; as Car and Driver adds, the schizophrenic steering is curiously twitchy and numb just off-center. Without the option, Automedia notes, relatively heavy steering helps impart utterly confident feel.

The 2008 BMW 5-Series thrills with its turbocharged six and great road manners; the other engine options are almost obsolete in comparison.

The 2008 BMW 5-Series offers superior comfort for its class, though its cabin can appear a bit plain.

Despite an interior received coolly by reviewers, the 2008 BMW 5-Series scores high for comfort and quality.

The New York Times considers the 5-Series to have a "cold, synthetic-looking interior" and says it "badly needs a makeover." Minor tweaks are performed for 2008, but they include the addition of that aggravating electronic shifter, Car and Driver reports. It 's still handsome but not as elegantly turned out as that of the new E-class, Automobile observes. Edmunds agrees, noting competitors offer more stylish and less austere environments.

Seating is a virtue in the new 5-Series. Edmunds says, Supportive seating is provided in both the front and rear, and even adults won't mind sitting in the commodious backseat. Automedia writes seat cushioning is firm, but comfortable for long hauls. Kelley Blue Book reports that the 2008 BMW 5-Series 10-way adjustable seats (20-way adjustment is available as an option) are "the most comfortable and supportive in the class," whether one is traveling on the open freeway or curving back roads. And while the backseat is large, this is really only a four-passenger car," Automedia says, adding, "The center rear is hard and uncomfortable, worsened by a huge hump on the floor to straddle.

Edmunds points out the 5-Series sedan has 14 cubic feet of trunk capacity.

The BMW 5-Series continues a BMW tradition of tightly assembled, highly finished vehicles. Build quality and materials inside the 5 Series are still outstanding, Edmunds says. Anachronistically, the 5-Series 's standard upholstery is vinyl, Automedia observes, probably a nod to its civil-service duties as a fleet machine in Germany. ConsumerGuide notes a minimum of wind noise; road noises become apparent only when riding on the optional "high-performance" tires available with BMW's "Sport Package" of options.

The 2008 BMW 5-Series offers superior comfort for its class, though its cabin can appear a bit plain.

The 2008 BMW 5-Series has erratic crash-test scores.

The 2008 BMW 5-Series performed poorly in side-impact crash tests and in driver-side front impact tests 'remarkably so for such an expensive vehicle, leading to its very low safety score.

The NHTSA gave the BMW 5-Series just three stars for driver front-impact protection 'a result so surprising, it was widely reported in the non-automotive press. Passengers have five-star protection, and all seats have five-star crash protection as judged by the federal agency.

However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports nearly the obverse: for front impacts, it awards the 5-Series a good rating, and with side impacts calls it marginal, the second-lowest rating.

Edmunds says the 5-Series 's standard safety equipment includes stability control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and front-and-rear side-curtain airbags. Rear-seat side airbags are optional and, due to safety concerns, you must specifically request that your dealer activate the bags if you order this option.

ForbesAutos notes two safety options among the 5-Series 's features. A smarter radar cruise control that can slow as well as now speed up the car when traffic bunches and then clears up is the first; the second is a lane-departure warning system that, instead of emitting beeps, vibrates the steering wheel to help keep the driver focused.

Edmunds also notes that the all-wheel-drive 5-Series comes with Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control.

The 2008 BMW 5-Series has erratic crash-test scores.


The 2008 BMW 5-Series has enough high-tech features to keep anyone happy for a long time, but iDrive still contributes to road-test rage.

TheCarConnection.com nearly awards the 2008 BMW 5-Series a perfect 10 for a full range of innovative features, but one standard feature detracts from the luxurious package.

Standard equipment on the 5-Series includes a sunroof, power front seats, automatic climate control, iDrive, and vinyl upholstery. The 535i adds lumbar support for the front seats and xenon headlights, while the 550i gets leather upholstery and auto-dimming mirrors.

The options list is extensive. Cars.com reports "a new MP3 adapter" with which drivers can operate their players from the steering wheel (which could be a safety improvement as well). Kelley Blue Book lists Bluetooth wireless connectivity for cell phone users, as well as a 10-speaker AM/FM radio-CD player combination. Other features available include ventilated front seats and heated rear seats; active steering; a head-up display; keyless ignition; HD and satellite radio; and a night-vision system.

The one negative that most reviews agree on is the 2008 BMW 5-Series's iDrive system, which uses a single console knob to control a range of functions, such as the stereo, climate control, and so on. Car and Driver calls iDrive "a curse"; stating that it "complicates most functions," ConsumerGuide suggests that it may even constitute a safety hazard, as it "diverts the driver's attention from the road." Edmunds found it "cumbersome to use," while Kelley Blue Book, which praised its many technological gadgets, called iDrive "improving but arduous." The most damning indictment of iDrive, however, came from the New York Times: "the most illogical, ill-conceived systems controller from any car company." It 's enough to draw down the whole 5-Series driving experience.

The 2008 BMW 5-Series has enough high-tech features to keep anyone happy for a long time, but iDrive still contributes to road-test rage.

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