The 2017 BMW 5-Series may do for tech sedans what turn-of-the-century 5-Series did for sport sedans.
For all that BMW has done for sport sedans in the past decades, it's clear the future is decidedly high-tech.
For that, the new 2017 BMW 5-Series doesn't pull any punches. The mid-size luxury sedan comes equipped with a flotilla of self-driving assistants and integrated apps; five different ways to change the radio station; and a touchscreen for your pocket, which can help "walk" your car into a parking space. Not that long ago, "car play" in a 5-Series meant burning through a set of Bridgestones on a curvy road. Now, CarPlay in a BMW can make dinner reservations—and it's wireless.
The 2017 BMW 5-Series is initially offered in two versions in this new generation, a 530i or 540i. Those will be followed closely by a more-efficient plug-in hybrid 530e and a high performance M550 xDrive.
This year's models earn an 8.0 overall on our scorecards, but that'll likely change once safety numbers come in. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
The new 5-Series picks up where the outgoing generation left off. Up front, the bigger kidney grilles, chrome accents, and larger headlights may be the most noticeable differences, but many styling updates such as active grille shutters and a more sculpted front bumper help cut down on turbulent air and make the 5-Series more efficient.
Inside, the new 5-Series should be recognizable to anyone who's driven the mid-sizer in the last decade. New for this year is an updated 8.0-inch LED instrument cluster that brings up to speed our biggest gripe with some BMW sedans—the gauges are classic, but the LCD screen was far too retro.
A 10.2-inch touchscreen placed atop the dash dominates attention, but the finer details are worth a look. The interior surfaces are awash in solid materials and soft-touch surfaces. The headliner even soaks up some of the sounds to keep cabin conversations civilized.
Under the hood for 2017 is a choice between two turbocharged engines mated to an excellent 8-speed automatic. The first engine, a turbo-4 found in the 530i, makes 248 horsepower (up 8 hp from last year) and is capable of flinging the 5-Series to 60 mph in 6 seconds. It's a new engine from BMW and one that'll surely make its way into other models, but in the 5-Series it's refined, competent, and quiet, only pressed in passing.
The turbo-6 in the 540i is the performance pick—for now—and produces 335 hp (up 35 hp from last year) and makes the 60-mph sprint in under 5 seconds. Predictably, the 540i is more fun to drive, but both engines are competent in chewing through miles.
That's due in part to a very good 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters that we suggest gather dust—the transmission's logic doesn't need any help from us. All-wheel drive, which BMW calls xDrive, is available from the outset and configurable with more goodies this time around too.
A revised suspension and available adaptive dampers transform the 5-Series from well-mannered sedan to athletic performer in a hurry, and even the 18-inch standard run-flat tires can't spoil the ride. Yeah, it's that good.
Comfort, safety, and features
By the numbers, the new 5-Series grew 1.2 inches bumper-to-bumper and presumably all that space went into the back seat—rear seat leg room increased exactly 1.2 inches too.
As a result, the 5-Series is comfortable for four adults, with 18.7 cubic feet of trunk space for gear. It shuttled four medium to large adults more than 60 miles through Northern California en route to an airport without much hassle, competently carrying bodies and gear.
BMW makes standard its leatherette upholstery in the new 5-Series, which we haven't yet sampled, but various grades and shades of hides await well-heeled buyers. At the top, nappa leather is the softest and can be teamed with multi-contour massaging seats, but be warned: contrast stitching, quilting, and piping can somewhat muddle the whole composition.
Beyond expressive leather choices, the BMW 5-Series is quiet and refined—just the way we like it.
Government testers haven't yet ruined a new 5-Series with a wall, so we can't make any complete predictions on its new architecture. We can report that its active safety systems, such as adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and self-driving features work well—for more than 30 seconds hands off, actually—but still exhibit some "lane pinballing" not found on cars like the Audi A4. Additionally, the IIHS gave it top marks—its Top Safety Pick+ award when optioned with automatic emergency braking and extra-cost premium LED headlights.
If you're in the mood for active safety features that can add up to $5,000 to the overall price of the 5-Series, we congratulate you on great life success. Next, we'd like to talk about some of the other features you may be interested in, including a $4,200 optional Bowers & Wilkins stereo that sounds like you were there, man.
Other good features include a smartly packaged cold weather bundle that adds front and rear heated seats, a head-up display and rearview camera combo that we'd consider, and Apple CarPlay for $300. Granted, most other automakers don't directly charge for CarPlay, but BMW's system is the first to run wirelessly, and we like it.
Without any of those options, the 530i starts at $52,195, but can be as rich as you like from there. Our 540i tester added $25,000 in options that ballooned its bottom price to nearly $82,000 all told. Things have changed, you know.