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2016 BMW 5 Series Overview
Within the BMW sedan lineup, prospective buyers have something of a “Goldilocks” scenario. On the one end you have the hard-driving 3 Series, offering performance at semi-reasonable cost. On the other end, the 7 Series delivers all the comfort features one expects from a flagship car. And falling into the “just right” slot between these cars is the 5-passenger BMW 5 Series, offering the best attributes of both extremes.
The current generation of the BMW 5 Series entered the American market for the 2011 model year. When it debuted, many BMW faithful applauded its arrival, as it replaced the polarizing style of the 2003-2010 model. Where the old model featured dramatic, almost cubist edges and angles, the current generation of the 5 Series sedan and available wagon boasts a far more flowing design.
But don’t mistake its elegance for weakness, as it could also easily be interpreted as a linebacker in a tailored suit. As recently as 2014, that linebacker went to the tailor, further evolving the 5 Series design.
The aesthetic updates from 2014 carry over to 2016 and include new contours around BMW’s iconic twin-kidney grille, a revised lower front air intake area, more svelte taillights, and Xenon adaptive headlights that are standard on all 5 Series models. Buyers also have the option of striking LED adaptive headlights.
Aside from the base line, there are two trim lines from which to choose, each bringing its own very unique personality to the 5 Series. The Luxury line (a $2,000 option) sprinkles more chrome in various places on the exterior of the car. It also adds specific 19-inch light-alloy wheels, a sport leather steering wheel, and exclusive interior swatches with unique stitching and accents.
Then there’s the M Line (a $3,150 option). This trim swaps out certain body panels, like the lower front air intake, for an M-inspired aerodynamic setup. It's meant to evoke the high-powered BMW M5, bringing you the look of that prolific performance sedan at thousands less. The M Line option also includes its own unique 19-inch wheel setup, an M-exclusive steering wheel, a unique selection of colors, and an M Sport suspension.
Like the exterior, the cabin of the 5 Series exudes style just as much as substance and function. Clean, businesslike interiors have long been a BMW hallmark, and the 2016 5 Series continues the tradition. Long, clean lines give way to the latest standard and available in-car technology. The multifunction steering wheel provides controls for Bluetooth hands-free calling. Bluetooth in the 5 Series is part of a suite of connectivity technology that includes enhanced USB connections and Mobile Office, featuring message dictation.
The centerpiece of BMW’s infotainment features is the iDrive system, operated via the center-console rotary dial and viewed through the 10.2-inch high-resolution main screen. From there, you can operate a Bluetooth-connected phone, 12-speaker stereo with HD radio receiver, and standard voice-controlled 3D navigation system with real-time traffic updates. To make operating these systems even easier, the center of the iDrive dial has a touchpad in the center that allows you to “draw” letters to enter a contact name or address.
Optional features are arranged in various packages depending on the 5 Series model selected, but include a head-up display, active blind-spot monitoring, and “Stop & Go Driving Assistant,” which operates with the adaptive cruise control so that you don’t need to keep your feet on the gas and brake in heavy traffic.
If you opt for the range-topping 550i, it comes standard with a Harman Kardon 600-watt audio system, featuring 12 speakers, including two bass speakers, and a year’s subscription to satellite radio.
The 2016 BMW 5 Series also gives you plenty of options when it comes to powertrain choices, including 4-, 6-, and even 8-cylinder engines.
The foundation of the lineup is the 528i, featuring a twin-turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine. It makes 240 hp, sent to the rear wheels or all four in the 528i xDrive. That power gets delivered through an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. Sure, you don't get the option of BMW’s slick 6-speed manual transmission anymore, but the Steptronic automatic gearbox is an impressive unit, helping the 528i get 34 mpg highway. It offers Sport and Manual shift modes, which you can operate by tapping the center-console-mounted shifter. If you feel that you want a bit-more “hands-on” controls, the Sport Automatic transmission option brings paddle shifters to the steering wheel, delivering a sports-car-like experience.
Step up to the 535i and you’ll find a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged straight 6-cylinder under the hood. It delivers 300 hp while returning 20 mpg city and 31 highway. If you want 6-cylinder power, but better mileage, the 535d features a diesel-fueled engine of the same size and displacement. It makes 255 hp and an impressive 413 lb-ft of torque. The 535d tops out at 38 mpg highway for the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) model and 37 for the xDrive AWD model.
But for those seeking the ultimate in power for a sedan of this size, there’s always the 8-cylinder power of the 550i. A 4.4-liter V8 makes use of twin-turbochargers to put out 445 hp, sent to the rear wheels or available xDrive AWD. The 550i uses auto stop-start and regenerative braking to enhance the V8’s efficiency, and it returns a respectable 25 mpg highway with RWD.
The 5 Series offers incredible range in the way of drivetrains and interior options. Like a “choose-your-own adventure” book, BMW’s mid-level executive sedan can be everything from a V8 heavy hitter to a 4-cylinder fuel miser. It can be an M-inspired performance machine or elegant luxury conveyance. With so many options, the 5 Series can be many different things to many different types of buyers.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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