2017 BMW 5 Series

PHOENIX — For BMW enthusiasts, there’s no car more epochal than the 5 Series. It was first introduced by the German automaker in 1972 and is now in its seventh generation.  Called the G30 in BMW parlance (the original 1972 model was known as the E12), the mid-sized sports sedan has grown and is slightly longer, wider and taller than the previous F10 generation (2010-2016), yet sheds 137 pounds thanks to the extensive use of aluminum, magnesium and high-strength steel.

While BMW claims the G30 is “all-new,” changes to exterior styling can mostly be summed up in a word – innocuous. Minimal changes include the familiar kidney grille that gets active slats to improve aerodynamic efficiency and twin circular headlights that now connect seamlessly with the grille. That’s about it for exterior changes.

There are, however, massive changes to the interior, most being tech and intelligence upgrades, consisting almost entirely of expensive add-ons atop the $51,200 base price of our 530i sedan.

Those include Driving Assistance and Driving Assi
stance Plus packages that combine for $3200 and include head-up display, rear-view camera, active park distance control to assist in parallel parking, a surround view camera with 3D view, blind
spot detection, daytime pedestrian protection, frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation, lane departure warning and cross-traffic alert rear to help you keep track of pedestrians and other vehicles around you.

Our test vehicle also included Driver Assistance Plus II ($1,700), delivering safety features like traffic jam assist, and side collision avoidance. The iDrive returns with its console-mounted rotary control dial and improved, yet overly complicated operation, and a new touch screen. For the first time, there’s new gesture control that works with a camera placed in the headliner and will recognize five specific predefined hand gestures for audio volume up, down, and to answer or decline a call. A fifth gesture is customizable, but it’s only capable for commands already available by other means such as next song command. It worked as advertised but seems unnecessary. I also found I took my eyes off the road more than I should.

I do, however, think BMW should make forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking standard on a car that starts at over $51,000 rather than making you spring an extra $1,800 for the Driving Assistance package.

Other tech and infotainment capabilities include standard dynamic cruise controls and improved active cruise control with stop and go, automatically braking or allowing the car to move in stop and go traffic.

The $1,600 Luxury Seating package with quilted nappa leather and matte finish wood trim and brushed aluminum finishes is certainly a departure from the previously understated BMW interior treatment. Opulent comfort for the posterior and candy for the eyes.

Interior room feels compact but the longer wheelbase for 2017 does improve rear seat room legroom somewhat. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6 felt roomier, especially the driver’s seat.

The 5 Series lineup is comprised of three trim levels: the 530i powered by a new 248-horsepower 2.0L twin power four-cylinder turbocharged engine; the 540i with a new 335-horsepower 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine; and the M550i xDrive that delivers 456-horsepower from its 4.4L twin-turbocharged V-8 powerplant. All engines are connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 530e iPerformance is a plug-in hybrid that starts at $51,400 and pairs a 180-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-L four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 95-horsepower electric motor is available as a 2018 model. It’s also matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission and offered in either rear-wheel or all-wheel xDrive.

Most noticeable in the weeklong testing of our 530i was BMW’s continued trend of moving the sedan toward luxury at the expense of sport. As you can imagine, BMW purists don’t much care for the direction the Bavarian automaker is taking the 5-Series. But I found the car quiet, extremely comfortable and with a new engine that performs admirably with adequate power for merging and passing.

While BMW brands their vehicles as the Ultimate Driving Machines, the new 5-Series has strayed from that mantra. Still, I found it impressive to drive and it will likely satisfy most buyers in the mid-sized luxury sedan class. Even though it gives back some of its acclaimed sporting driving dynamics in favor of an abundantly luxurious sedan with an engaging ride. But all this goodness doesn’t come cheap.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $51,200 - $72,100
Price as Tested: $70,000 (est.)
Seating: 5
Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder twin power turbocharged
Horsepower: 248-hp
Fuel Economy: 24-MPG City – 34-MPG Highway
Crash Test Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick+, NHTSA Overall 5 Stars

Competes With

Audi A6
Jaguar XF
Lexus GS
Mercedes-Benz E Class

Fab Features

Excellent choice of powerful engines
Massive amounts of hi-tech operating and safety features
Improved luxury ride and comfort

— Jim Prueter