BMW 5 Series Road Test

First Drive

The 2017 BMW 5 Series Makes An Overwhelmingly Positive First Impression

More comfortable and sophisticated than ever but not necessarily the ultimate driving machine

Overview

BMW focused on reducing weight, adding technology, and further quieting the cabin of its redesigned 5 Series. The new car is essentially the same size as the outgoing model, but BMW says it’s lighter by 220 pounds, and the rear seat and the trunk are marginally roomier.

We recently purchased a 2017 530i xDrive to test. Although we’re still putting on break-in miles, the new 5 Series is proving to be one of the most satisfying midsized luxury sedans on the market. It’s super quiet, comfortable, reasonably quick, and fuel efficient, while the cabin is finely crafted without being glitzy.  

Engines have been bolstered across the board. The 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder in the 530i is up to 248 horsepower, while the 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder in the 540i has been bumped to 335 hp. Both engines are mated to a slick eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional, but it is standard on the M550i xDrive. That extra traction should prove handy for putting the 456 horsepower from the M550i’s 4.4-liter turbo V8 to the road. BMW says the M550i xDrive sprints to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds--that’s quicker than typical muscle cars and many sports cars.

There’s also a 530e plug-in hybrid version coming, which will command only a $200 premium over the 530i and is also available with all-wheel drive. Both the M550i xDrive and the 530e will arrive in dealers in the April to May timeframe.

The 530i’s turbo-four doesn’t deliver explosive power, but there’s more than enough oomph on hand for effortlessly merging, passing, and hill climbing. The transmission shifts with smooth precision. The EPA rates the 530i xDrive at 27 mpg combined, which is impressively frugal for the class, and we’ve been observing similar consumption so far. It also has one of the smoothest automatic start/stop systems we’ve encountered.

Impressions

A sore spot with the last 5 Series, the steering on the new sedan has good weight, but it is still short on feedback. Handling is calm and composed, though without the agility of previous 5 Series models or the Jaguar XF. The ride is smooth and supple, unfazed by most bumps the road throws at it. The extra sound deadening measures have worked wonders--wind, tire, and engine noise are impressively squelched.

Soft-touch materials and expensive-looking trim pieces cover just about every surface. Controls, including the iDrive 6.0 infotainment system with a 10.2-inch screen, are well executed. Our test car has the superb head-up display that’s part of the $1,800 Driving Assistance package. It not only projects your current speed onto the windshield, but it also shows audio and phone tasks when executed through the steering wheel buttons.

The one demerit is the electronic shift lever that takes some getting used to. We don’t see the point of the optional “gesture control,” which lets you adjust stereo volume and perform some phone functions with an aerial sweep or poke of your finger. As in the 7 Series, we found it a redundant gimmick that’s merely good for a “gee-whiz” factor for your friends. In daily driving it’s more distracting than just using hard knobs or buttons.

The standard front seats are fantastic, with 16-way power including four-way lumbar and adjustable side bolsters. The cushions are firm yet comfy, and there’s plenty of all-day support. Even the rear seats and steering wheel are heated, thanks to the $800 Cold Weather package.

A plethora of advanced safety systems are available, including lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are also available, but it’s a shame BMW doesn’t make them standard equipment, as these two important safety systems have been proven to reduce crashes.

An interesting new available feature is Evasion Aid, which will help you steer around a car or obstacle that’s suddenly in your path. We will determine its usefulness as part of our testing.

Pricing for the 2017 530i starts at $52,195, the 530e at $52,395, and the M550i xDrive begins at $73,095. With several option packages tacked on, our 530i xDrive cost $65,210.

CR's Take

Overall, the new 5 comes across as a mature, calm, well-thought out luxury sedan but since the last generation, it hasn’t been the ultimate driving machine of the segment. It seems to have grown with its clientele. Check back for a full road test on the new 5 Series after we complete our battery of instrumented testing and evaluations.

Warranty

All cars come with basic warranty coverage, also known as a bumper-to-bumper warranty. This protects consumers against unexpected problems with non-wear items. Powertrain warranty protects against engine and transmission troubles. Rust through, or corrosion warranty, covers rust to non-damaged components. Roadside aid provides on-location assistance in case of a breakdown and may include limited towing services.

Extended warranties provide peace of mind. Owners of models known to have worse-than-average predicted reliability can mitigate risks with an extended warranty. Generally, we recommend buying a model with better-than-average reliability and skipping this expensive add on. If you do buy an extended warranty, it is key to read the small print to understand what is covered and where you can bring the car for repairs.

Basic (years/miles)
4/50000

Powertrain (years/miles)
4/50000

Rust through (years/miles)
12/unlimited

Roadside aid (years/miles)
4/unlimited