It seems like its been quite a while since BMW announced the new 5 Series, but the German automaker’s Geneva Auto Show press conference has provided us our first chance to get a look at this all-new model. The luxury sedan has grown for 2011 and looks it, while taking styling cues from both the current 3 Series and 7 Series.
When it initially goes on sale in North America, the 5 Series will be offered in both 550i and 535i trim. The 550 model boasts a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 with 400-hp and 450 ft-lbs of torque, enabling it to hit 60 mph in just 5 seconds. As for the 535i, it gets BMW’s excellent twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six motor for 300-hp and 300 ft-lbs of torque. Both models will be available with either a standard six-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. A “Sport Automatic” 8-speed will also be optional.
No fuel economy numbers have been released yet, but BMW has made significant efficiency improvements with “green” technologies like electric power steering and Brake Energy Regeneration, where the alternator only recharges the car’s batteries under braking. The tall gears of the 8-speed transmission should also help deliver much improved fuel economy.
Those really in search of the best fuel mileage will, however, want to wait for the 528i, which will debut later with a 240-hp inline-six. At the Geneva Show, BMW also showed a European 520d, that gets an incredible 47 mpg on the European Test Cycle.
In terms of improvements to handling, the new 5 Series gets a completely new front suspension that uses a multi-link setup as opposed to a strut setup. This system is also found on the new 7 Series, which is no coincidence, as both the new 5 and 7 Series share the same platform. Along with the electric power steering system, the new 5 Series gets the Integral Active Steering setup as found on the 5 Series GT, which turns turns the rear wheels. In low speed situations, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction of the front wheels for better maneuverability, while at speed the rear wheels turn in the same direction to deliver better cornering and stability. And to further improve performance, there’s an electronic limited slip differential, which comes into play once DSC (stability control) is completely shut off.
Real driving enthusiasts will opt for the Sport Package with Adaptive Drive. This package includes Driving Dynamics Control (same as on the 7 Series and Z4), which lets the driver choose from Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ driving settings, which control the throttle response, transmission shift points, power steering assistance level and traction control. It also includes Dynamic Damping Control, which constantly changes the car’s shock settings and includes a 10mm lower ride height. Finally, the sport package includes Active Roll Stabilization, with hydraulic stabilizer bars that actually firm up when body lean is detected.
Inside, the new 5er gets BMW’s latest iDrive system, which on the 7 Series is much improved and quite easy to use. The iDrive setup includes a 7-inch LCD screen, or a 10.2-inch screen if the Navigation Package box is checked. The larger 116-inch wheelbase makes for a roomier interior and to help keep passengers comfortable, the car’s active cruise control now has a feature that will slow the car in a corner if the vehicle detects the curve is to extreme.
Another great tech item is the heads-up display that can even show some navigation instructions.
There’s also plenty of safety features in the new 5 Series like Active Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Headlights that switch to hi-beam if necessary. A larger section of the taillights will also illuminate under hard braking to ensure those behind you will know you are stopping. The Active Cruise Control system also includes Frontal Collision Warning that will warn the driver of an impending impact and actually apply the brakes if he does not act.
Additional highlights include new Top View and Side View displays of the car for ideal parking, which works in conjunction with BMW Parking Assistant.