This is the new BMW 5-series four-door saloon, the sixth generation of its second biggest seller, which first appeared in 1972.
Despite its familiar format, the new BMW 5-series, which goes on sale after the Geneva motor show next March, breaks new ground by importing much of the equipment and technology of the recently launched 7-series, reinstating a driver-oriented fascia design which BMW dropped for one generation, and adopting a sophisticated new double-wishbone front suspension set-up.
There are seven engine options at launch, and BMW is stressing the importance of the UK market (and that fact that it has noticed the good reception of Mercedes’ new E-class) by issuing UK prices more than four months early.
Design and dimensionsThe biggest change to the proportions of the new 5-series is its adoption of an 80mm longer wheelbase, at 2970mm.
This improves rear cabin room allows a long bonnet, a low roofline and 50/50 weight distribution, and gives the car balanced proportions with relatively short overhangs front and rear. The kidneys of the grille are vertical rather than raked, designers say, to portray the car’s sporting character.
The styling relationship with the outgoing 5-series is obvious, but the car is less controversial than its predecessor, with a sleeker appearance apparently designed to enhance the visual differences between the 5-series and the 3-series, which has adopted a more grown-up look.
The saloon’s wheelbase is still 100mm shorter than the 3070mm shared by the 7-series and the 5 GT.
ChassisBMW promises “a more composed ride” with no reduction in dynamic capability now that the 5-series has adopted a longer wheelbase, and the 7-series’ sophisticated double-wishbone, coil-sprung front suspension system to replace the traditional MacPherson struts. The rear suspension is an independent multi-link system.
All new 5s get electric power steering, with Servotronic (speed-dependent) assistance, which saves weight and drag on the engine. It’s a big step for BMW, which has continued to prefer the ‘feel’ of electro-hydraulic systems as rivals have adopted electric set-ups.
More sophisticated 5s will have the latest electronic chassis traction control and stability equipment as before, but for the first time they will have a driver-operated chassis configurator. Called DDC (Driver Dynamic Control), it has settings for normal, comfort, sport and sport+, and it groups functions in one control. BMW’s development chief Klaus Draeger, said, “We have built a car as agile and as lightfooted as a 3-series”.
Selection of any setting will automatically change and match parameters for steering assistance, throttle sensitivity, auto gearchange characteristics, the degree of intervention of the stability control, and, if the car has adjustable dampers, its ride character.
Among other optional gadgets will be park assistance sensors, lane departure warning, surround-view cameras, head-up display, night vision and speed limit monitoring systems.
Engines and transmissionsThe new 5-series powertrains maintain BMW’s trick of delivering class-leading pace with impressive fuel economy and low CO2 output, grouped under Efficient Dynamics.
The biggest-selling UK model is likely to be the 1995cc, 181bhp 520d, whose 280lb ft delivers a 0-62 mph time of 8.1sec and a 141mph top speed. It offers combined fuel consumption of 56.5mpg, while emitting just 132g/km of CO2.
Above that are two models powered by the same 2993cc straight-six diesel: the 201bhp 525d and the 242bhp 530d. The more powerful of these sprints from 0-62mph in just 6.3sec, while emitting 166g/km of CO2 and returning 44.8.mpg.
The four petrol engines comprise two naturally aspirated straight sixes (201bhp 523i and 254bhp 528i), a single-turbocharged straight six (302bhp 535i) and the 401bhp, twin-turbo V8 550i.
Even the slowest of these takes just 7.9sec for a 0-62mph sprint and gets within a whisker of 150mph flat out. The 550i SE, with peak torque of 448lb ft, can accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.0sec. It returns 27.2mpg and emits 243g/km of CO2.
BMW’s eight-speed auto gearbox will be available as on option on all models (it offers lower CO2 emissions than the manual on the 525d) and as standard on the 550i; a six-speed manual is standard on all other cars, as is stop-start.
PricesBMW UK has revealed prices more than four months ahead of launch, probably to interrupt the success of the new E-class and to highlight improved standard equipment levels.
The 520d SE will cost £28,165 on the road, £625 more than the outgoing model. But this includes extra kit (leather seats are now standard on all 5s, along with an improved stereo) which would previously have cost over £2000.
List price of the lowly petrol 523i SE is £30,560 and the 550i SE costs £49,440.
UK bosses expect right-hand-drive cars to be available “within weeks” of the 5-series’ launch date on 20 March.