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- Highs Fabulous engine choices, spacious and plush interior, lots of available tech.
- Lows Uninspiring handling, familiar styling, lack of standard features.
- Verdict A well-rounded luxury sedan that doesn't quite get our heart racing like a BMW should.
While some of its rivals have worked hard to catch up to BMW's 5-Series in performance and handling, BMW has switched gears and taken a more luxury-oriented approach with its mid-size sedan. What was once a driver's delight is now more of a boulevard cruiser—one with a posh interior, plenty of people and cargo space, and a range of efficient and strong-performing engines. When the M550i performance model was introduced for 2018, we were hopeful that the Ultimate Driving Machine was returning to the BMW showroom, but it, too, suffers from a mixed bag of dynamic traits.
What's New for 2019?
BMW's mid-size sedan sees several updates for 2019. Blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, pedestrian detection, front and rear parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic alert are all now standard; Apple CarPlay is also standard but requires an annual subscription after the first year of ownership. The optional head-up display, a wireless smartphone charging pad, a self-parking feature, and onboard Wi-Fi hotspot are now part of the Premium package; a new Convenience package includes niceties such as a power-operated trunk lid, passive entry, SiriusXM satellite radio, and heated front seats. The Executive package now includes soft-close doors, manual side-window shades, adaptive headlamps, automatic high-beams, and a digital gauge display.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
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Although it's tempting to spring for the twin-turbo V-8 M550i, the midrange 540i and its silky-smooth inline-six is the better value, so it's our recommendation. It's easy to skyrocket the 540i's price by adding on a number of expensive packages, so we'd take it easy and select the Convenience package, which adds heated seats, satellite radio, passive keyless entry, and a power-operated trunk lid.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Likes: Silky inline-six, beastly M550i, available plug-in hybrid powertrain.
Dislikes: Merely adequate braking performance, comfort-oriented ride and handling, not as athletic as the 5-Series models of yesteryear.
Smooth, powerful, and efficient, both the four-cylinder in the 530i and the six-cylinder in the 540i motivate this big sedan with authority. Each pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts intuitively and quickly, making the most of the available power. The 540i's six-cylinder is silky and potent, and it makes a delightful noise to boot. The 530e plug-in uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and an electric motor to produce 248 horsepower; in our testing, an all-wheel-drive 530e managed a nippy 6.1-second run from zero to 60 mph and delivered the advertised fuel efficiency. We haven't had the opportunity to test the 540d and its 261-hp diesel 3.0-liter inline-six.
With a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 under its hood, the M550i is the athlete of the 5-Series lineup (we review the M5 separately) and in our hands, the M550i sprinted through our acceleration runs faster than the Audi S6 and the 10Best-award-winning Mercedes-AMG E43. All of the 5-Series models are competent handlers, but they lack the kind of driving verve we expect from BMW. Steering feedback is light, and the ride, even in the performance-oriented M550i, feels tuned more for comfort than for pure driving pleasure.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
On top of their already impressive power and refinement, the engines offered here are remarkably efficient. EPA numbers for both the four-cylinder 530i and the six-cylinder 540i are near the top of the class. Both cars were overachievers in our real-world testing, delivering 34 and 31 mpg, respectively. If that's still not enough to placate your fuel-sipping needs, check out the 530e plug-in hybrid—which managed 38 mpg in our test—or the 540d diesel.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Plenty of space and upscale features, large high-resolution infotainment display, large trunk.
Dislikes: Luxury option packages are pricey, Android Auto not available, precious little cubby storage.
Rich appointments and good design make the cockpit of the 5-Series a civilized space—and a noticeable upgrade compared with the somewhat drab cabin of its predecessor. It's also spacious for rear-seat passengers and features an impressive amount of technology, even for this high-tech segment. We've experienced the optional 20-way multi-contour front seats, which adjust in every way imaginable and provide plush comfort for hours on end. The standard seats might not be as sybaritic, but still adjust in 16 ways. In a similar vein, many elements that improve the BMW's interior ambience are optional, such as a faux-leather dashboard upgrade and various levels of real, cow-sourced leather upholstery.
A large, 10.2-inch high-resolution central display is standard on every 5-Series and is controlled by either BMW's iDrive rotary knob, the touchscreen, or various voice commands. Navigation, a USB port, and Bluetooth streaming audio are standard, although you have to pay extra for SiriusXM satellite radio. Apple CarPlay is standard but after the first year, users must pay a subscription fee to keep using the feature. Android Auto is not available, and neither is an auxiliary input jack. BMW's Gesture Control is an unusual option: It allows the driver or passenger to input certain commands with hand gestures, but we found it to be more gimmicky than useful.
The BMW's large trunk is on par with its competitors (we fit six carry-on suitcases inside a 540i's trunk), but the cabin is lacking in cubbies and storage compartments. To accommodate the battery pack, the new plug-in hybrid 530e has four less cubic feet of trunk space than nonhybrid models. The 530e fit two fewer carry-on suitcases in its trunk but retains its folding rear seats.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 5-Series performed well in crash testing, earning top marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety across the board and earned a Top Safety Pick+ award; however, it has yet to be tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Plenty of driver-assistance features are standard and additional tech is optional. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
BMW's warranty and complimentary scheduled maintenance are about average for the segment but fall short of the Jaguar XF's more comprehensive coverage.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for 3 years or 36,000 miles