The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

First Drive: 2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan

2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan (select to view enlarged photo)

Henny Hemmes

By Henny Hemmes
European Senior Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

LISBON, January 21, 2010. Last November I attended a media conference where BMW introduced me to its new 5 Series Sedan.(Story Here) but even when you know what to expect model wise, it is always exiting to not only see but to feel a new car by driving it in daily circumstances.

2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan (select to view enlarged photo)

During this week (and two more to come), BMW is organizing the first driving event for the sixth generation 5 Series in Portugal. At the Lisbon Expo building, a slew of 530d and 535i models were waiting for the first group of correspondents to jump behind the steering wheel. My colleague and I picked the diesel for the first route to the south and the lovely road along the coast to Cascais.

2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan (select to view enlarged photo)

Right away, through the cobble-stone streets behind the exposition premises, the first impression is set: comfortable and firm. Finding your way through the city, the new Five quickly makes friends with its driver. It’s new EPS electric power steering responds directly and provides excellent contact with the road. Together with the renewed 3,0-liter six-cylinder’s readily available torque of 398 lb-ft, it is easy and safe to make last-minute choices, such as at a fork in the road without cutting of other traffic.

All engines for the new 5 Series are more efficient without losing power and that applies to the diesels as well. It has not been decided if a diesel engine will become available for the North American market and if so, which of the three diesels that will be: the 520d, 525d or 530d. It is likely that it will be the 530d, as this model will also be available with BluePerformance Technology, tht meets the future EU6-norm and could be driven here with LSD, or Low Sulphur Diesel.

Anyway, on the American market, the new 5 Series will get a choice of three gasoline power plants. From its arrival on the market on June 19, there will be the 550i with the 4.4-liter 400 hp twin turbo V-8 and the new 3.0-liter 535i six-cylinder with the single, twin-scroll turbocharger. It has 300 hp and 300 lb.-ft. of torque, that proved more than enough during our first test drives in the city, during cruising along the coast and speeding on the motorway. The 528i will arrive later in the year, as well as the xDrive AWD-versions of all three models.

2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan (select to view enlarged photo)

We used the 535i for our second day on the roads and afterward on the Estoril race track. This engine debuted in the 5 Series GT (Story Here) and also in the Sedan. It is the first I-6 gasoline power plant with a combination of direct injection and a TwinPower Turbo, and also incorporates Valvetronic. It is as powerful, but a couple of miles more fuel efficient than the outgoing 8-cylinder in the 540i.

All engines are teamed to the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually and that was introduced in the 760i this summer. In both the 530d and 535i, it works perfectly well with both engines and shifts effortlessly and un-noticeably. The impression that we got on the public roads of the new front and rear suspension was enhanced at the race track. The handling has been improved by a 50 per cent increased stiffness, that only added 33 pound to the weight of the car.

2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan (select to view enlarged photo)

Knowing this, you are tempted to use your stint for driving the ideal line at the Estoril race track and be as fast as possible. Of course, the 535i is not meant to be a race car. Therefore, I used most laps for finding out what this 5 does, in case you are a far from an experienced driver who decides to choose for the Sport + setting of the optional Sports Package that incorporates Adaptive Drive.

2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan (select to view enlarged photo)

Indeed, going into a bend too late or too early does not look good, but with DSC disconnected you can feel what is happening. The conclusion is short: the new 5 Series is forgiving indeed. It has new multi-link front suspension and multi-link rear system that BMW calls the Integral V-system, that is of the same lay out as in the new 7 Series. Thanks to this, the car enters a corner more precisely than before, while you also have a very good feel of the track surface, that during my stint had wet and dry parts. And do not panic when the car’s rear end starts to break out. It is easy to correct and get it back on the desired line. Power is always available and manually shifting the 8-speed transmission is very simple with the flippers at the back of the steering wheel.

Luxury feel

2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan(select to view enlarged photo)

Customers who buy the new 535i, will have the opportunity to treat him- or herself to a track day and have much fun. But, or course, the 6th generation of the 5 Series is more than technology and improved handling alone. Besides being a daily driver with aggressive road feel, it also has to impress as a family and/or business car. And it will. With a comfortable ride in a luxurious cockpit, the passengers will easily be at ease.

2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan (select to view enlarged photo)

The new 5 has a 116.8 inch wheelbase, which results in about a half-inch more legroom for the rear passengers. That is one of the many aspects of the much-improved interior, with a center console that is inclined towards the driver by 6 degrees for a sporty feel. The materials used, its color combinations and the finish enhance the luxury feel in the cockpit that is equipped with the latest version of i-Drive and can be ordered with many options. Since the 5 Series has a stop-start button in the dashboard, the designers created a place for the key: in a key holder between the two cup holders in the front of the center console.

New for the 5 is the availability of Surround View and Parking Assistant, that fully automatically finds a parking spot along the curb of the right size and steers the car in that spot. But also available are many safety systems, such as Night Vision with Pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot detection and, of course Frontal Collision warning combined with Active Cruise Control and Stop&Go.

See all in depth details of the 2011 BMW 5 Series - with video

The new BMW 5 Series GT will arrive at North American dealerships on June 19. Prices are not announced yet, but we can expect them by the end of next month.