BMW 5 Series

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Tons of technology

Since Chris Bangle's departure as head of design at BMW, the number of controversial models the brand has released has dwindled. The recent 7 Series, designed by Quebec native Karim Habib - now at Mercedes-Benz - traded radical lines for ones more subdued. And now we've got this, the new 5 Series. It goes further back to BMW's roots, but by no means is it boring; Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW's new chief designer added a few inspired touches to highlight the athletic nature of this luxury sports sedan.

The sixth-generation 5 Series, like the new 5 Series Gran Turismo, is based on the 7 Series platform. As you'd expect, the 5 Series has grown in size yet again; its wheelbase is now eight centimetres longer than before, giving it the longest wheelbase in its class. Overall length is just 4.3 cm longer though, as the front overhang has been reduced. A 6.3-cm increase in width combined with a mild height reduction and a more fluid roof-line yield a taut, muscular exterior. Overall, the 5 Series is one smart-looking sedan.

More space, more equipment

Despite its growth on the outside, the interior size of the 5 Series remains more or less unchanged. Rear legroom has increased but only by a bit more than a centimetre. Up front the interior has been restyled with a focus on the driver, by means of an angled dashboard, standard multi-function steering wheel, and an available head-up display system. Whether buyers opt for a base model or one loaded to the brim with the latest navigation and communications systems, the controls are integrated and operated through the standard iDrive controller and displayed on a 7-inch screen, or new high-definition 10.2-inch screen harmoniously integrated in the dash.

And speaking of being loaded to the brim, the 5 has plenty of optional techno gadgets to choose from, including parking assist, a collision warning system with auto-brake function, adaptive cruise control with "stop and go" traffic abilities, an electronic speed limiter, active steering, lane departure warning, lane change assist, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps with high-beam assist, a night-vision with pedestrian detection, and a surround view camera system. My personal favourite is the head-up display system, which projects the speed and the navigation system's information onto the windshield. It's definitely worth shelling out for it.

Something old, something new ...

A combination of new and old engines make up the 5's powertrain lineup. First up is the 535i, which develops 300 horsepower from its turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine. Though the model designation and output remain the same, this is a brand new engine. Dubbed N55, it features one turbocharger - an efficient twin-scroll unit - instead of the outgoing 535i's twin turbos. Confusingly, the engine is named TwinPower Turbo, the same as the twin-turbocharged V8. Nevertheless, BMW says performance is actually improved, while fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions are down.

The 550i's naturally-aspirated 4.8-litre V8 will be replaced for 2011 by the new 400-horsepower 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 as seen in the X6, 5 Series GT and 7 Series. Later on, BMW will launch a 528i model, powered by a 240-horsepower, non-turbocharged straight-six. Canadian consumers will be able to select between a six-speed manual transmission, or a new eight-speed automatic with paddles for manual shifting. BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system will also be available.

The German automaker is also expected to unveil a hybrid version of the 5 Series, previewed by the ActiveHybrid 5 concept vehicle at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show in March. The concept will utilize the same mild hybrid system as the ActiveHybrid 7. While this means that it won't be able to drive exclusively on electric power like a Prius, it will still boast the same advanced lithium-ion battery pack as the ActiveHybrid 7. Instead of V8 power, expect an efficient inline-six under its hood.

Central to the 2011 5 Series, and many other BMWs is Efficient Dynamics. This is not so much a single system but a series of advanced technologies that allows BMW to reduce fuel consumption and emissions without compromising the performance of its cars.

Under the hood, all 5 Series engines feature second-generation direct-injection, with special fuel injectors that are centrally-mounted to ensure more complete combustion. All 5s also benefit from BMW's Brake Energy Regeneration system, which, like a hybrid captures some of the energy upon braking to charge the battery. When it's go time, the system temporarily puts a pause on recharging the battery allowing the engine to deploy maximum power.

Efficient Dynamics also focuses on reducing drag to minimize energy waste. For instance, the 5 Series' grille features active slats that close like shutters to improve aerodynamics, opening only when the engine needs to be cooled. In cold conditions, the vents shut at startup, helping the engine warm up faster. Work has also gone into reducing other types of drag - electric power steering takes a load off the engine compared to conventional hydraulic power steering, while low-resistance tires reduce the friction between the car and the road.

Smooth but sporty

Building on a chassis that is 55 per cent more rigid than its predecessor, the new 5 Series also boasts a new front suspension design. A double-wishbone setup replaces McPherson struts, which have been in use on the 5 Series since 1972. The result is a car that rides with the comfort of a 7 Series, while possessing the agility of the smaller, lighter 3 Series. The 5 can also be optioned out with the 7's active four-wheel steering system too.

Those who enjoy driving will definitely want to select the Sport package which includes several upgrades. As with the previous model, active anti-roll bars are fitted, as is a new adaptive damping system which also adds a slightly lower ride height and variable ride firmness. Linking it together is the Driving Dynamics Control system, which has three different modes: Comfort, Sport and Sport +.

Selecting the different modes changes the responsiveness of the throttle, the weighting of the steering, and the aggressiveness of the traction and stability control system. In Sport+, the stability control can be completely deactivated, as some of my colleagues did while testing the car on the track at Estoril, exposing its wonderfully balanced chassis. Overall, the new 5 Series offers a more comfortable ride, while

preserving its athletic spirit.

At the time of writing, BMW hasn't yet announced the pricing for the Canadian market 5 Series, but expect the new model to be competitive with the rest of the players in the segment. But one thing is for sure: with this sixth-gen car, BMW is once again ahead of the competition where the stakes are already very high.


2011 BMW 535i

Type of vehicle: RWD luxury sedan (opt. AWD)

Engine: 3.0L, 24-valve DOHC I-6, turbocharged

Power/torque: 300 hp/300 lb.-ft.

Transmission: Six-speed manual (opt. Eight-speed auto)

0-100 km/h (est.) 5.7 seconds

Fuel consumption (city/hwy., est.):  L/100 km

2011 BMW 550i

Type of vehicle: RWD luxury sedan (opt. AWD)

Engine: 4.4L, 32-valve DOHC V8, twin-turbocharged

Power/torque: 400 hp/450 lb.-ft.

Transmission: Six-speed manual (opt. Eight-speed auto)

0-100 km/h (est.) 5.0 seconds

Fuel consumption (city/hwy., est.): L/100 km


- A masterpiece of technology

- Impeccable comfort and road handling

- Best balance between sport and comfort


- Too Many pricy options

- No diesel version for Canada

- Reliability is still an issue


528i      53 900 $

535i     62 300 $

550i     73 300 $

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Derniers commentaires

  • Jennifer Dsouza
    03 mai 2012 - 02:05

    I love this car with its interior and exterior design. That paint color and engine like a great combination. I really like the front lower facia and rims. Sweet looking ride!!