First Drive: 2011 BMW 5 Series

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BMW’s New 5 Series Shows Its True Colors There are few opportunities, if any, to explore a car’s limits on public roads. For this reason, …

BMW’s New 5 Series Shows Its True Colors

There are few opportunities, if any, to explore a car’s limits on public roads. For this reason, we were given the opportunity to unleash the new 5 series full potential on track. The New Jersey Motorsports Park is a brand new facility that offered up tight, technical corners with a mix of high speed straights. Surrounding secondary roads shaped our perceptions of how the 5 series will drive in daily life.

But before we delve into our on-track experience, let’s take a look at how BMW’s “F10″ 5 series measures up in amenities and content. Mindful of the economic climate and pricing trends across the automotive market, BMW was keen to offer increased value to the 5 series buyer. Those interested in the purchase of a 5 series (we should all have our hands raised by the end of this sentence) will be drawn in by a simultaneous price decrease and content upgrade. To start off, the 2010 5 series will offer larger wheels on the base model, moving from 17″ to 18” wheels at all corners. Lumbar support and a larger moon roof is standard across all models and navigation is now standard on the larger engined 550i.

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The most important feature of all offered on both the inline-6 and V8 model? A standard 6 speed transmission. Drivers rejoice; an altruistic performance sedan awaits you.

All of the above is punctuated by a price decrease across the line: $44,550 for the 528i (- $1,400), $49,600 for the 535i (- $1,650) and $59,700 for the 550i (-$900) from the previous E60 sedan. This should have the competition’s attention as the 5 series advances further ahead technologically at a lower price point.

As time rolls on we will see the release of all wheel drive on the 5 series models, a welcome addition to the lineup for those who live in the Northern throws of the United States or Canada.

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What does the Efficient Dynamics program have in store for the 5 series lineup? In due time we will see the release of an Active Hybrid 5 as well as a diesel variant. Strong sales of the 335d have ensured the future of a 535d in the US and Canadian market. We anxiously await its release because a diesel engined 5 series will suit the US and Canadian market perfectly – offering long legs on a single tank while serving up prodigious gobs of torque and power (425 lb-ft of torque, 265 hp). In European trim, a similar 3 liter inline-6 twin turbo Diesel of the same basic architecture is pushing 306 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque; there is a promising future for performance diesels and BMW leads the way. For a more in-depth look at BMW Diesel engine design, check out our Diesel Editorial found here. To be sure, the 5 series Diesel will be a brilliant car for North American buyers (they just don’t know it yet!).


Moving on to interior appointments, allow us to start off by saying that the new 5 series feels very close to the 7 series in quality and comfort. Materials glimmer, shine and wrap around you in a way that has you second guessing the number on your trunk. Being driven back from the race-track to my Hotel earlier tonight, I literally had to think twice about which car I was in – a 5 or a 7! Rear leg room is impressive and head room is also generous, for a 6’2″ occupant I felt comfortable and relaxed – in no way cramped for space. At this point I started thinking – did they accidental bring a 5 series Long wheelbase from the Chinese launch? No, I was seated in the back of a 550i – and could have comfortably stayed there for hours longer than I did. All occupants of the 5 series have great seats – but there will definitely be a fight for the keys – next up is our race track perceptions.


The rear wheels light up as we throttle through first gear, second comes quickly, third.. downshift while braking for a fast right hander and we’re already coming up on the second corner of the track. The 5 series hunkers down, poised and ready for your next input. Even after several consecutive laps (by a multitude of heavy footed journalists) the brakes felt strong and fade resistant. Clipping the apex, the 5 series powers out to the exit with a very stable, linear feel. There is no drama in the 5 series chassis, just reassuring grip and handling that guides you through the corners. We were not permitted to fully disable the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) while driving on track, but it was just as well – if driving cleanly there is little intervention and the system operates so subtly that it is nearly undetectable.


True to BMW’s mandate for perfect weight distribution, the 5 series maintains nearly equal weight across the front and rear axles. Turn in is quick and direct, there is no initial understeer to fight through – just a neutral, balanced feel. As you continue to push, understeer eventually increases as a safety gap for the majority of buyers. Tail-out antics can be accomplished with the right mix of throttle and steering input – but you didn’t hear that from us.

Choosing between the 550i and the 535i is a difficult task, but hardly punishment. While both models are offered in a terrific 6 speed manual, we had a manual 535i and automatic 550i at our disposal earlier today. To be fair, we must reserve our final judgment until we’ve driven the manual transmission 550i, but it is clear from several laps of the New Jersey Motorsports Park that the 535i is a serious sports sedan: light on it’s feet, eager to dance, a real pleasure at the limit. Considering the initial cost savings, and improved fuel economy observed in daily driving, the 535i presents itself as a logical choice for most buyers. The 550i was brilliant on track with similar, though slightly heavier handling and 2 more gears to work with. Speaking of the transmission, up shifts from the new ZF 8 speed are fast and crisp, the computer is intuitive and never works against you on the track. It’s obvious that the drivetrain designers are drivers themselves.

Under normal driving both the 6 cylinder and V8 engined 5 series cars were quiet and restrained – but on the track an alter-ego surfaced: growling engine notes echoed around the circuit, a beautiful sound, indeed.

Our first drive with the new F10 5 series sedan proved our assumptions correct: BMW has a winner on their hands.  Years of development has paid dividends to the 5 series driving experience.  We look forward to bringing you a more in-depth review of the 5 series on-road driving experience in an upcoming road trip article as we drive from Philadelphia to Toronto in BMW’s new mid size sports-luxury sedan.

81 responses to “First Drive: 2011 BMW 5 Series”

  1. kcsnayud says:

    O crap, now the 7 series is gonna be bankrupt… why did they do this? Either the 7 series’ quality sucks, or the 5 series is too good

    • jason says:

      Don’t worry about the seven series, because the 5 series has NO lateral support! The 7 series has 20 way seats but you can’t get the bolster support or 20 way seats on the new 5 series which really sucks!!!!! They claim BMW forgot to include them in the test with the National Highway safety board if you choose to believe that. So if you like sliding all over the front seats go right ahead and buy one.

    • Amr says:

      It was BMW resposability to launch a new 5 series with a greater design that pervious 5 series , I belive that the design team make it easy for them to just use the 7 series character , I hope they can sell the 7 series as it’s planned .

  2. efoza says:

    Any one wanting to buy the ordinary new 5 is strongly advised to test drive the the 5 GT first. the GT is far better to drive and it is far better built that the normal 5. The GT costs more but it is for sure worth the extra cost. The GT is just the best at present in the 5 series range.

    • E-gon says:

      Better to drive? The GT is indeed a nice tourer but can’t compete on the sporty side with the 5. The Center is lower on the “normal” 5 and the chassis is sportier.

      I drove both. (535i GT vs. 530d)

      • Chantan says:

        Well said E-gon. Only a fool will actually think the GT is a better drive then the sedan. The lower CG and sportier feel of the sedan just can’t be matched by the GT. The GT is for soccer moms doing groceries duty. The F10 is a REAL car for driving. There lies the difference.

        • efoza says:

          This is the problem with ordinary 5 series BMWs. They always attract the soccer dadies and not the real players.

      • Babken says:

        Both the 5GT and the new 5 Series can’t compete with the almighty E-Class. Oh, God, just look at the photo above. Such a huge body roll. How can I call this car a driver’s car. The E-Class never leans so much.

  3. Horatiu B. says:

    Enjoy the photos guys, one of the best we’ve had in a while. More to come, along with other test drives

    • Jordan says:

      Really fantastic Horatiu! The exterior shots look great and I keep liking that interior more and more :)

      The lighting was excellent for that silver colour.. made the lines really stand out!

  4. Doug says:

    These pics seem to show an awful lot of roll and dive. The active roll stabilization is not employed on this car?

  5. Doug says:

    Shawn, thanks for such a vivid description of the handling characteristics. You don’t often get that in reviews, for some reason.

  6. Auday says:

    Shawn, you haven’t seen or note anything you didn’t like or wish it would be better in this car? don’t mean to be critical here but the review sounds like an advertisement material more than actual review. I hope I’m wrong and the F10 is the perfect complete car with no cons :)

    I’m very happy that they kept the manual option in the 5er though, but I was hoping they would leave the E-brake option too.

  7. Horatiu B. says:

    Auday, I can try to speak for Shawn, but keep in mind, we haven’t driven it yet against the competitors, so we’re focusing now on its capabilities and how it compares to the E60…we tried to find some flaws and we did point out that the 535i makes more sense for a lot of people: great handling, fast enough and more fuel efficient than the 550i.

    Shawn put at least 35 laps on it and pushed the car hard, if there was something wrong with it, he would have pointed it out. Also, keep in mind that we will have another review that focus on the daily driving and long distance (Philadelphia to Toronto 12 hrs trip) and that review should be more accurate for 99% of the people since they will never track their 5 Series.

    So far, our review is inline with what others much as we like controversy, sometimes it’s really hard to find a flaw and back it up with hard evidence.

    • Babken says:

      No chance against the new E-Class in any respect.

      • Auday says:

        I didnt know that Mercedes released a new Viper

      • Ed says:

        Babbken you make me laugh. The E-Class cannot compare to the heritage, design, ride, and comfort of the F10 5 series. The performance of a 535i is MUCH better than a E350. Also the E-Class looks boxy and looks like a stretched out, heavy looking C-Class.

  8. Mike says:

    Will those wheels in the photos be available on the 2011 535i? They don’t look like the standard wheels or the sport package wheels from the ordering guide.

  9. Really enjoyed the review. Keep up the great work BB!

  10. Mike says:

    Great write up! Can’t wait for the diesel to arrive….. it’s an awesome engine!

    • Babken says:

      Can’t wait for the July 2010 sales figures to see how BMW justifies their humiliation with the fact the new 5 Series is heavily beaten by the E-Class.

      • Chuckbill981 says:

        Given the E-classes history of being utterly belittled and humiliated by the 5 series, I can sense your frustration…

  11. Rad Dockery says:

    its growing on me. But I love the interior!!

  12. Tom says:

    okay guys, is it me or shouldnt the lines on the front fascia extend all the way down to the lip? wouldnt that look so much better? just looks awkward to me lol

  13. henry says:

    Is the car tested equipped with option 2VA adaptive drive with the active anti-roll bars?

  14. 100$ GUY says:

    Those wheels come with what package?

  15. kcsnyud says:

    Why doesn’t anyone care about the fact that the 5 is so close to the 7 that there is no point for the 7 series to exist? I am dead serious-i love both cars, but i think that they’re too similar.

    “Moving on to interior appointments, allow us to start off by saying that the new 5 series feels very close to the 7 series in quality and comfort.”

    Exactly. Why the heck buy a 7 SERIES

    • Jigsaw says:

      Yeah i do get u…
      But most people complained that the last “bangle 5er” waz a bit to0 cheap inside. Even Auto Mundial dissed it by saying, “if Lexus could get away with cheap materials then BMW thought the same thing and people wouldn’t notice”.
      So with the new 5er they had to push it’s quality upwards. But there iz always a difference between 5er and 7er. And if there new 5er looks and feels this way on quality then it means the next generation of 7er will be extreme… And at least there are n0 complaints about it being cheap. And well i’d have a 7er(especially 760Li) coz not many people have it unlike the 5er. And it defines more class than the 5er.

      • kcsnayud says:

        I agree with you. However, it should be noted that the wood trims, the leather, the feel, thee quality, and the look is pretty much the same. The difference? The 7 series starts at $71,000, while the 5 series starts at $44,500.

        The 7 series has more class and style, but people are saying that the Hyundai Equus outclasses it…

    • Babken says:

      Why to buy a 5 Series when there’s E-Class.

      • tadtaggert says:

        Drive them both and that will answer your why.

        I did, and now own a 550i.

        • Babken says:

          Look at the sales numbers and understand why. Here are the US sales figures for the July 2010:
          E-Class: 5462 units;
          5 Series: 2724 units (including the fat-ass Gran Turismo which has nothing in common with this segment).
          This is why the E-Class is twice as good as the 5 Series in everything.

  16. kenee says:

    The new 5 looks too boring. I have seen a few on the road and they already look dated. I think BMW has made a huge mistake. I also hear that the ride is not as good as the old model. However, I saw a 5 GT on the road the other day and it looked really cool. I have to say it actually looked like a modern BMW whereas the new 5 just looks too bland and if I may say so too much like a car which was intended to be build in the 1990s and not in 2010!

    • Jigsaw says:

      Man then BMW designed the car right. The aim of the car’s design was to make it “classic than m0dern”, and let me tell u, it iz to0 m0dern, it’s impressive car in it’s segment.
      That’s why u say it lo0ks like a 90s car, it’s beautiful even Audi congradulated it, and hey it will sell, that it will…

      Did u kn0w, merc spent $1,3 Billion for the new E-Class to “match up” 5erz ride quality, comfort, etc. And im talking about the “last bangle 5er”… So the comparison of the new E-Class and new 5er is yet to be made and 5er will once again win, from quality to design. It’s A ClaSSic Car and we love it…

      • JakeM says:

        “Did u kn0w, merc spent $1,3 Billion for the new E-Class to “match up” 5erz ride quality, comfort, etc. And im talking about the “last bangle 5er”

        A great way of spinning the facts. The current E class received a sportier suspension setup to make it “sportier” (for Mercedes’ standards) but the focus is still on comfort and long-distance travel, as it always has. The 5er will always be the more dynamically engaging car, but the E class counters by being overall more comfortable. These are two different ideals found in these cars for two different people.

        I’ve driven the new E350 for a day and I liked it. It was fun to drive and involving in its own way. Was it sporty? Yes. Was it comfortable? Very. Keep in mind that these definitions of “sporty” are not comparable to those of a BMW 5er for instance. I found the E350 to be a good-handling car, capable and responsive for most people. It can be driven in a sporty fashion and it will cope nicely. Push the car to its limits or drive it like a maniac and things won’t look so good. Now, who drives their E class in this fashion? Exactly. Nobody.

        • Jordan says:

          I agree with everything you said.

          It really comes down to “perceptions”. And it’s quite ridiculous how our perceptions can color the way we think about something. I’ve had some personal experiences where peoples perceptions make you say, WTF?!

      • Babken says:

        Just to your knowledge, there have already been several comparison tests between the new 5 Series and the E-Class, and to your disappointment the 5 Series doesn’t stand a chance. The sales figures further prove the comparison tests results.

        • Chuckbill981 says:

          @Babken, Wow, if you’re so obsessed with sales figures as opposed to the actual car itself, go get yourself a Camry, that should be plenty comfortable for ya…

  17. Jigsaw says:

    Lol, Hyundai Equus “outclasses 7er”… Damn i have to check thiz car out coz it does sound funny, even though thiz blog did send us emails yesterday saying stuff like that…. And i remember they never said it outclasses it but they said it waz offered a low price with the quality that “matches it”…
    But at tha end, it ain’t a Bee-em… I doubt u’d feel special in the car… But i will check the car out my self…

  18. Alex says:

    Why the angel eyes in some pictures are turned off, left side or right side?

    • Doug says:

      you’re right.

    • Shawn says:


      Very observant of you, I was wondering the same thing after we shot the photos.

      As it turns out, LED lights tend to be very unidirectional. The camera was not capturing all of the light fed from the dim or “off” looking headlight at those fast shutter speeds. The light that appears to be on was hitting the camera at a more perpendicular angle, thus allowing the camera to capture far more light from the LED fixture. Rest assured, there was no mechanical failure of the lights while driving the new 5 series.

      Good of you to notice!

  19. Great to see 5er on track, H. 535i would be the one for me – it’s a sublime engine and the 535i badge on the bootlid really is SUPER cool…

    It will be a rarity here in the UK, though. We like our 520d diesel , see: well over half of 5 Series sold here are 520d versions!

    • Horatiu B. says:

      Richard, I would take the 530d over the 535i…great fuel economy and still amazing performance. You guys get a lot of options in the UK.

      • Artur says:

        And I would take the weakest E-Class over the strongest 5 series. Why? Because the E-Class is much better in any respect, especially the steering feel and communication with the driver.

  20. efoza says:

    Kenee is right. the new 5 is dead boring to look at. I saw a GT and the 5er side by side in my local dealer today and boy oh boy, the GT looked the business where as the 5er just looked bland and tired – already

  21. Shawn says:


    My personal opinion is that the new 5 series has a very classic look. I find it’s lines and overall proportions very close to the E39 5 series, arguably the best looking 5 to date.

    As some of you pointed out, the 5GT has more “shock value,” but I think the new 5 will go on to be remembered as a favorite, with a long shelf life.

    Also, it looks awesome in person, slightly long for a mid-size, but very aggressive with extremely short overhangs, vertical grill, etc.

    Just my 2 cents. :)

  22. Douglas Barr says:

    For some reason a new 2011 550 i showed up at a certain racetrack in Ohio today. And oh a 2011 m5. Guess which one was faster? ….hint it is the newer car

  23. Artur says:

    There’s an aspect over which you’ll have to agree with me, mere dreamers named bmw fans. It’s the fact that the new E-Class is one head above the new generation 5 Series. I was recently a passenger in my friend’s new E-Class and I must say that it beats the 5 Series in any respect: from engine to handling. My friend was in Europe and also tried the new 535i, but he said that it was an awful car to drive, simply a “turtle” with a zero handling capabilities. You’re afraid to throw it into corners at speeds above 40 kmh, and in the E-Class you feel sure-footed. As for me, I fell in love with the new E-Class as soon as I entered its wonderful cabin. As for your new 5er, it gets beaten by any competitor and by a wide margin. Take for instance the latest C/D review here the new 5er is humiliated by an old audi and infinity. They don’t even put the E-Class into this review as the result would be too predictable: 1st place – E-Class.
    Mercedes-Benz has an absolute winner in their hands with the new E-Class in any regard. I can’t understand why anyone would buy a 5 series if there’s E-Class.

  24. AMR BMW says:


    • Ed says:

      It is actually now a single scroll turbo. They changed it to increase efficiency, reduce turbo-lag, engine weight, and surprisingly it make same power as single turbo engine.

  25. JackSteel says:

    I have just got the new F10 as I have 3 kids and need the space. I was dissappointed when my daugther told me the middle back seat is uncomfortable. When I checked the middle seat backrest is an unpadded arm rest. Although my previous E60 had the same issue the plastic of the armrest was well padded.
    This is a bigger car and I had been told would fit 5 adults, but with the limited padding in the middle arm rest you don’t want to go too far sitting in the middle at the back.
    Big disappointment!!

  26. I enjoyed the test drive of BMW 5 series (528) , 100% , it’s my new Car but on next Jan. 2011 , it’s simply the best among other alternative

  27. Bimster says:

    Babken, I think you ought to spend more time on a Mercedes blog, and less time on a BMW blog. I appreciate your enthusiasm for the E60, but why are you trying to convince BMW fans of E60’s greatness? Do you not realize that just as you love your Mercedes, we love our BMWs.

    I bought the 2011 550i, and I absolutely love it. I priced out the e60 with almost exactly the same options and it was just about even in price at $70k. That being said, I much prefer the interior styling of the 5er over the e60. Performance-wise, the 5er has a more powerful engine, and based on the data I have seen, will easily outrun an e60. Handling wise, I have had a 2007 335xi for almost 4 years, so going to a 5er, I feel like I am in a bigger car, but it handles VERY well, and I believe it is EVEN FASTER than the 3. I would guess the 0-60 is in the neighborhood of 4.6-4.8 seconds. After I test drove it, I was sold. In short, the 550i is an awesome daily driver with the heart of a true sports car.

  28. car wash says:

    I bookmarked this page more than a year ago and still I visit the article to fresh up. You are Awesome!

  29. alex says:

    Choosing between the 550i and the 535i is a difficult task, but hardly
    punishment. While both models are offered in a terrific 6 speed manual

    550i and the 535i, offered in a 6 speed manual

    When did this happen? I was told that the new 550i was only available with the ZF 8 speed.

    Even a few months ago when I questioned this websites facebook wall, the response I got said manual on the V8 model was a no go.

    What gives?

  30. BMW launch really amazing series it is luxurious car and everyone want to drive it at least one time. I like most interior and out look of a car.

  31. I am very happy to read your nice and informative article. thank you so much for sharing knowledge with us.

  32. Freddie Mack says:

    BMW is a great car……

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