Last week, courtesy of BMW North America, yours truly had a chance to spend some much needed time with the all new 2011 BMW 5 Series. The new sporty sedan made its debut last month during the international media launch held in Lisbon, Portugal.
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The first 5 Series models will arrive at U.S. dealerships in June and for now, BMW customers will have the option to choose between the 535i 3.0 liter Twin-Scroll powered model or the high-end unit, 550i, powered by the 4.4 liter Twin-Turbo engine seen in the GT models or the new 7 Series.
The 2011 535i model we’ve seen last week was actually a demo unit used by BMW to train their staff, from client advisors to mechanics. The exterior of the car wasn’t in top shape, so we decided this time to skip the much craved photos, but we promise we’ll make it up to you in the near future.
To compensate, we focused more on the luxurious interior and the new design approach. Sharing lots of design elements with the 7 Series, the 5 Series interior design closes the gap between BMW and Audi or Mercedes, when it comes to cabin aesthetics and quality.
The F10 5 Series interior is wider, more spacious and more appealing than the previous generation E60. While it has the design quality of the new 7 Series, the 2011 BMW 5 Series brings back the sporty elements as seen in the late 90s E39 models, beginning with the driver oriented dashboard.
Where the E60 may have drawn some criticism with its blend and “plasticy nature”, the new F10 5 Series looks more upscale with its higher quality materials and trim choices. The choices of colors and materials further enhance the impression of personal luxury and the interior’s interplay of lines and surfaces. Special attention has been given to these fine details, one of them is the subtle crease line going across the wood trim on the passenger side.
Dark Burl Ash wood trim interior trim is standard and appearing on the dash, doors and front center console; Ash Anthracite (gray tone) and another distinctive wood called Fineline Matte are optional.
The entire cluster is in a high-resolution Black Panel display in which four classic circular instruments are most prominent. Climate-control settings and controls are located in a second Black Panel display in the center console stack.
The center console comes in two variants: on cars with a manual gearbox, the console is split into two sections, the black surface surrounding the gearshift lever and the buttons on the optional Driving Dynamics Control oriented towards the driver. A nice touch is the key holder placed between the gearshift lever and the climate control.
The latest iDrive generation is available in the new 535i. The actual navigation system features a 10.2-inch 1280×480 resolution screen.
The front seats seem very sporty, but yet comfortable and with great lumbar support. Even for someone 6″3 tall, the legroom at the front is more than adequate. But the real story happens in the back where BMW says to have increased rear knee room by .5 inches.
The new 5-Series has a rear seat entertainment system just as the current 7-Series, but this one seems to be operated with a control instead of a dial as you see on the 7er. Also, the rear climate control can be independently operated by the rear passengers.
Trunk space is where the new 5er shines as well. It has significant more space than any other BMW sedan we have seen so far and without looking at the official numbers, we can certainly say that it offers more cargo space than the larger 7 Series models.
Without having any exterior photos available, it might be a little hard to explain in words the new exterior design language, but what we can say is that it is much more than we expected. The photos again don’t do any justice to the car and when seeing it person, the multiple design lines and subtle details stand out immediately.
The design lines flow gracefully from front to back and the design is characterized by a combination of perfectly blended concave and convex surfaces.
The front-end is less imposing than we’ve seen on the 7 Series or the 5 GT models, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The smaller kidney grille fits the overall design and the image of a 5 Series sporty luxury sedan.
The headlights share a lot of design cues with the 5 GT and the 3 Series Sedan facelift. They are slightly modified over the 3-Series units and much smaller than the 5-Series GT, making the new F10 its own uniquely styled BMW. The eyebrow remains an important characteristic in the latest headlights’ design.
Moving to the rear of the car, we immediately noticed the clear distinction between the new 5 Series and the 3er models, an analogy that was made several times before by us and other automotive publications. Side-by-side, the rear-end of the two cars is very distinctive and even the non-enthusiast bimmer fan would be able to distinguish them from distance.
In the upcoming weeks, we will have a chance to spend some more time with the 2011 BMW 5 Series and we will bring you an extensive photo gallery, along with some exclusive interviews around the new 5 Series.