Does the new BMW 5 Series spell the death of the driver’s car for BMW?

5 Series, News | June 16th, 2017 by 39
2017 BMW 5 Series Italy 79 750x500

We’ve known that modern BMWs have been losing the drama, tactility and engagement of the brand’s older cars for some time now. Modern BMWs are more digitally connected, technology impressive and electronic than ever before. While that makes them faster, more dynamically capable and far more luxurious than ever before, the consequence is a loss in driver engagement. While this isn’t a problem in, say, a Mercedes-Benz, whose brand’s ethos is more about technical superiority and luxury than performance, it is a problem for BMW, the “Ultimate Driving Machine”. So does the new G30-generation BMW 5 Series spell the death of the Bavarian driver’s car?

In this new review from Forbes of the BMW 530i, it seems that way. The new 5er is the most high-tech, connected and digital 5 Series ever made. However, there have been complaints of its sterility, thanks to all of the computing going on between the driver and the car. There is truth to that. The 5 Series seems to do so much on its own that you sometimes almost wonder if the car is actually doing all the driving and just pretending to relinquish control to the driver.

2017 BMW 5 Series Italy 57 750x542

This isn’t a rare complaint. The 5 Series recently placed second to last in a recent Car and Driver test, thanks to its inability to communicate with the driver. Though, it’s hard to blame BMW to this shift from driver involvement to numb disconnection. It’s simply what the customers want. Drive a Porsche 911 or a Mazda MX-5 and you’ll notice steering feel and feedback that seems to lack in electric power steering racks from any other brand. The reason for this is that the customers of those brands are buying those cars for that reason specifically. No 5 Series customer is spending money on a lease payment every month for tactile steering. They’re doing so to drive comfortably and smoothly to and from work while being able to one-up their neighbor’s car’s badge.

BMW has stated over and over again that it could easily bring back the steering feel us enthusiasts all know and love. However, enthusiasts aren’t the ones buying brand-new BMWs, unfortunately. Maybe you’re reading this as enthusiast who does buy brand-new cars and if that’s the case, you’re in the minority, my friend, as am I. But I just recently had this conversation with someone from the BMW CCA, who understands the BMW enthusiast market well. According to him, BMW fans, the sort that want tactile feedback and dynamic handling, are mostly younger people who can only afford second-hand cars. The majority of customers buying brand-new BMWs care little about how much steering feel there is. In fact, the less, the better.

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Now, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, I’d go as to say that, personally, I think the claims that the new 5 Series is this completely dead-feeling car are overblown. Extremely overblown. Is it the last word in communication? No, of course not. Is it as good as the legendary E39? Absolutely not. But it’s better than the F10-generation, E60-generation and I’d even argue the E34. I’ve had numerous generations of BMW 5 Series in my family, so I’m well aware of how they all drive. Believe me, the new G30 is among the best of them. It’s not perfect and it’s still a bit numb, but it’s the best in awhile.

So does the new 5 Series spell death for the Bavarian driver’s car? No, it doesn’t. Will such a death eventually happen? Probably, as that’s just where the market’s going. Millennials would rather catch an Uber to their local farmer’s market rather than hit a twisty back road. However, there are still plenty of cars to come from BMW that are enjoyable to drive and there will be plenty more. Many of them will even wear a “5” in their name. The M550i and M5 are two that certainly come to mind.

[Source: Forbes]

39 responses to “Does the new BMW 5 Series spell the death of the driver’s car for BMW?”

  1. Ask says:

    This is a huge problem in the long run. I am a kind of guy who hunts for well-maintained second hand BMWs and the choice is getting narrower and narrower as days go by. There is literally no BMW I want to drive in the current line up because they all, let’s face it, suck at handling feel.
    Look at the used car market right now, it is growing more than ever. It is a shame that BMW can’t make cars like the “E” generation anymore. This is going to be a huge problem for me personally.

    • Chuck Fickens says:

      I had the same problem. I had the money ready for a new car, but ultimately I decided to restore my E39 and did not regret it!

    • Terry Cowan says:

      The World Car of the Year e90 335i was s $50k supercar new, or, as a tech. said at the time, “It’s a beast!” Why do you want an oversized 7-based 4 cyl. luxury sedan?! BMW produce over 2 million units annually, if you can’t find something you like? Move on.

    • bmw driver says:

      I’m sorry, and I don’t mean to be rude, but if you spend your money bargain hunting used cars, making sure the manufacturer never sees your money, you can’t complain when they don’t produce what you want because you were never their customer. Obviously it’s your right, but I dug deep and bought an M2 new because BMW were finally making a new car I wanted and it felt good to directly support that and help push them in the right direction. If more enthusiasts put their money where their mouths were, manufacturers would continue making awesome cars for us.

      • Chuck Fickens says:

        Gotta admit, the 2-Series range is bloody great to drive!

      • Gregory Varano says:

        I bought my used E90 from BMW pre owned certified. It’s a 2011 328i, It handled and preformed better than the then new 2013 3 series and every other car I test drove. Every time I take my car to the dealer for service, they give me a loner usually a current 3 series demo. They are all too much like every other luxury brand. The E90 3 series are the last of the true BMW driver feel cars other than M series. The new ones have become like everyone else, a fly by wire feel. Disappointing, I will keep my E90 3 series for a long time!

    • anotheran says:

      And this is exactly the enthusiast the article talks about. Perhaps steering feel will become an option in future models that very little first hand owners will bother ordering because they just want the badge and technology… and the majority of “enthusiast” will be clamoring for the few CPO units with it

  2. Terry Cowan says:


  3. raleedy says:

    Let’s see: BMW will not provide the enthusiast-favored steering feel because the people who like that aren’t buying the cars that don’t have it. Got it. Brilliant.

    • Gaewewen says:

      No, it’s because on customer surveys of people actually buying new BMWs, the majority of those people were saying they want a softer car.

      • raleedy says:

        I think you said exactly what i did. Except for where you say “no”.

      • Gregory Varano says:

        That I don’t buy one bit. All the people that owned older models, prefer those over the new models. They bought BMW for the driving experience, the same reason I did. Would I buy a current 3 series? No, it is too generic of a drive. It may be better but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

        • Tunmishe Oke says:

          All the people that owned older models ARE older people. The new generation doesn’t have time for the “manual” “analog’ lifestyle, we older folks loved. They want it easy.

  4. Arunabh says:

    Its a reasonably valid argument. However this argument has few questions that are still to be answered.

    If customers aren’t exactly demanding the handling then why Mercs and Cadillacs have become more dynamically accomplished in recent times!?

    Even the M models that were supposed to be last word about driving pleasure aren’t exactly communicative anymore. Is that also what customers demand from BMW?

    Off late, BMW has produced a string of uninspiring looking cars. Is that also as per the customer demand that BMWs should not look any more interesting than appliances?

    Has BMW totally ignored the type of customers on whom they have build this brand at the first place?

    As far as my personal opinion is concerned, while the changes were needed but not as much as BMW has provided.

    • Terry Cowan says:

      This brand started in North America with a 4 cyl. 2 dr. sedan, they have done nothing but expand since. Now they should stop?! To let the competition tap a market BMW created? Interesting business plan…

    • anotheran says:

      Mercs below the AMGs don’t handle better. And no one is buying Cadillac’s cars.

      BMW is living off its heritage of sporty looks and buyers are eating it up… just look at the forums where everyone says you need to get the msport for the looks and steering wheel.

    • hahn says:

      I agree…We are all BMW enthusiasists but lets be frank here, series 5 design is simply uninspiring and too similar to other models, BMW should not be Audi, Merc is building similar models but based on S series which js major success. The more 5 series I see on the street the less I am excited about it (the only car which looks much better in pictures then in flash) and is not screaming drive me for sure…when I first saw 6 series gran coupe I just wanted to sit and drive it, wouldnt have problem with its steering feel for sure, BMW should go back to its routes and design exciting cars…

    • Gregory Varano says:

      Well said and I couldn’t agree more! :)

  5. Sebastian says:

    More than this, though a huge – possible – problem, I believe BMW is tinkering with the Hofmeisterkink. This is yet another sign the guys in Munich don’t listen to anyone these days….

    • Terry Cowan says:

      BMW have evolved kidneys since the ’30’s, kink since the ’60’s. They have also achieved record sales volume while calling for a 50% increase, allowing them another century of Independence & innovation. Leaders DON’T listen. They lead.

    • anotheran says:

      Yeah, they listen to the buyers. I still hear on the forums complaints about the E90’s heavy steering. My wife who loves her new BMW F30 loves the light steering.

  6. Gaewewen says:

    I wouldn’t consider a 4 cyl g30 a “sports” car to to take to the mountains.

    Maybe should test the steering of the m550i or m5 before all the doom and gloom.

  7. anotheran says:

    Bulls-eye on the majority of enthusiast. I don’t have much hope of future 3 series/4 series returning to the E30 feel and handling.

    Anyways, it’s been shown that the majority of enthusiast prefer high power and sound over handling… take the F30, even though the 328i, with an engine sitting behind the front axle, had been reported as being better handling than the 335i during launch, most could not stomach a inline-4 in a BMW. It’s clear that most BMWs will become grand touring cars… exactly what America and China want.

    • Terry Cowan says:

      BMW arrived in America with an inline-4, David E. Davis famously liked it. And they’ve ALWAYS been Autobahn GTs. Among other things…

  8. Thando_Gqabaza says:

    The G30 is not better than the E34 in handling feel. The E34 was very close to the E39

  9. Lee Ryan says:

    This is a big problem for bmw as jaguar seems to manage to build a more driver focused car and whilst quite new they seem to be slapping the germans in the face! Bmw has always been the more driver focused car but this stopped with the E39. I have been lucky enough to own evey model of 5 since the E12. My last was an F10 535d. Half the problem is saftey laws and having to have euro complient engines that hardly put out any polutants. I loved my f10 with its huge onboard gagerty but yes even without run flats it could not muster up that feeling like the e39 could. Cars are getting bigger and faster. The other main problem. Is the little engines that are now coming out 3 & 4 cylinder engines are not very bmw nor is front wheel or transverse mounted engines. But i still prefer a big engine bmw over any of the others aprt from porsche and hey go drive an M2 and tell me that is not a fantastic drivers car!

    • Terry Cowan says:

      I’ve had a couple of M owners tell their vehicles were too much for them. On our roads, I prefer driving base models.

  10. John says:

    No. BMW gave up on being the most driver focused car manufacturer a while ago.

  11. John says:

    I think the FWD and made-in Mexico models are already killing that idea of BMW as the “driver’s car” brand.

    • Terry Cowan says:

      Neither of those things impact on that, BMW are a global engineering company, regardless of where they are manufactured or what wheels are driven.

  12. Kommodore says:

    I really want to know why and how the writer feels that it’s better than an e34.

  13. Max says:

    What? Its a 5series! Of course its not the “drivers car” as u want it to be, its a business limo! And for that it is perfect! It drives great, has the best technology and feels premium and luxurious.
    If u want to have a drivers car, get the M2, its cheaper, more raw and exactly what u described.
    No one buys a 80k car and want to have “rough” steering feel, especially not Americansm would be funny to read the mass of complaints from customers if BMW would have done that. Of course enthusiasts are not the majority on new 5ers…
    So there is no ending of drivers cars at all!

    • Gregory Varano says:

      It’s not that the steering is rough, it feels heavy for some. Funny competitors in this class are putting more performance cues into their brands, Cadilac is a great example. If you are driving a car with power, you need responsive steering. Most power assisted steering gets more responsive(heavier) as the speed increases as the assist is dampened. The assist is only amplified at low speeds to help with parking etc. I will have to wait until I actually drive one. If it is like the current 3 series which I have tried, it won’t be that enjoyable from enthusiasts viewpoint.

  14. Tunmishe Oke says:

    “However, enthusiasts aren’t the ones buying brand-new BMWs, unfortunately.” This has always been my argument. I remember writing on this same thread a while back that the newer, younger BMW driver just getting his first middle/middle upper salaries doesn’t care about going to the track on Saturdays. They just want to be the first out of the red light and brag about it at lunch or while drinking after work. Consumer preference has changed. But the millennial mindset (hope I don’t get skewered) is to put in as little as possible into anything and get the most out of it, the exact argument for the 5 series.

    • Gregory Varano says:

      Most millennials have far greater choices in getting around today, they don’t really care for cars as prior generations did. Auto manufactures are getting concerned about this trend, you can look into the issue in more detail online. The 5 series is definitely not geared to millennials or younger executives, they are opting to home ownership, SUV’s are also the choice for young growing families. Hi priced sedans are a different market segment and a shrinking one. manufactures in this class are throwing every new innovation they come up with to grab as much attention to their brands offerings, best in class this, best in class that, at the end of the day, it comes down to the test drive. Does the car really perform as the advertised claims? In this case, for the money and the product offered it doesn’t. BMW’s sole reputation above all others in it class is performance with luxury. They are starting to lose their way. Imagine Ferrari changing their philosophy. You know what a Ferrari can do before you even get in one. BMW has that reputation, sadly they are straying.

  15. Toby Molina says:

    I have BMW 5 series F10 and its headlight driver module (Part number BMW 63117267044) has stopped working. Due to this, I am facing lots of trouble while driving at night. Do you have information about the solution of my problem. If you have any idea so please let me know.

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