The 2018 BMW 5 Series premium midsize sedan range expands this year to offer greater choice. By doing so, it secures its position as one of the finest cars around. Like the rest of its class, the 5 Series achieves a sweet spot where there’s plenty of space, luxury, performance and technology, but not to an extravagant degree.
The 5 Series has styling that’s unmistakably BMW. The engines are punchy yet smooth, and the driving dynamics deliver sufficient sensations for the enthusiast while also providing long-distance comfort for all occupants. It would take too much space to list every other attribute available in the 5 Series, so here are some highlights.
Gesture controls. The driver twiddles a finger to raise or lower the sound system’s volume, and swipes a hand through the air to take a call or send it to voicemail.
Remote parking. The user can be outside the car and maneuver the 5 Series into a parking spot using a smartphone as a controller, then turn off the engine and lock the car.
BMW Connected brings the 5 Series into the digital world. If someone wanted to check on their BMW’s surroundings (at the airport parking lot, for example, or where the valet has left it), they could merely consult their smartphone. They can even find a location on their phone and send the address to the car’s navigation system. Users are also reminded about their next scheduled journey and what time they need to leave. And the 5 Series links to Amazon’s Alexa, so locking the car remotely and checking how much gas is in the tank can all be done by voice commands.
What’s New for 2018?
More variants join the lineup. One with diesel power, a plug-in hybrid and a couple of speedier models, the M550i xDrive and the M5 (this latter car is reviewed separately). There’s also been some reshuffling of option packages.
What We Like
The impressive tech; the exquisite balance between comfort and control
What We Don’t
Electric-assisted steering imparts a somewhat artificial feel, but that’s the case with almost every manufacturer’s EPS system
The 530i has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, going to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive (BMW calls it xDrive) is optional.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the rear-drive 530i achieves 24 miles per gallon city, 34 mpg on the highway and 27 mph combined. Or 23 pg city/33 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.
The 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid links an electric motor with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder for a total of 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. It retains the standard 8-speed automatic transmission. In rear-drive form, it’s estimated to achieve 72 MPGe combined (miles per gallon equivalent) or 67 MPGe with all-wheel drive. Electric-only range from the lithium-ion battery is 16 miles.
A 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 propels the 540i to the tune of 335 hp and 332 lb-ft. It comes with the same 8-speed automatic transmission as the 530i and also offers xDrive. With rear-wheel drive, fuel consumption is 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined, or 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.
Another kind of 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 is in the all-wheel-drive, diesel-powered 540d xDrive. It makes 261 hp and an impressive 457 lb-ft of torque. Fuel use is an also-impressive 26 pg city/36 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined.
The M550i xDrive packs a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 developing 456 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard and fuel consumption is rated at 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 BMW 5 Series comes in 530i, 530e iPerformance, 540i, 540d xDrive and M550i xDrive forms. Where it’s optional, all-wheel drive is an extra $2,300.
The 530i ($53,645) has 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, all-LED exterior lighting with adaptive headlights, rain-sensing wipers, heated/self-dimming/power-folding side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, 16-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory settings, a power-adjustable tilt-telescopic steering column, a rearview camera, parking sensors front and rear, simulated leather upholstery, LED ambient cabin lighting, selectable driving modes, driver fatigue and focus alert, iDrive infotainment interface with a 10.3-in screen, Bluetooth, navigation, a 12-speaker/205-watt audio system, HD radio, two USB ports, 20 GB of music storage and an auxiliary audio input.
The 530e iPerformance ($53,645) has the plug-in hybrid powertrain and a few dedicated gauges, but is otherwise equipped in a similar fashion to the 530i.
The 540i ($59,195) and 540d xDrive ($62,995) have their own engines and leather upholstery, but follow that same formula for the most part.
The M550i xDrive ($74,895) comes with 19-in alloy wheels, a more powerful engine and has its own chassis modifications for a sportier driving experience, plus several features that are optional in the lower models, like the powered trunk lid.
A Premium package brings keyless entry/ignition, satellite radio, a powered trunk lid and gesture control. The Executive package includes the Premium bundle, then adds automatic high beams, parking assistant plus, soft-close doors, a 360-degree camera system and an 8.8-in configurable driver information display.
An optional M Sport package comes with 19-in wheels and a lowered, sportier suspension. Add this to the 540i and 20-in wheels become available. A Dynamic Handling package includes an adaptive suspension, stronger brakes and rear-wheel steering.
Advanced safety features come in the Driving Assistance and Driving Assistance Plus packages (see the Safety section below).
There’s a choice of audio system upgrades: a 16-speaker/600-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound setup or a 16-speaker/1,400-watt system from Bowers & Wilkins.
Other options include Wi-Fi, wireless smartphone charging, a heated steering wheel, a dual-screen rear seat entertainment system, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, night vision with pedestrian detection and 20-way adjustable multi-contour front seats with massaging and ventilation functions.
Trunk space is 18.7 cu ft. Assuming one set of golf clubs is around four cu ft., then there’s room for four sets. Except in the 530e, whose battery pack reduces cargo area to 15 cu ft.
Standard safety equipment includes a full complement of airbags, plus anti-lock disc brakes and traction/stability control. Optional driver aids include a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with autonomous emergency braking, active lane-keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, Traffic Jam Assist and evasive steering assistance.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the 5 Series the top score of five stars overall, with four stars for front impact protection and five stars for side impacts. The car also aced the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test program, emerging as a Top Safety Pick Plus.
Behind the Wheel
Even though the 5 Series can slather on the comfort and supply lavish levels of technology, BMW hasn’t forsaken its enthusiast roots. Select Sport mode for sharper responses from the steering, transmission and throttle (and suspension, if the adaptive setup is installed), and those canyon roads will beckon. In Comfort mode, the steering feels light when the car is pointed straight ahead, not improving much in the turns. In any mode, the cabin remains tranquil.
Passenger space can easily accommodate adults in both rows. The dashboard keeps clutter to a minimum, the ergonomics are just right and the quality of the materials is absolutely appropriate for such a high-class car.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Audi A6 — A new generation is due later in 2018.
2018 Cadillac CTS — Home-grown luxury and handling, world-class car.
2018 Jaguar XF — Winner of a "best sedan" award from Germany.
2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class — Offers an array of semi-autonomous technology as well as many other autobahn-worthy talents.
Used Porsche Panamera — Even greater prestige and driving abilities than a 5 Series. A certified pre-owned (CPO) example of a first-generation model (a new generation debuted for 2017) could be about the same as a well-stocked 5 Series.
BMW’s decision not to charge a premium for the plug-in hybrid version is commendable. To have the extra torque and save fuel seems incredibly tempting. A BMW with an inline-6 engine, though — like the 540i — has the widest appeal. As always, driver assistance features are a great idea and, if the budget is there, that amazing Bowers & Wilkins audio system.