BMW 5 Series Sedan F10 2011-2016 (6th Gen) Review

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Used BMW 5 Series 6th Gen

Read in this article:

6th Gen BMW 5 Series Sedan: What Owners Say

  • The sophisticated, understated design of the 6th generation BMW 5 Series is more elegant and universally accepted than that of its polarizing E60 predecessor and most owners agree that the F10 is a sleekly attractive car
  • The technology on offer is impressive and even extends to rear-seat entertainment systems; however, most of these cost extra and you'd have to check what has been fitted
  • Performance and economy are stand-out features and there isn't a dud in the range, not even the 2011 528i. The sweet spot is the brilliant 535i, which offers a superb performance/economy blend
  • Most owners agree that the F10 has lost some of its sporting edge compared to its E60 predecessor and while still a competent and sure-footed handler, it feels larger to drive and not quite as nimble as before
  • Besides being a little more cumbersome to drive, it also loses out a little in terms of luxury and ride quality to rivals from Lexus, Mercedes, and Audi, especially on larger wheels
  • It's expensive to put right when things go wrong, so make sure you get a clean one and beware the N63 V8 engine's potential trouble spots, which have cost owners dearly

Sixth Generation BMW 5 Series Facelift

The 6th-gen BMW 5 Series was given its only facelift for the 2014 model year and it was so subtle, it would go unnoticed by some. The F10's general appearance is a lot less out there and far more reserved than its more controversial E60 predecessor, which was designed under the creative leadership of Chris Bangle.

2014-2016 BMW 5 Series 6th Gen Facelift Front Changes CarBuzz
2014-2016 BMW 5 Series 6th Gen Facelift Front Changes

The front light clusters retain their shape but are new, with flat-bottomed corona-ring daytime running lights and less fussy turn signals1. The front bumper is new too2, with the V motive blending into the lower bumper a lot more smoothly and the lower valance being completely redesigned with new round fog lights3. On normal trims, new C-shaped chrome applique is applied to the outer thirds of the lower valance4, with the lower air dam narrowing in the center.

2014-2016 BMW 5 Series 6th Gen Facelift Rear Changes CarBuzz
2014-2016 BMW 5 Series 6th Gen Facelift Rear Changes

The rear is tweaked only slightly and looks virtually identical to the 2013 model, save for a new bumper1 with a horizontal chrome strip running between the two bumper-mounted red reflectors2 - which are themselves slightly retouched. The backup lights3 are slightly smaller and are centered in the trunk-lid-mounted portions of the taillights instead of sitting right next to the number-plate cutout.

2014-2016 BMW 5 Series 6th Gen Facelift Side Changes CarBuzz
2014-2016 BMW 5 Series 6th Gen Facelift Side Changes

Essentially, the only changes that are visible in profile are some new wheel designs1 and the restyled bumpers2 and headlights3.

2014-2016 BMW 5 Series 6th Gen Facelift Interior Changes CarBuzz
2014-2016 BMW 5 Series 6th Gen Facelift Interior Changes

Save for new steering-wheel designs1 and subtle vertical chrome strips2 on either side of the infotainment screen, the interior is essentially unchanged on the 2014 model.

Engine, Transmission, and Drivetrain

The F10 sixth-gen BMW 5 Series launched with three engines as a 2011 model. The base engine was the 528i with the naturally aspirated 3.0-liter N52 inline-six with 240 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque. Next up is the 535i with the turbocharged 3.0-liter N55 inline-six with 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. At the top of the pile sits the 550i with the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter N63 V8 developing 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. The power is sent to the rear wheels and, to the delight of enthusiasts, they can opt for a six-speed manual transmission if they don't want the eight-speed automatic. xDrive AWD versions are available on all these engines but without the manual option.

3.0-liter inline-six
240 hp | 230 lb-ft
240 hp
230 lb-ft
Eight-speed automatic transmission

The entry-level N52 inline-six is constructed of lightweight magnesium and aluminum and is the only naturally aspirated unit in the engine lineup. It will do the job adequately if you don't have a yearning for speed and it offers a back-to-basics driving experience in the age-old BMW tradition of decades past: a sonorous, free-revving inline-six that needs to rev to give its best. Neither a manual transmission nor all-wheel-drive can be had with this engine. Earlier versions of the N52 had a poor cylinder-head design prone to starving the exhaust-valve hydraulic lifters of oil, but this was fixed before the F10 was launched. Barring having to keep an eye on some somewhat fragile components like the water pump, thermostat, and oil-filter housing - which are all prone to failure and leaks - it should give years of dependable service with the proper maintenance. It served as the base engine for the F10 for one year only before being replaced by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four for 2012.

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four
240 hp | 258 lb-ft
240 hp
258 lb-ft
Eight-speed automatic transmission

From the 2012 model year, the quest for efficiency and downsizing led to the replacement of the naturally aspirated N52 inline-six with a turbocharged N20 inline-four in the base 528i. Power output is the same 240 hp, but torque is up from 230 lb-ft to 258 lb-ft and developed far lower in the rev range. It is important to note that this engine is not available with the manual transmission either, but it does get an AWD option that the 2011 528i didn't have. Performance and fuel efficiency are enhanced but reliability is not; the N20 is infamous for timing-chain trouble caused by failing timing chain guides - which eventually led to a class-action lawsuit. The N20 became quite reliable after the issues were eventually fixed, but some other typical BMW maladies remain, such as failing valve-cover gaskets and leaky oil-filter housings.

3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six
300 hp | 300 lb-ft
300 hp
300 lb-ft
Six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission

The turbocharged 3.0-liter N55 inline-six is not merely a boosted version of the base car's N52 engine, because the latter's exotic alloy construction was deemed unsuitable for the rigors of turbocharging. Instead, the N55 can trace its origins back to the early-2000s M54 aluminum-block inline-six used in cars such as the E46 3 Series. BMW first fitted twin turbos and piezo-electric fuel injectors to create the N54, but that engine was overly complicated and prone to various failures. Hence, the N55 is a simplified development of that engine with only a single turbocharger and conventional injectors, yet delivering the same 300 hp and 300 lb-ft - with better economy. Although it's more reliable than the N54, the early versions were still fitted with the N54's troublesome high-pressure fuel pump and the same oil leaks and water-pump trouble endemic to this era of inline-six BMWs apply to the N55 as well. The 535i trim to which this engine is fitted can be had in AWD with an automatic transmission or RWD with either a manual or automatic transmission until the 2014 model year, which was the last for the manual car.

3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six hybrid
335 hp | 332 lb-ft
335 hp
332 lb-ft
Eight-speed automatic
  • Electric motor: Permanent synchronous electric motor
  • Horsepower: 54 hp
  • Torque: 155 lb-ft
  • Engine + electric motor hybrid system output: 335 hp / 332 lb-ft

The ActiveHybrid 5 joined the lineup for 2013 and used the 535i's engine with a 54-hp/155-lb-ft electric motor and 675-kWh lithium-ion battery pack to develop a combined system output of 335 hp and 332 lb-ft. The hybrid powertrain pays dividends at the pumps but sets no records. While its EPA estimates of 23/30/26 mpg city/highway/combined are certainly good for a 335-hp car, that combined figure beats the standard 535i by only 2 mpg, yet it's hardly any faster (5.7 seconds compared to 5.9 seconds) due to the 308-odd-pound weight penalty of the hybrid system. Getting so little for a price premium of nearly $6,000 over a 535i xDrive automatic hardly seemed worth it at the time.

4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8
400/443 hp | 450/479 lb-ft
400/443 hp
450/479 lb-ft
Six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission

The superb N63 twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine is loved by BMW owners for its refinement, forceful performance, and excellent response, delivering its 400 hp and 450 lb-ft with enthusiasm and making for a wonderfully interactive experience when channeled through the six-speed manual transmission - a rarity in this type of car. However, it is also one of the most maligned BMW engines in terms of reliability - or the lack thereof - and it was the subject of a $15,000-per-engine BMW Customer Support Package, which is just another way of saying it was recalled. Being a "hot-V" engine with the twin turbochargers located in the V of the V8, heat-soak issues caused failed valve-stem seals and other trouble, along with placing demands on the cooling system that eat batteries. Because the engine is also notorious for burning oil, service intervals were reduced to 10,000 miles. Properly cared for - and with the Customer Support Package applied - the N63 can be reliable, but it can also be a money pit. Outputs were increased to 443 hp and 479 lb-ft for the 2014 model year and the manual transmission was dropped at the same time.

3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six diesel
255 hp | 413 lb-ft
255 hp
413 lb-ft
Eight-speed automatic transmission

The N57 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six diesel engine only joined the lineup in the 535d for the 2014 model year and although it doesn't quite have the bullet-proof reputation of its M57 predecessor, it is still a refined, powerful, torquey, and extremely economical diesel engine with a respectable 255 hp and a stump-pulling 413 lb-ft of torque. Notwithstanding having to keep an eye on timing chains and guides as the miles add up, the N57 is capable of lasting many, many of miles. It's also the most economical 5 Series by far with EPA estimates of 26/37/30 on the city/highway/combined cycles, easily pipping the somewhat overhyped ActiveHybrid 5. It is available only with the automatic transmission in either RWD or xDrive. It is rare in the States, though, because local buyers prefer gas cars.

2011-2016 BMW 5 Series 6th Gen Real MPG

BMWs tend to score near the top of their respective classes for fuel economy and the BMW 5 Series F10 is no exception, with EPA estimates of over 30 mpg on the highway possible for the gas cars and nearly 40 mpg for the diesel. The EPA's user-submitted figures of real-world economy achieved by actual owners tend to closely follow the EPA's estimates.

EPA MPGReal-World MPG *
3.0 NA inline-six 8-speed automatic RWD21/31/25 mpg25.5 mpg
2.0 turbocharged inline-four 8-speed automatic RWD23/34/27 mpg20.5-28.1 mpg
2.0 turbocharged inline-four 8-speed automatic AWD22/33/26 mpg25.6-30.7 mpg
3.0 turbocharged inline-six 6-speed manual RWD20/29/23 mpgN/A
3.0 turbocharged inline-six 8-speed automatic RWD20/30/23 mpg27 mpg
3.0 turbocharged inline-six 8-speed automatic AWD20/29/23 mpg20-23.1 mpg
3.0 turbocharged inline-six hybrid 8-speed automatic RWD23/30/26 mpgN/A
4.4 turbocharged V8 6-speed manual RWD15/22/17 mpgN/A
4.4 turbocharged V8 8-speed automatic RWD17/25/20 mpgN/A
4.4 turbocharged V8 8-speed automatic AWD16/24/19 mpg17.1 mpg
3.0 turbocharged inline-six diesel 8-speed automatic RWD26/38/30 mpg32.5-37.2 mpg
3.0 turbocharged inline-six diesel 8-speed automatic AWD26/37/30 mpg31.2 mpg

* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.


Being a premium German sedan, safety is of a high order and even the base 2011 528i comes standard with ABS, brake assist, tire-pressure monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, automatic halogen headlights, stability control, active headrests, six airbags, and BMW Assist emergency communications. The 535i also adds adaptive xenon headlights and the 550i, front and rear parking sensors and a backup camera. On the options list you'll find adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot assist, and a night-vision system, so any of these might be fitted to a used F10.

The base car gains adaptive xenon headlights for 2012. Navigation is a standard feature on all facelifted 2014 5 Series trims. The optional Driver Assistance Plus package could also be optioned at the time, adding the optional driver-assistance features mentioned earlier, as well as pedestrian detection. Standard on 2015 5ers are LED fog lights, while a head-up display and upgraded gauge cluster are added to the Driver Assistance Plus package.

US NHTSA Crash Test Result 2015

The sixth-generation BMW 5 Series achieved a solid five-star overall NHTSA crash rating in its final 2016 model year, comprising five-star scores for both the side crash and rollover test and four stars for the frontal impact.

Overall Rating:
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
Side Crash Rating:
Rollover Rating:

6th Generation BMW 5 Series Trims

The 2011 model year is the only model year making use of a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-six for the base 528i trim before it was replaced by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four in the 2012 528i. The 2011 528i is RWD automatic only, but the 2012 528i is also available in xDrive AWD, although it is still only automatic and was never offered in manual. The mid-range 535i trim uses the same engine for all model years and the most drivetrain configurations - manual RWD (2011-2014), automatic RWD (all model years), and automatic AWD (all model years). The 550i has the V8 engine but mirrors the drivetrain options of the 535i save for one difference - the manual model was discontinued one year earlier. The ActiveHybrid 5 joined the lineup for 2013 and the 535d diesel model was added for 2014, so it was never offered in the pre-facelift car.

The Sport package was optional and might have been fitted; you'll recognize it by the 19-inch alloys, Sport exterior trim, and 14-way electrically adjustable front seats. The M Sport package adds special wheels, a body kit, and an M Sport steering wheel. Cars already optioned with the Sport package were eligible for the Dynamic Handling package, which additionally adds adaptive suspension. Lots of options were offered and might have been fitted to used 5s, such as automatic high beams, a night-vision camera, automatic parking, surround-view cameras, satellite radio, premium audio systems, ventilated seats, climate control and entertainment for the rear seat, smartphone integration, a head-up display, and a heated steering wheel. For 2014, the optional Premium package adds near-550i levels of luxury to the other trims with items such as leather upholstery on the 528i and upgraded leather on the 535s, a gesture-controlled power trunk lid, satellite radio, and keyless access via all the doors. Cold Weather and Lighting packages are available too, as well as a rear-seat entertainment system, rear-window sunshades, and four-zone climate control (already standard on the hybrid).

All trims have a standard split/folding rear seat for the 2013 model year, as well as a universal garage-door opener. All facelifted 2014 trims get navigation as a standard feature and the iDrive controller gains freehand text-entry support. The 2014 facelift comes in any of three equipment lines: Modern, Luxury, and M Sport. Modern lives up to its name with turbine-style alloys and dark-pearl and aluminum interior trim, Luxury has a more traditional luxury-car approach, and M Sport adds a body kit, staggered-width alloys with 245/45-18 front and 275/40-18 rear summer tires and other M Sport highlights. For 2015, all models have LED fog lights and a sports steering wheel, and the Modern Line package is discontinued. For the final 2016 model year, all F10s get enhanced Bluetooth and USB functionality and black carpeting and interior panels now accompany beige interiors.

3.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-six/2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four
Eight-speed automatic

The original 2011 six-cylinder 528i has 17-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, keyless entry, heated and powered side mirrors, automatic halogen headlights, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, leatherette upholstery, an eight-way electrically adjustable driver's seat with memory functions, an electrically tilting/telescoping steering column, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, four cup holders, five power outlets, and an iDrive infotainment system with Bluetooth, HD Radio, BMW Assist telematics, and an MP3-capable radio/CD player with 12 speakers.

The 2012 528i has the turbocharged inline-four engine and gains AWD as an option, as well as coming standard with automatic stop/start, selectable driver modes, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors, and adaptive xenon headlights; the audio system now has ten speakers. Recalibrated throttle mapping gets rid of the pull-away lag 2011 owners complained about.

3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six
Six-speed manual/eight-speed automatic

From the start, the 535i was equipped with everything the 528i has, as well as adaptive xenon headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels. The 2012 535i has automatic stop/start.

ActiveHybrid 5
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six hybrid
Eight-speed automatic

The 2013 ActiveHybrid 5 gets all the equipment of the 2013 535i, but adds to that the hybrid powertrain, four-zone automatic climate control (the only trim with this feature), a larger iDrive screen, and navigation with real-time traffic.

3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six diesel
Eight-speed automatic

The 2014 535d joins the lineup with exactly the same standard specification as the gas-powered 535i, the only difference being its diesel engine.

4.4-liter turbocharged V8
Six-speed manual/eight-speed automatic

The 2011 550i picks up where the 2010 535i leaves off and adds to its specifications front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors, navigation with real-time traffic and voice control, and ambient interior lighting - all optional on the lower trims. The 2012 550i has 14-way electrically adjustable multi-contour front seats. For the 2014 facelift, the V8 engine is more powerful and the front seats are 20-way power-adjustable items, while paddle shifters feature on the steering wheel. For the 2016 model year, a power trunk lid, Harman Kardon audio system, and satellite radio are standard.

Sixth Generation BMW 5 Series Features (2016)

528535ActiveHybrid 5550
Leather SeatsOSSN/A
Keyless EntrySSSS
Keyless StartSSSS
Alloy WheelsSSSS

Interior, Trim, And Practicality

BMW 5 Series Sedan F10 Interior Overview BMW
BMW 5 Series Sedan F10 Interior Overview

The F10's exterior exudes quality and class and there isn't a cheap surface or switch in sight. Everything is plushly finished, pleasing to the touch, and solidly constructed, leaving you in no doubt what you're paying for, even in the base car. It's a modern interior that's easy to use, even today, with plenty of technology on offer, although many items were on the options roster and you'd have to check what has been fitted. It's not hugely spacious inside, with the Audi A6 offering noticeably more rear legroom and the trunk is only average, but normal-sized adults will be perfectly comfortable and content, regardless of where they are seated, even if the ride quality is not as plush as that of some of the competition.

TRIM528535ActiveHybrid 5550

2011-2016 BMW 5 Series Maintenance and Cost

BMW reduced the lubrication service interval from 15,000 to 10,000 miles in 2014 and we wouldn't recommend going a mile over this lower limit. Considering how cheap oil is compared to the many troubles you can run into for neglecting maintenance, it's a cheap price to pay for reliability, especially on oil-consuming engines like the V8 in the 550i. Severe use in lots of stop-start traffic or freezing/dusty conditions calls for an even lower interval of 5,000 to 7,000 miles. Modern, turbocharged engines tend to consume some oil, so check your oil level weekly, because low oil levels can lead to many problems and prohibitive expenses. Spark plugs are due every 60,000 miles, along with the engine's air filter. We would replace the automatic transmission fluid every 60,000 miles at least to maintain long-term reliability.

We cannot overstate the importance of regular maintenance on these cars. Deferring oil changes will lead to cam-chain problems and huge potential expenses, especially on the V8. Check oil levels weekly and never allow the oil level to drop to the minimum mark. Keep in mind that you might have to top up the oil between lubrication services. Flush the cooling system and replace the coolant with the correct coolant type every few years as well and keep an eye on leaky water pumps and sticking thermostats.

Sixth Gen BMW 5 Series Basic Service

Engine Oil Change Including Filter

Oil capacity: 6.5L (6.9 quarts) for N52 and N55 3.0 inline-six, 5.0L (5.3 quarts) for N20 2.0 turbo inline-four, 8.5L (9 quarts) for 4.4 turbo V8

Recommended viscosity: 5W-30 or 5W-40 fully synthetic oil (N20 turbo inline-four and N52 inline-six engines), 0W-40 or 5W-40 fully synthetic oil (N55 turbo inline-six and N63 turbo V8).

How often to change: 5,000-8,000 miles

Average Price: $120 for N52 and N55 inline-six, $104 for N20 inline-four, and $144 for N63 4.4 V8


3.0-liter naturally aspirated N52 inline-six gas engine:

Part code: 12-12-0-037-663

Replacement: Every 60,000 miles

Average price: $149 for six

2.0-liter turbocharged N20 inline-four gas engine:

Part code: 12-12-0-039-664

Replacement: Every 60,000 miles

Average price: $111 for four

3.0-liter turbocharged N55 inline-six gas engine:

Part code: 12-12-0-037-582

Replacement: Every 60,000 miles

Average price: $166 for six

4.4-liter turbocharged N63 V8 gas engine:

Part code: 12-12-0-037-580

Replacement: Every 60,000 miles

Average price: $221 for eight


All engines:

Part number: 61-21-2-353-813

Replacement: Every 3 to 5 years on 528i and 535i/535d, but every other oil service on 550i

Average Price: $197

ActiveHybrid 5 high-voltage battery pack:

Part number: 12-14-8-634-704

Replacement: Every ten years

Average price: $4,792

6th Gen BMW 5 Series Sedan Tires

Keep in mind that there is no spare tire and that the F10 5 Series runs on run-flat tires.

2011-2016 528i RWD and AWD
Tire Size:
All-season run-flat:
Between $894 and $1,220 per set
2011-2016 535i RWD and AWD, 2014-2016 535d RWD and AWD, and 2011-2016 550i RWD and AWD
Tire Size:
All-season run-flat:
Between $1,256 and $1,529 per set

Check Before You Buy

Technical Service Bulletins according to the NHTSA. Check service book for:

J.D. Power rated the 6th-gen BMW 5 Series for 2016 and it achieved 84 out of a possible 100 overall and an excellent 88/100 for quality and reliability. It seems as if there are very few problems to report in terms of the electrical system, HVAC system, starter, fuel system, or suspension. However, engines can be sensitive to a lack of maintenance and oil levels, especially, must be checked frequently. The manual transmission is mostly trouble-free and there are few 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, or 2016 BMW 5 Series transmission problems so far on the eight-speed ZF unit as well; it has a good reputation and should last well if it gets new oil every 60,000 miles or so. That said, the 2011 F10 is by far the most problematic.

There have also been several 2011-2016 BMW 5 Series Sedan recall campaigns and the 2011 model was the subject of a disproportionate number of these. 2011 F10s were recalled for problems including a positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system heater that may short-circuit, the inadequate activation of belt tensioners, active headrests, and airbags, camshaft retention bolts that may loosen and cause a stall, an auxiliary water-pump circuit that may overheat, a faulty fuel-level sensor that can result in drivers running out of fuel, and rear CV joints that may fail. 2011 and 2012 F10s were recalled for loose fuel pump wiring, 2012 and 2013 cars were recalled for a brake-assist vacuum pump that may fail, 2013 and 2014 F10s were recalled for rear reflectors that don't conform to federal regulations. 2014-2016 535d diesel cars were also recalled for coolant leaking into the EGR module and for high-pressure fuel-pump failures. There were quite a few problems with the safety systems on 2015 5 Series models and the cars were recalled for side airbags that may fail to deploy, seatbelts that may fail to lock, and bent rear-seat anchors that may fail to properly restrain a child seat.

The Most Common 2011-2016 BMW 5 Series Sedan Problems

N52 Engine Problems

The naturally aspirated N52 inline-six engine was used for a single year only in the 2011 528i and despite a few problems earlier in its life, the engine was mostly sorted out by the time the 2011 F10 came around. However, it does tend to suffer from a few persistent problems that seem to afflict many BMWs of this vintage. First, the Vanos variable valve-control system wears out every 70,000 miles or so, requiring its solenoids to be replaced. This is brought on sooner by oil sludge caused by postponed oil changes. The plastic water pump also fails from as early as 40,000 miles, although most make it to 80,000 miles. Its housing may also leak coolant and the thermostat contained in it may also fail. It's best to replace everything in one go. The thermostat usually fails in the open position, preventing catastrophic overheating, although it may occasionally jam shut, with dire consequences if ignored. The BMW 5 Series P0597 error code usually accompanies a failed thermostat. Oil leaks from a cracked plastic valve cover occur from around 100,000 miles and the valve cover's gasket may start to leak oil at half that distance. Similarly, the oil-filter housing may leak oil and if this spills onto the serpentine belt, the belt can derail and be ingested by the engine via the front crank seal - a very costly problem that can ruin the engine. Ignition coils also sometimes fail.

Mileage: Vanos every 70,000 miles, water pump and thermostat every 80,000 miles, valve-cover gasket leaks from 50,000 miles, cracked valve cover from 100,000 miles, ignition coils every 30,000 to 60,000 miles

Cost: Around $400 for parts and labor to overhaul Vanos, around $500 for the water pump and thermostat and as much again for the labor to replace them, about $450 for the valve cover and its gasket and around $1,000 or less to replace them at an independent shop ($1,300 or more at a BMW dealership), around $430 for the oil-filter housing and gasket plus $200 to install them, and around $250 for new ignition coils that you can install yourself.

How to spot: Failing Vanos and ignition coils will cause a loss of power, hard starting, rough running, the Check Engine light, and Limp mode; a failing water pump and/or thermostat may manifest in visible water leaks, overheating, an overactive radiator fan, overheating due to coolant loss and a jammed-shut thermostat; valve-cover and oil-filter-housing leaks will be visible and leave traces, as well as drip on hot engine parts, causing a burnt-oil smell.

N55 Engine Problems

The mid-range turbocharged N55 engine is less troublesome than its N54 predecessor, but early 2011 F10s may still suffer from a faulty high-pressure fuel pump, which is a $1,000 item. You should be safe opting for a 2012 535i or later, but the problems with the water pumps, thermostats, and various oil leaks mentioned above for the N52 engine are mostly present on the N55 as well, often accelerated by the additional heat generated by the turbocharger.

Mileage: Failure mileages are similar to those of the N52

Cost: For dealing with problems shared with the N52 engine, refer to the previous section. The fuel pump costs around $1,000 and as much again for the labor to have it installed.

How to spot: Oil and coolant leaks have the same symptoms as those of the N52 engine and a failing high-pressure fuel pump will cause surging, power loss, poor performance, and the Check Engine light.

N20 Engine Problems

The turbocharged 2.0-liter N20 inline-four replaced the naturally aspirated 3.0-liter N52 inline-six in the base 528i for the 2012 model year and this engine is notorious for timing-chain problems. Mostly, the plastic chain guides wear out, causing whining and soon damaging the chain and causing bad valve timing and poor running. This problem afflicts most F10-era N20s up to around 2015, so you'll have to check whether an engine has been updated with the improved parts; it should also run quietly without rattling or whining. Complete chain failure can occur, causing catastrophic engine damage. Some affected vehicles received an extended seven-year/70,000-mile warranty, so check the VIN with BMW to see whether your vehicle qualifies. Besides this problem, the N20 is prone to similar oil leaks as other BMW engines from the valve cover, valve-cover gasket, and oil-filter housing with advancing age.

Mileage: Chain failure from as early as 50,000 miles, valve-cover oil leaks from 100,000 miles, and oil-filter housing leaks from 60,000 miles

Cost: Complete timing-chain kit around $500 plus $1,000 labor for fitment at an independent shop for a total of $1,500 - or double that at BMW. Around $800 for parts and labor to replace the valve cover and items such as its gasket and bolts and around $800 to replace the oil-filter housing and gasket as well - both at an independent shop. $7,000 or more for an engine replacement due to a catastrophic failure.

How to spot: Failing timing chain and/or guides usually make a whining or rattling noise and may cause poor running and the Check Engine light. Diagnoses of oil leaks as per the N52 and N55 engines.

N63 Engine Problems

The twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter N63 V8 engine is the most troublesome of the bunch and also the most expensive to fix. It is a "hot-V" engine with the turbochargers located within the V of the engine and it generates a lot of heat that may cause the valve-stem seals to fail and cause excessive oil consumption to the tune of a quart per week. Heat soak also places great demands on the cooling system, which keeps running after the engine has been shut off and causes batteries to run low and eventually fail. BMW issued a Customer Support Package that fixes a staggering $15,000 worth of problems on the N63 engine. Engines included in this recall had their timing chain, fuel injectors, crankcase vent lines, MAF sensors, low-pressure fuel sensor, battery and engine vacuum pump - among others - inspected and/or replaced as necessary. An N63 with the package applied should be fairly reliable, but the problem of excessive oil consumption remains and if you don't keep an eye on the oil level, oil loss can cause excessive heat, premature timing-chain wear, oil sludge, and many other engine-ruining problems. Because of these problems, BMW reduced the service interval to 10,000 miles and prescribes that the 550i's battery should be replaced at every other oil service. To reduce the strain on the battery, you can drive sedately for a few miles before reaching your destination to ensure that the engine cools down properly and doesn't require as much post-shutdown water-pump activity. Even so, the smart charging system often leaves you with a half-drained battery that eventually fails. Ignition coils can also start failing from as early as 45,000 miles. Keep in mind that the Customer Support Package only applies to N63 engines in 550is made from March 2010 to July 2013

Mileage: Ignition coils from around 45,000 miles, injectors from 20,000 miles, valve-stem seals from 65,000 miles

Cost: Sorting the engine out properly requires BMW's Customer Support Package that replaces $15,000 worth of parts, not including a huge labor bill. It is critical that this should have been done - and proof should be obtained from BMW. Fixing these problems on your own account can be extremely expensive, e.g. just fuel injectors are over $200 each and repairing a solenoid bank can cost close to $3,000.

How to spot: Many of the problems are oil-consumption related, so check for low oil. Low oil levels can cause timing-chain damage, which will cause poor running, rattling/whining noises, oil sludge, and other engine damage. The service and repair record should be immaculate, the oil should be at the Full mark and clean, and there should be evidence of frequent oil services.

Cracked Alloy Wheels

This problem seems to mostly afflict the models with 18- and 19-inch wheels and tires and it is suggested that the run-flat tires' still sidewalls may put undue stress on the alloy wheel and can cause cracks over time, especially on bad roads. It doesn't seem to be a very common problem, but it does crop up from time to time.

Mileage: Any mileage

Cost: Replacing tires and/or repairing alloy wheels depends on how many are affected and how bad the damage is. Remember to repair and true the rims before putting new tires on them and always use the correct size tires.

How to spot: Visible cracks/damage and/or pressure loss, often accompanied by bubbles on the tires' sidewalls, in which case the affected tires must be replaced.

Transfer Case Failures

Transfer cases on xDrive models don't fail frequently but this can often be ascribed to maintenance, so be sure to have the transfer-case oil replaced when it's due and have its level checked at every service. A transfer case losing oil will quickly run dry and be ruined.

Mileage: From around 75,000 miles

Cost: On average $5,000 to replace.

How to spot: Clunking, shuddering, grinding, or chattering when turning sharp corners at low speed.

Less Common Problems

As is the case with some other German cars, the interior trim can deteriorate, especially buttons and switches. Frequent contact with fingernails can scrape the paint off switches and owners of BMWs and Audis should be familiar with this. The odd steering-mounted clock-spring failure may occur too and will disable the driver's airbag, triggering the airbag warning light. A few F10s have also been known to simply switch to Park when stationary, even if the driver has not moved the shift lever. Keep in mind that the N20, N55, and N63 engines all feature direct fuel injection and that carbon buildup on the backs of the intake valves becomes an increasing likelihood when these engines rack up a lot of miles. With enough carbon built up, poor running, misfiring, and a loss of power will follow and there is no other remedy than to have the head serviced at several hundred dollars and remove the carbon with walnut-shell blasting.

Which One To Avoid

In terms of problems per model year, 2011 is easily the worst and should be avoided. Problems were still relatively commonplace in the 2012 model, but things improved thereafter. The N20 engine can suffer various timing-chain problems that were only really sorted out by 2015, so ensure repairs have been done with the redesigned parts or you might be in for a big expense down the road. The N63 V8 engine is a peach but it is also very troublesome in its early versions - but, avoid it at all costs if the $15,000 Customer Support Package has not been applied and if it is anything less than sweet-running. The oil should be full and clear and maintenance meticulously done, or you could be in for a rude surprise.

Which One To Buy

For the purist who remembers BMW's heritage of sonorous, naturally aspirated inline-six engines, there is only one - the 2011 528i with the naturally aspirated N52 engine. It's not fast, but it is fun to use and a joy to extract maximum performance from the free-revving engine. For most people, though, the 535i is the sweet spot in the range with a sub-six-second sprint to 60 mph, decent fuel economy, and sound value for money. The N55 engine is reliable if cared for and its issues are well-known. It is a lot lighter on fuel than the V8, offers far more performance than the 528i, and is the best all-rounder in the range - with the signature BMW inline-six to boot.

6th Gen BMW 5 Series (F10) Verdict

The sophisticated engines on German cars can be a source of trouble if neglected, so you'd do well to consider only an F10 with a flawless maintenance record and that runs sweetly and quietly. Do that and you have a refined, solidly built executive express with all the brand image that comes with the BMW badge. It has lost a bit of the brand's traditional sporty edge, but the shortfall can usually be addressed by speccing the M Sport package and the adaptive suspension - many used ones will be so equipped. Avoid the fixer-uppers and you should be good to go.

5 Series F10 6th Generation Alternatives

If you're shopping for 2011-2016 BMW 5 Series you should consider these alternatives
To Top