2021 BMW 5 Series First Look Review: Retaining The Crown

First Look / Comments

Prestige matters. Always.

The BMW 5 Series remains an essential component of the German automaker's lineup throughout the world. Despite the decline in demand for sedans in general, luxury sport sedans like the 5 Series remain popular.

That said, the current seventh-generation 5 Series, first revealed in 2016, has just received its mid-life facelift which brings refined styling inside and out and a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system for the 540i and 540i xDrive models. Since its introduction in 1972, the 5 Series has helped define BMW's reputation for luxury, sporty driving, and world-class engineering. This latest model is no different and will no doubt be a formidable foe against its Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6 rivals, both of which have also recently been updated.

BMW has essentially taken an already excellent package and made it even better with an even greater focus on improving fuel economy, a core requirement for this era.


Sharper Exterior Styling

Because this is only a mid-life refresh, designers were limited in what they were able to do, but they've completed their assigned task well. What was that task? To sharpen and clean up the 5 Series' lines and surfaces. The best example of this is the new kidney grille design featuring resculpted headlights. Compared to last year, the updated grille is now taller and wider, though not anywhere near as large as the 7 Series' massive grille.

Adaptive LED headlights are standard and are not only slightly slimmer than before but also feature two L-shaped daytime running lights on each side that also serve as turn signals. Around back, the taillights have been restyled as well, also featuring an L-shaped design with black edging. The sedan's overall length has actually increased by 1.2 inches due to designers giving the 5 Series a "more sweeping profile", meaning improved aerodynamics.

The optional M Sport Package includes the usual enhancements, specifically unique front and rear bumpers, larger front air intakes, and a different rear diffuser. Those who opt for the more powerful M550i xDrive receive this same aero kit plus a rear spoiler, front air intake relays, dual exhaust finished in black chrome, and window surrounds in high-gloss black.


More Tech Inside Than Ever

Like all new vehicles, technology is everywhere throughout the 2021 5 Series' cabin. In fact, there's been a huge technology upgrade, starting with standard Live Cockpit Professional with iDrive7. This system includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument display as well as a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, the latter for the first time in a 5 Series.

Also newly standard is the Perforated SensaTec upholstery featuring contrast stitching. Dakota Leather is optional and comes standard on the M550i xDrive. Customers can also select Nappa Leather. Another nice touch is the optional Black SensaTec-covered dashboard with brown stitching for four- and six-cylinder models.

Other standard features include a moonroof, sport leather steering wheel, power front sport seats with lumbar support, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.


Power And Safety

The 530i's engine, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque remains unchanged from last year. However, the 540i receives a major improvement under the hood by way of a 48-volt starter-generator for improved fuel economy. Its inline-six engine remains, but the new generator will make the stop/start work better as well. This system is capable of recapturing energy when coasting or braking which is then able to supply an additional 11 hp when the turbocharger isn't completely spooled. BMW claims the 540i can hit 60 mph from a standstill in 4.9 seconds or 4.6 seconds with xDrive AWD. Official fuel economy figures have yet to be announced.

Also like before, an eight-speed automatic transmission is standard for all 5 Series variants. The M550i xDrive, meanwhile, remains powered by a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 with 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque.

A few standard safety features for all 5 Series trims include Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and Rear Collision Preparation.


Pricing And Competition

As always, the BMW 5 Series faces off against the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6. The Lexus GS, its closest Japanese rival, is being discontinued after 2020. Pricing for the 2021 BMW 5 Series 530i starts at $54,200 while tacking on the xDrive AWD system increases that figure to $56,500. The 540i and 540i xDrive, complete with that impressive new 48-volt hybrid system, start from $59,450 and $61,750, respectively. The top-of-the-line M550i xDrive has a greater price increase for 2021, now beginning at $76,800. The updated M5 will debut at a later date.

BMW says order books for the 2021 5 Series are already open and the first customer deliveries are due to arrive this July.


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