2012 BMW 5-Series

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2012 BMW 5-Series Review

Worth a look for any sports sedan shopper

Reviewed by Automotive on

Overview
Although it was redesigned for the 2011 model year, the improvements keep coming for the 2012 BMW 5 Series. Downsizing its base engine from a naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder to small, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, BMW was able to not only make the base car faster, but also provide it with an EPA highway fuel economy of 32 mpg. A turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder and 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 round out the 5 Series' standard-issue engine options before heading up to the exotic M5 range-topper.

If you're a fan of BMW's station wagons, the unfortunate news is that the automaker no longer offers the 5 Series wagon in the U.S. However, to fill its role, BMW created a high-roof hatchback version of the 2012 BMW 5 Series called the Gran Turismo. Practical and capable, its bulky, somewhat controversial styling separates it from the more conventional 5 Series range.

Each model has available all-wheel drive and can be loaded up with a seemingly endless list of options. Although no longer available in the base BMW 528i and all-wheel-drive 528i models, a unique feature that separates the 2012 BMW 5 Series from much of its class is the availability of a six-speed manual transmission in the 535i and 550i sedans. All other non-M 5 Series feature BMW's new eight-speed automatic. In spring 2012, BMW plans to offer an ActiveHybrid 5 Series with the 535i's turbocharged engine and an electric motor netting 335 horsepower and delivering significantly better fuel economy.

The Range

Bodystyles: Sedan, four-door hatchback
Engines: 2.0-liter inline-4 turbocharged, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 with electric motor, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8
Transmissions: eight-speed automatic, six-speed manual
Models: 528i, 535i, ActiveHybrid 5, 550i, 535i Gran Turismo, 550i Gran Turismo

What's New

For the 2012 BMW 5 Series, BMW introduced its TwinPower turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to replace the naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-six that used to represent the 528i designation. Although paying upwards of $46,000 for a midsize luxury sedan with a four-cylinder engine may seem like a large leap to take, the new engine produces the same power as the outgoing engine, has more power lower in the rev range to more quickly accelerate, and reaches 32 mpg on the highway -- a 5 mpg improvement over the old engine. An automatic start-stop feature for the engine now comes standard on all 528i and 535i models to save fuel at red lights, and all-wheel drive is now available for the 528i sedan.

Additionally, the ActiveHybrid 5 launches spring 2012 with a 55-horsepower electric motor paired with BMW's turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. Together, the net effect is improved fuel economy, rapid acceleration, and a host of innovative tech fixes for anyone in need of eco-friendly gadgetry.

Exterior

The 2012 BMW 5 Series' styling goes in a more conservative direction than the 2004 to 2010 model it replaced. That's not a bad thing, though. With a very traditional, upright appearance with the wheels pushed to the corners, the 5 Series has an elegant, distinctly BMW look to it. It's a welcome sight after years of off-putting lines, "flame surfacing" (BMW speak for creases in the bodywork), and a largely incohesive designed that defined BMWs in the mid- to late-2000s.

Interior

Once again focused around the driver, the 2012 BMW 5 Series has a simple, elegant layout for ease of use. Although it has become more intuitive with each iteration, BMW's iDrive multi control unit for the stereo, navigation system (if so equipped), and climate control system may still find its fair share of critics for its interface. It's standard on all 5 Series models. Otherwise, the interior is still on the tighter side of the five-passenger midsize sedan spectrum, but it's able to seat adult-sized human beings in every position without much hassle. In its redesign, BMW provided an inch more rear-passenger knee room.

Performance & Handling

No engine in the 2012 BMW 5 Series could be considered a slouch, even when tasked with moving more than two tons of car, but the 535i and 550i are the real gems of the 5 Series lineup. Paired with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic, both cars prove quick and relatively agile for their size. There's no escaping the heft of each car, despite BMW's electric suspension aids, but that isn't to say that they don't handle well for their class. Although feel from the electric power steering is a little numb, it still returns a responsive, rewarding experience to the driver on curvy roads.

Safety

All 2012 BMW 5 Series come standard with two-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags and curtain airbags that stretch front-to-rear for head protection. The power tilt and telescopic steering column includes a deformation section, improving its ability to protect the driver from structural intrusion into the cabin.

EPA Fuel Economy

528i: 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway; all-wheel drive model not yet tested
535i: 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway (automatic); 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway (manual); 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway (all-wheel drive)
ActiveHybrid 5: Not yet rated
550i: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway (automatic); 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway (manual); 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway (all-wheel drive)
535i GT: 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway; 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway (all-wheel drive)
550i GT: 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway (rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive)

You'll Like

  • Beautiful styling
  • Sporty character
  • Manual transmission availability
  • Engine options
  • Features and amenities

You Won't Like

  • iExpensive
  • Options make it much more expensive
  • Less sporty than previous models
  • iDrive learning curve

Sum Up

Worth a look for any sports sedan shopper

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Cadillac CTS
  • Hyundai Genesis sedan
  • Infiniti M
  • Jaguar XF
  • Lexus GS
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class

See the New 2014 5-Series.

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