Redesigned for 2011, the 5-series sedan got a handsome new suit of sheetmetal and some new mechanicals underneath. Fuel economy improves this year, as the 528i and the 535i gain auto stop-start, which can shut down the engine when idling at a stop. The 528i drops its straight-six engine for a 2.0-liter turbo four. We're sad to see the six go (although the 535i retains its turbocharged version), but the turbo four actually makes a bit more power than the six. The steering in the current 5 has lost some feel, but the chassis deftly combines a plush ride and superior handling. Buyers who want to take things further can spring for the sport package or the M sport package, both of which include dynamic damper control and an increased top-speed limiter. A manual transmission is available for the rear-wheel-drive versions of the 535i and the V-8-powered 550i. All-wheel-drive models, the 528i, and the Gran Turismo use an eight-speed automatic. Buyers who go the autobox route (a no-charge option where it's not already standard) are treated to one of the best automatics on the market. The 5-series Gran Turismo hatchback has effectively replaced the wagon. It's more than just a hatchback version of the 5-series. It's actually sort of a cross between the X5 SUV and the 5-series sedan. Compared to the latter, it's considerably larger -- longer, wider, and taller. Its sloping roofline gives it rather odd proportions, but its long wheelbase makes for plentiful rear-seat legroom (as much as in a 7-series), and, of course, it has lots of cargo space with the rear seats down.
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