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.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: 528i, 535i, 535i Gran Turismo, 550i, 550i Gran Turismo
Body styles: Sedan, hatchback, 4- or 5-passenger
Engines: 2.0L turbo I-4, 240 hp, 258 lb-ft
3.0L turbo I-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft
4.4L twin-turbo V-8, 400 hp, 450 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic
Passenger volume: N/A
Cargo space: (sedan) 14.0 cu ft; (GT, rear seats up/down) 10.0-15.0/63.0 cu ft

The big news for the 5-series this fall is that the base engine has been replaced with a turbo I-4. The car retains the 528i designation and is again available only with the eight-speed automatic, but unlike the previous 528i, the new version will be available with all-wheel drive. Brake energy regeneration debuts this year on the 528i and the 535i (the 5-series GT already had it). The even bigger news for the 5-series is the return of the M5, in summer 2012.

Front, side, and side curtain air bags; active head restraints for the front seats; traction and stability control; and ABS with panic brake assist are standard. The Gran Turismo additionally has knee air bags. Lane-departure warning, blind-spot assist, and night vision are optional. BMW Assist, with automated crash response, is standard.

All: 15-20 mpg city/22-30 mpg highway

  • Fuel economy (528i, 535i)
  • Manual available
  • Athletic handling
  • Steering isn’t as sharp as it used to be
  • GT is not easy on the eyes

An athlete in a business suit.

  • Audi A6/A7
  • Cadillac CTS
  • Infiniti M
  • Mercedes-Benz E-class

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