Myriad intriguing technological innovations and new engines and transmissions mark the sixth generation of BMW's 5-series. Developed in parallel with the 7-series, it shares all suspension components, resulting in a switch from struts to a multilink layout in front. Most suspension components, the front fenders, the doors, and the hood are aluminum. The optional active steering uses electric - instead of hydraulic - assistance for additional fuel economy benefits.
Every 5-series model thus far has surpassed its immediate predecessor in power output and reduced emissions. The 2011 550i uses a smaller direct-injection, 4.4-liter V-8 with twin turbochargers and catalytic converters nestled between the cylinder banks. It makes 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, which is good for 0 to 60 mph in just five seconds, according to BMW. The 535i has a 300-hp, 3.0-liter in-line six with a single dual-scroll turbo and Valvetronic. Both engines drive through a six-speed manual or a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Braking regeneration is just one of many new efficiencies. An ActiveHybrid version is expected to debut at the Geneva auto show in March.
It's good-looking, too, with classic proportions, clear flowing lines, and elegant detailing. Despite the coupelike roofline, rear headroom is uncompromised, and the 3.2-inch-longer wheelbase increases legroom. Altogether, our initial first-hand look at the design and engineering was highly promising, and we expect the driving experience to confirm that promise. The new 550i and 535i arrive this spring, followed later by a 528i powered by a 240-hp, 3.0-liter in-line six. Look for a report on our first drive of the new 5-series in the April issue.