2011 BMW 528i
2011 BMW 528i. Click image to enlarge

Related articles on Autos
First Drive: 2011 BMW 5 Series
Used cars: BMW 5 Series, 2004-2009
DBDR: 2011 BMW 528i
Buyer’s Guide: 2011 BMW 5 Series

Manufacturer’s web site
BMW Canada

Join Autos’s Facebook group
Follow Autos on Twitter

Review and photos by Paul Williams

Photo Gallery:
2011 BMW 5 Series

When asked to divulge the horsepower of its cars, it used to be that Rolls Royce would famously answer “sufficient”. The idea was that the vehicles would not be found wanting in any normal driving situation, so why concern yourself with mere numbers?

When driving the $53,900 2011 BMW 528i, I had exactly the same feeling, although BMW is not coy about the specifications of its entry-level 5 Series.

The 528i’s 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine delivers 240 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 230 pound-feet of torque at 2,400-3,000 rpm. On the surface, these are not high numbers, even when compared to non-luxury midsize family sedans (a Honda Accord V6 has 268 hp; a Volkswagen Passat V6 has 280 hp). But let me tell you, the power of this engine is indeed sufficient.

2011 BMW 528i
2011 BMW 528i. Click image to enlarge

This is an engine of unparalleled smoothness, and when mated to the new silky-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, the rear-wheel drive 528i obediently responds with whatever level of civility or urge you require. In short, this car is a total pleasure to drive, and I can’t imagine that an owner will feel disappointed by not going up the 5 Series ladder (although those higher-powered vehicles, of course, have their own attributes).

The opening price of the 528i gets you a generous array of standard amenities and features, including an ambient light package, xenon auto-adaptive headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power sunroof, power seats, power-folding and auto dimming exterior mirrors, climate controlled centre storage, a heatable steering wheel, power tilt and telescoping steering column, 12-speaker audio, Bluetooth, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

In this form, the base 528i is by no means a de-contented vehicle and you could be thoroughly happy with it. However, our $60,900 test vehicle added some packages that enhanced the ownership experience. These included a $3,800 Premium Package consisting of Dakota leather upholstery, park-distance control, comfort access (enables keyless access, locking and start), a through-loading system (for skis) and universal remote (Homelink).

2011 BMW 528i
2011 BMW 528i
2011 BMW 528i
2011 BMW 528i. Click image to enlarge

Additionally, a $2,800 Navigation Package features BMW’s On-Board Navigation system with Voice Control, and the $1,200 Premium Sound Package elevates the audio system to a more powerful, digital HiFi Professional calibre and adds Sirius satellite radio.

You could say that this is how the car should be equipped in the first place, but on the other hand, the buyer’s personal preference and budget determine which model and which options to select.

Our test vehicle was finished in Black Sapphire Metallic with beige leather interior, and this is a striking and appealing combination. The interior is beautifully designed and finished, and the beige leather trim is truly inviting. On the downside, any imperfection shows with this colour choice and it will require work to maintain. After only 4,000 kilometres on our test vehicle, the interior was already visibly soiled.

No matter what interior you choose, you’ll love the ambient lighting package, which at night casts a seductive red glow from hidden crevices of the door panels. It’s the kind of subtle and classy finishing touch that you find in exclusive boutique hotels.

Likewise the quality of the aluminum and wood trim, the elegantly designed gearshift, the smooth operation of the centre storage container, and things you can’t see, like the carpeted interior of the map pockets in the doors. No sharp edges here; only smooth, finished surfaces, pleasing to the eye and hand.

There’s plenty of room for front and rear-seat occupants, and a large trunk for their gear.

On the road, as I suggested above, the 528i is turbine-smooth and library quiet in the cabin. And for a vehicle of this size, fuel economy is surprisingly good — superior, even — averaging 9.2 L/100km in mostly city driving (the official numbers are 9.6/6.2 L/100 km; 8.1 combined). And in case you think I’m overstating the “sufficient” power of the engine, 0-100 km/h takes 7.0 seconds, so it really is quick when asked. The 528i requires premium fuel, though, as do all BMW vehicles.

2011 BMW 528i
2011 BMW 528i
2011 BMW 528i. Click image to enlarge

The ride is biased towards comfort rather than performance, although the suspension does seem to firm up in corners.

My only concerns when driving the 528i had to do with the accelerator, which on occasion either doesn’t give enough or gives too much. Consequently, it takes some precision right-foot modulation to launch the 528i as desired, in my experience. Also, the turn-signal operation is fiddly, and I know BMW has used this stubby turn-signal stalk for a while, so it’s not new. But I still found it tricky to turn off the left signal, for example, without accidentally turning on the right.

The transmission shift lever looks like a piece of Brancusi sculpture sitting on its pedestal in the centre console, but I just don’t care for its electronic operation. Personally, I like something with physical feedback and a dedicated location for each gear (a gated shifter).

Other than that, accessing the 528i’s comprehensive array of features and controls is easily achieved through the iDrive system, and the redundant controls that support it (easy-to-use programmable push buttons, for instance).

There is a lot of competition in the midsize luxury car segment; all hovering around $60,000 and typically going up from there: Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Infiniti M, Lexus GS, Cadillac CTS are examples. The 2011 BMW 528i gives you the nameplate, the quality and the features at the lower end of the price spectrum for this type of vehicle.

Pricing: 2011 BMW 528i
  • Base price: $53,900
  • Options: $7,800 (Premium Package $3,800; Navigation Package $2,800; Premium Sound Package $1,200)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,995
  • Price as tested: $63,795
    Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2011 BMW 5 Series

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Audi A6
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Cadillac CTS
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Infiniti M37
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Lexus GS
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
  • Connect with Autos.ca