2011 BMW 5 Series
2011 BMW 5 Series. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by James Bergeron

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2011 BMW 5 Series

Cascais, Portugal – The all-new 2011 BMW 5 Series sedan is the sixth generation of BMW’s mid-sizer and what BMW considers to be the core model in their product portfolio: it accounts for just over half of the company’s profit margin. Needless to say, the new 5 Series sedan is an important vehicle for BMW and the reason they invited hundreds of journalists to an international preview in beautiful Cascais, on the coast of Portugal.

In redesigning the car, BMW’s goal was very clear: create a vehicle that is capable of being the class leader in both luxury and vehicle dynamics. From the driver’s seat here in Portugal, it looks like they may have achieved this, and then some.

2011 BMW 5 Series
2011 BMW 5 Series
2011 BMW 5 Series. Click image to enlarge

The new styling is not as bold as the previous generation. Drawing some elements from the 7 Series and the 3 Series, it is a little more understated than “in-your-face.” The first detail to draw your eye is the ever-present kidney-shaped grille, pushed lower to create a more sporting look. This is further enhanced with the sharp creases in the hood and the cut-off halo headlamps. From the side, the 5 Series resembles a small 7 Series sedan with a sharp crease along the side from behind the front wheel to the tail. At the rear, LED taillights and muscular shoulders give the impression that this machine is built to boogie.

Built on a shortened 7 Series platform, the new 5 Series’ wheelbase is 80 mm longer than the previous generation’s but overall length is only 40 mm longer. As a result, BMW was able to push the wheels even further to the corners of the vehicle, creating a car that not only looks better but also handles better.

The suspension design for the 5 Series is also new for 2011: borrowed from the 7 Series (and previous X5 crossover), the front suspension is a multi-link design utilizing aluminum parts to reduce unsprung weight. The rear suspension design, like the front suspension, is a multi-link system; BMW calls it the Integral system for its small, essentially vertical Integral link connecting the upper and lower lateral control planes. This new suspension design will be standard on all 2011 5 Series sedans.

For the first time in the 5 Series’ history, BMW is offering electric power steering as standard; optionally available is BMW’s Integral Active Steering which steers the rear wheels up to 2.5 degrees in the opposite direction of the front wheels for speeds under 60 km/h and in the same direction as the front wheels at speeds greater than 60 km/h. This system makes the new 5 Series more manoeuvrable at slow speeds despite its longer wheelbase.

2011 BMW 5 Series
2011 BMW 5 Series. Click image to enlarge

The 2011 550i is powered by a 4.4-litre V8 engine producing 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, while the 535i is powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine that is no longer twin-turbocharged but boosted by a single twin-scroll unit with high precision direct injection and Valvetronic technology. This new engine develops the same power as the previous twin turbo-charged version: 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The 528i model is powered by a naturally aspirated 3.0-litre engine producing 258 hp and 228 lb-ft of torque. Both the 550i and 535i rear-wheel-drive models will be available with a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic unit with paddle shifters. The remaining models, including all xDrive models, will only be available with the eight-speed automatic transmission.

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