2015 BMW 5 Series

What's new for 2015? A sport steering wheel is now standard on all models, as are LED foglights. Minor changes in optional equipment include an enhanced Executive package (now with a leather dashboard) and the removal of the Modern Line package.

The 2015 BMW 5 Series marks the fifth year of a somewhat controversial experiment. Before the current 5 Series debuted for 2011, BMW's midsize sedan was the benchmark for handling precision and driving satisfaction. But was that what customers really wanted? The company's product planners weren't convinced. So they tried a different tack this time, substituting size and comfort for cutting-edge athleticism -- and polarizing public opinion in the process.

Those who prophesied doom for the softer, friendlier 5 Series have, of course, been proven wrong, as the 5 Series continues to be a top draw for numerous reasons. You'll find a lot to like under the hood, from the 528i's overachieving turbocharged four-cylinder engine to the 550i's awesome twin-turbo V8 -- and don't forget about the 535i's accomplished turbocharged inline-6 and the 535d's ultra-efficient six-cylinder diesel. Meanwhile, the cabin is an expert show of restrained, finely wrought luxury, with an appealing array of up-to-date technology offerings. The 2015 5 Series remains an excellent all-around luxury sedan, and that's why it's still at the head of this hotly contested class.

Exterior Highlights
Midsize luxury sedan available in 528i, 535i, 535d and 550i trim levels

The 2015 BMW 5 Series is a midsize luxury sedan available in four main trim levels that correspond to engine choice: 528i, 535i, 535d and 550i. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with "xDrive" all-wheel drive optional across the board.

The base 528i starts with the four-cylinder engine, 17-inch wheels, adjustable drive settings (for steering, throttle and automatic transmission response), adaptive xenon headlights with LED accent lights, LED foglights, adaptive brake lights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, a sunroof, cruise control and auto-dimming mirrors. Inside there's dual-zone automatic climate control, dark wood trim, ambient lighting, 10-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar), driver memory functions, split-folding rear seats, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery and a power tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel. Technology features include BMW Assist emergency communications, the iDrive electronics interface (with a 10.2-inch widescreen display and smartphone app integration), a navigation system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.

The 535i adds a six-cylinder engine, 18-inch wheels and leather upholstery, but is otherwise similarly equipped.

The 535d is equipped exactly like the 535i, only with a diesel-powered six-cylinder engine.

The 550i upgrades to a V8 engine, a hands-free power trunk lid (opening or closing automatically when you pass your foot under the rear bumper), keyless entry and ignition, a sport version of the automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and 20-way multicontour power front seats (with four-way power lumbar).

Engines aside, the standard features on the higher trims can be added to lower trims as options. Notably, the Premium package (528i, 535i and 535d) includes the hands-free power trunk lid, keyless entry and ignition, satellite radio and (for the 528i) leather upholstery. The 550i offers the Executive package, which adds soft-closing doors, ceramic-trimmed interior controls, a leather dashboard, a head-up display, an upgraded instrument cluster display and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with satellite radio. Most of the Executive package's contents can be added as individual options to lesser trims.

There are two major equipment lines available on 2015 BMW 5 Series models: Luxury and M Sport. The Luxury Line includes 18-inch (528i) or 19-inch wheels, upgraded leather upholstery and anthracite wood trim. The M Sport includes staggered-width 18-inch (528i) or 19-inch wheels, "shadowline" dark exterior trim (instead of the default chrome accents), an aerodynamic body kit, aluminum interior trim, a dark headliner and an M steering wheel. The Individual Composition package (not available on 528i) provides some of the same cosmetic upgrades as the M Sport package, adding different wheels and a faux-suede headliner.

Available across the board, the Cold Weather package provides retractable headlight washers, heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel, while the Lighting package features full LED adaptive headlights with automatic high-beam control. The Driver Assistance Plus package sets you up with a blind-spot warning system, a lane-departure warning system, side and top-view parking cameras and a forward collision mitigation system. The Dynamic Handling package, available on all models except the 528i, includes adaptive suspension dampers (with adjustable settings) and active stabilizer bars.

Stand-alone options include adaptive cruise control, an automated parallel-parking system (called Parking Assistant), an active steering system (featuring rear-wheel steering), an infrared night-vision display with pedestrian detection, four-zone automatic climate control, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, a power rear sunshade (with manual rear side-window sunshades) and a rear-seat entertainment system with twin tilt-adjustable 9.2-inch screens on the front seatbacks.

Attractive cabin with high-quality materials, 10.2-inch iDrive interface display, 20-way multicontoured seats, satisfactory space for passengers

The 5 Series cabin is attractive and trimmed with consistently high-quality materials. Elegant restraint is the name of the game here, and it's a game that BMW has played to perfection for decades. The instrument panel is a clear connection to the company's past with its classic twin analog gauges. Another heritage touch is the dashboard's understated center stack (the portion that includes the climate and audio controls), which cants toward the driver for a sportier, more intimate feel.

The central nervous system of every 5 Series is the iDrive interface, consisting of a high-resolution 10.2-inch display in the center of the dashboard and a rotary controller on the center console. The current version includes a touchpad on top of the controller that accepts "handwritten" finger inputs. It's pretty user-friendly, but some rival systems seem to require fewer presses or twirls of their controllers to get what you want.

The base front seats are comfortable in their own right, but the available 20-way multicontour seats just might be the best in the business, providing an incredible range of adjustments and sublime support for all driving scenarios. Rear outboard passengers will find satisfactory space in all directions, even if they're 6-footers, and the rear seats themselves are thoughtfully contoured and padded.

Standard safety equipment for the 2015 BMW 5 Series includes stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. The braking system also periodically wipes the brake rotors dry in wet conditions and automatically snugs the brake pads to the rotors in preparation when you abruptly lift off the throttle. Moreover, the standard adaptive brake lights warn traffic behind you by getting brighter when you apply more brake force. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an SOS button, remote door unlock and stolen vehicle recovery.

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