Walkaround and Interior

By November 14, 2012

Walkaround

The outward appearance of the 5 Series is unmistakably BMW. It has no extraneous horizontal surfaces as pre-2011 BMWs had, adhering instead to the functional appeal that has long been BMW's signature. The traditional kidney grille is present, and the short front overhang, a BMW trademark, is accompanied by a traditional long hood and long, segment-leading 116.9-inch wheelbase.

The hood on the Gran Turismo coupe models is even longer, and their wheelbase is 120.7 inches.

The 5 Series sedan cabin is set considerably to the rear, giving the sedan profile a slightly wedged, coupe-like forward-thrust shape that, given the car's performance, is in no way misleading. Handsomely flared wheel openings filled with stylishly modern wheels and large tires underline the car's muscularity and its rear-wheel drive layout. The signature kink in the rear side window's aft edge confirms that this is a bona fide BMW.

At the nose, the 5 Series features BMW adaptive xenon headlights for powerful, safe forward illumination. And in daytime running, the headlight complex is illuminated by LED rings of light. The turn indicators, as well, are illuminated by LED. Taillight clusters are illuminated in an LED pattern distinctive to BMW.

Interior Features

The cockpit of the BMW 5 Series defers to the driver. The dashboard is angled slightly toward the driver, while the horizontal lines of the dash add to a feeling of spaciousness for both front occupants. The center console doesn't crowd the driver. Controls are well placed, with the driver-only functions situated to the left of the steering column or on the wheel itself. Climate controls and ventilation are excellent.

The handsome leather-wrapped or wood-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel contains 12 fingertip adjustments for audio, phone and adaptive cruise control. A convenient tilt-away provision allows easy ingress and egress.

Both front seats have 10-way power adjustment. The standard Dakota leather is good, the optional Nappa leather is wonderful. The seats are softer than Mercedes seats, and stiffer than Lexus seats. If you do a lot of hard cornering, there won't be enough bolstering, not even with the Sport seats and their 18-way adjustment, including lumbar. If you don't drive your BMW like that, and few do, you probably won't notice the limited bolstering. And the lower bolsters make getting in and out easier.

We noticed an edge against the right knee when cornering. And we found the windshield's A pillar impaired visibility when trying to see ahead in a corner, or when pulling into a parking space in a parking lot.

The rear seats offer side bolstering, and rear seat legroom is 36.1 inches, about in the middle for the class: .3 inches more than the Lexus LS, but .7 inches less than the Hyundai Azera, and 1.3 inches less than the Audi A6. The sunroof is vast and can make the car feel like a convertible. Back-seat passengers will love it.

Back in the driver's seat, instrumentation includes four classic circular gauges set against a black panel. We think the BMW's gauges are beautiful and perfect: slim silver rings and clear number graphics, with no stupid hash marks to confuse your eyes. The tachometer shows yellow from 6700 rpm to 7200, then red to 8000, reminding you you're in something special.

Navigation is not standard, never mind that it's standard equipment on many cars that are half the price of the BMW 528i. A 7-inch console screen is standard. The display is trans-reflective: Sunlight doesn't affect its readability.

The navigation system is fairly easy to use. It's located in the center console on a large 10.2-inch screen, in a fine three-dimensional display. Audio guidance is well-timed, although it is not without its directional flaws, as we discovered driving on small roads around Lake Tahoe. With the optional head-up display, navigation guidance can be read on the windshield just above the steering wheel; that's eminently safer, because the driver doesn't have to turn his head and decipher things on the console, often on a busy freeway. The head-up display is sharp and clear; we like it a lot.

Six different two-tone interior color schemes are available, and the wood trim comes in three shades, with Ash Anthracite and Fineline Matte optional. Another optional trim, available on the three-spoke steering wheel, is aluminum, with dimples like a golf ball.