2021 BMW 5-Series

By February 5, 2021

The 2021 BMW 5-Series is a luxury mid-size sedan now in its seventh generation, and for 2021 it has been made fresher on the outside and inside. The grille is a bit taller and wider, with more pronounced slats that nudge the now-standard adaptive LED headlights out. The hood has been stretched to accommodate a new mild-hybrid system on the 540i model. At the rear, the taillights are new and the exhaust outlets bolder.

The 530e plug-in hybrid gets more power for 2021, although its modest all-electric range of 20 miles remains the same.

In the cabin, BMW advances the technology with a 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s 2.0 inches larger than last year, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that customizes driver preferences. The infotainment system is now one of the best on the market, with natural voice commands that can do things like raise or lower the windows.

The cabin’s weakness is the narrow rear seat, as this luxury car doesn’t seat five very well.

The base 530i packs a punchy 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a seamless 8-speed automatic transmission, with rear-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. An adaptive suspension impressively reads the nuances of the road.

The 530e plug-in hybrid mates its 2.0-liter engine to a 12.0-kwh battery pack to make the power even punchier than the 530i, with 288 hp and 310 lb-ft. That’s an increase of 40 hp over last year.

The 540i uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 with new mild-hybrid system that shuts off the engine to recapture energy while coasting, thus improving fuel economy by 2 mpg.

The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the M550i uses an enhanced M suspension with a lower ride height, added grip on larger tires, and more performance goodies.

The M5 makes an awesome 600 hp. For the full M treatment, there’s the 617-hp M5 Competition that rockets to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds.

The EPA rates the 2021 530i at 25/33/28 mpg with RWD and 1 mpg less with AWD. The 540i now gets 25 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined.

The 2021 5-series aced all six of the IIHS crash tests, resulting in a Top Safety Pick+, thanks to the adaptive LED headlights that are standard in 2021. Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitors, rear automatic braking, and automatic high beams.

An optional Driving Assistance Plus Package adds adaptive cruise control that can restart from a stop, active lane control, an emergency setting that can bring the car to a stop on a highway shoulder, and hands-free driving up to about 37 mph in clearly marked divided highways with a lead vehicle present. Other safety options include a surround-view camera with parking sensors.

Model Lineup

The 5-Series family include the 530i, 530e, 540i, M550i, and M5. It comes standard in two colors, white or black; any other color costs at least $550. The M550i and M5 are all-wheel drive, which is available on the other models for $2,300.

Starting at $55,195, the 2021 530i comes standard with synthetic leather upholstery, keyless start, ambient lighting, a sunroof, power-adjustable front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The 530e, equipped similarly, costs $3,000 more.

The 540i for $60,445 adds real leather, wireless smartphone compatibility, and adaptive cruise control.

The M550i stretches the price to $77,795.

The M5 sedan costs $104,495. There Competition model raises the price to $112,095. It rides 0.2 inches lower than the stock M5, and has firmer springs, ball joint mounts, and rear anti-roll bar. For 2021 it gets revised bumpers, a new Track mode, new shock absorbers, and revised dampers.

The 5-Series has a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty with 3 years/36,000 miles of scheduled maintenance.


The good news is that the familiar kidney grille has only grown a little bit taller and wider, in the change to the 5-Series nose. The new LED headlights are narrowed a bit, and spread out a bit by the wider grille, with twin L-shaped daytime running lights that double as indicators.

In the rear, the taillights are new and tailpipes bolder.


Occupants in the cabin are enveloped in serenity and technology. Two 12.3-inch screens fill the instrument panel. The 530i comes with synthetic leather upholstery, but real leather and wood trim comes on the other models.

The 5-Series’ 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster adapts to the drive mode, so the tach becomes an energy-usage monitor in EcoPro mode, for instance. The infotainment system’s voice commands are natural and relatively reliable.

The seats for four passengers are comfortable. In front they’re 16-way power-adjustable, and if that’s not enough, there’s an option for 20-way seats with automatic bolstering that sync with the drive mode, adding thigh extenders and headrest recliners.

There’s adequate head and leg room in the rear, but not enough width in the rear seat for a middle passenger to be comfortable. The drop-down armrest is best kept permanently dropped, revealing a pass-through opening to the long but narrow 14.0-cubic-foot trunk.

In the 530e plug-in hybrid, the trunk is a mere 10.0 cubic feet thanks to the battery pack.

Driving Impressions

The turbo-4 engine in the 530i is a 2.0-liter making 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, good enough to reach 60 mph in 5.8 seconds with all-wheel drive. The linear acceleration is made effortless by the superlative 8-speed automatic transmission that goes deep into the red during Sport mode driving, and remains calm in EcoPro or Comfort mode.

In the 530e, the 2.0-liter engine pairs to a 12.0-kwh battery pack to make 288 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The improvement of 40 hp from last year brings a 5.7-second 0-60 mph time.

The 3.0-liter turbo-6 540i with all-wheel drive can hit 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds.

All-wheel drive is optional on the 530s and 540i, while it’s standard on the M550i and M5 with V-8s. The system adds weight but it’s quicker.

The double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension never betray the car’s weight, about two tons. With rear-wheel drive the 5-Series feels light on its 18-inch wheels; it handles like a dancer, if a beefy one, still relatively agile. The 5-Series can cruise comfortably and leisurely, or in Sport mode it runs quicker, turns sharper, and handles with more firmness.

The 540i never lacks for power. The mild-hybrid system increases gas mileage by 2 mpg, and contributes to a 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds with available all-wheel drive.

The M550i’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 comes standard with all-wheel drive, which improves traction off the line. It ties that traction to the engine’s 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, to accelerate to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. Its suspension uses adaptive dampers that help it hug the road and go quicker in and out of turns. It’s a marvelously adept machine, one in total control of its mass.

If the M550i isn’t quick enough, there’s the M5 with 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. And if that’s not quick enough, there’s the M5 Competition with 617 hp. It can melt your face with a 0-60 time in 3.1 seconds.

Final Word

The 2021 BMW 5-Series may have a wide variety of models, but each is a leader of its kind. From the base steak-and-potatoes luxury sedan, to the plug-in hybrid, through turbo-6 and twin-turbo V-8 editions, the 5-Series can deliver mind-blowing performance as well as soothing luxury.


—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection


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