Highs Spacious interior, plenty of engine choices, generous technology features.
Lows Non-M models aren't particularly engaging to drive, bland interior styling, expensive option packages.
Verdict It might lack the driving verve of past 5-series generations, but this latest model offers plenty of luxury and upscale styling.
If quiet luxury and handsome styling are high on your new-car priorities list, the 2021 BMW 5-series sedan could very well be the answer. Its spacious and plush cabin is a pleasant place to spend your commute, and BMW offers a host of powertrain options to suit your needs, be they fuel efficiency or roaring V-8 performance. A facelift for 2021 brings sharper exterior styling that gives the 5-series an even more upscale appearance, and several tech upgrades should keep it in the fight against key rivals such as the Audi A6, the Genesis G80, and the Mercedes-Benz E-class.
What's New for 2021?
Along with its visual freshening for the 2021 model year, the 5-series boasts a new 48-volt hybrid powertrain, a larger 12.3-inch infotainment system, and upgraded driver-assistance features.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The mid-range 540i continues to be the best value in the 5-series lineup, offering a nice balance of performance and comfort. This model comes standard with rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available. The available Convenience package seems like a wise add-on, as it includes heated front seats, a power-operated trunk lid, and remote start. To unlock the 5-series's advanced semi-autonomous driving tech, go for the Driving Assistance Plus package.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Smooth, powerful, and efficient, both the four-cylinder in the 530i and the six-cylinder in the 540i motivate this big sedan with authority. For 2021, the 540i's powertrain gains a little extra boost, care of a 48-volt hybrid system, which we have not yet tested. Each pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts intuitively and quickly, making the most of the available power. The 540i's six-cylinder is silky smooth and potent, and it makes delightful noises. Apart from the top-dog M5, which we review separately, the M550i is the athlete of the lineup, with a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 under its hood. In our testing, the M550i sprinted through our acceleration runs quicker than the Audi S6 and Mercedes-AMG E53. All 5-series models are competent handlers, but they lack the kind of driving verve we expect from BMW. Steering feedback is light, and the rideÃ¢â¬âeven in the performance-oriented M550iÃ¢â¬âappears to be tuned more for comfort than pure driving pleasure.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the four-cylinder 530i will earn up to 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The six-cylinder 540i is rated at up to 25 mpg city and 32 highway. The more powerful V-8 M550i lowers those to 17 mpg city and 25 highway. Both the 530i and 540i overachieved in our real-world testing, delivering 34 and 31 mpg, respectively.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Rich appointments and good design make the cockpit of the 5-series a civilized space. It's a noticeable upgrade compared with the somewhat drab cabin of its predecessor. It's also spacious for rear-seat passengers and features an impressive amount of technology. We've experienced the optional 20-way multi-contour front seats, which adjust in every way imaginable and provide hourslong comfort. The standard seats might not be as indulgent, but you can still adjust them in 16 ways. The BMW's large trunk space is on par with what its competitors offer, fitting six carry-on suitcases back there. That said, the cabin is lacking in cubbies and storage compartments. To accommodate the battery pack, the plug-in-hybrid 530e has four less cubic feet of trunk space than nonhybrid models and swallow two fewer carry-on suitcases, but at least it retains its folding rear seats, unlike many other hybrids.
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