New BMW 5-Series revealed: little change outside but boasts remote control parking

This saloon closes in on self-driving, and will park itself even if you are out of the car

You have to look very closely at the body styling of BMW’s new 5-Series to see that it’s actually an all-new car. You may need subatomic-spec analytical tools.

Of all the conservative new model designs to come out of Germany in the last year (and, with the Audi A4, Q5, A5, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and VW Passat, there have been plenty to choose from), the seventh-generation 5-Series is easily the least adventurous.

The upside is that there probably won’t be a need to worry about the technology package. The 5-Series has always been BMW’s technology leader, even if the last two generations have seen the panels draped over it in ways that take steady-as-she-goes to the very outer edges of middling.

The 5-Series, due on sale in Europe in February next year, will arrive riding on the firm’s flagship 7-Series platform, shortened to 4953mm, or a matchstick under five metres long.


Critically, the car’s mix of high-strength steel, aluminium, magnesium and carbon-fibre in its core parts have slashed 100kg from its overall mass, even as it comes in both rear- and all-wheel drive layouts.

It will initially launch with four engines, including the 530i and 540i petrol-fueled in-line sixes and the 520d and 530d turbodiesels.

A month after that, BMW will feed three more 5-Series models into the lineup, including the 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid with 45km of pure battery-electric range, an extreme fuel-sipper Efficient Dynamics version of the 520d and a stonking M550i xDrive all-wheel drive.

Future technology

“The seventh generation of the BMW 5 Series points the way into the future, as we have defined it with our Number One >Next strategy,” BMW’s Chairman Harald Krüger claimed.

“We see technological leadership, emotionally rich products and digitalization as essential factors in achieving success.

“With the expansion of our model portfolio in the large-vehicle classes, we are satisfying the wishes of many customers. I’m in no doubt that the new BMW 5 Series will set new benchmarks technologically, but also have huge emotional appeal. It remains the epitome of the business sedan,” Krüger insisted.

It will score unprecedented levels of autonomous capability, including active steering, yet feature a lower centre of gravity and a rigid chassis structure to retain the brand’s traditional dynamic promise.

Self-driving in motorways and heavy traffic

For the first time, the 5-Series will be able to take care of the driving on monotonous stretches of motorway, adding to its existing ability to take care of the going and stopping bits of stop-start traffic jam negotiations.

It combines a stereo camera (behind the windscreen and ahead of the rear-view mirror) with the option of ultrasound and radar sensors to constantly analyze the areas around itself. It also introduces a raft of new driver assistance acronyms to BMW, including a Crossing Traffic warning, a Lane Change Assistant (LCA) and an active Lane Keeping Assistant (LKA) that nudges the steering to pull a drifting (no, not that kind of drifting) car back into its lane.

Its Active Cruise Control (ACC) joins forces with the speed-limit recognition software and the steering and lane-keeping systems to let the driver do, well, nothing. At least for a while.

BMW says the 5-Series will take over the steering, braking and acceleration work from the driver everywhere from zero to 210km/h, adjusting the speed to comply with the road’s limit automatically.

That’s going to be aided by a head-up unit that’s full colour and 70 per cent bigger than it was on the outgoing model, plus there’s a new high-resolution 10.25-inch in-dash multimedia screen with freshly designed tiles to scroll through to manage the car.

Self-parking while you wait

It adds new connectivity features, too, including an optional system that automatically detect empty car park spaces and autonomously parks the car for you. It has an optional system that, like the 7-Series, allows it to be parked via the key even if you’re not in the car.

It also scores the digital world’s equivalent of having a friend stand in an empty carpark and wagging a negative finger at anybody who tries to take it before you get there. Dubbed ParkNow, the technology digitally reserves and pays for parking spaces, but good luck telling that to everybody else.

BMW’s private executive jets have been a common sight at airports around Cupertino lately, and that relationship will go a lot further than you can see in the 5-Series. Still, it adds the first wireless version of CarPlay and MirrorLink.

Its Microsoft Exchange setup also lets Microsoft Office 365 users synch their emails, calendars and contacts, while the car can inductively charge smartphones and provide a WiFi hotspot for up to 10 phones, laptops or tablets.

Its owners will also be able to use a smartphone app to check up on the car, too. It can tap into the 3D 360-degree camera view by remote control, even from half a world away.


The biggest European seller will be its entry-level 520d four-cylinder turbodiesel, and BMW has pulled its fuel consumption down to 4.0 litres/100km (or 107 grams of CO2/km) while maintaining 400Nm of torque.

The base diesel will reach 100km/h in a claimed 7.6 seconds and surge on to a 237km/h top speed, so it won’t be embarrassed any time it finds itself on a German autobahn.

The faster 530d uses a three-litre, in-line six-cylinder motor, tuned to deliver 195kW of power and 620Nm of torque.

It’s easily the torquiest motor of the launch powertrains, with its 620 Isaacs arriving from 2000rpm, while its power peaks at 4000rpm.

The 530d might even be a sleeper performance sedan, too, with a 5.7-second sprint to 100km/h and a limited top speed of 250km/h, though it retains an NEDC figure of only 4.5 litres/100km.

The petrol power begins with the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo motor in the 530i, with 185kW of power from 5200rpm to 6500rpm. It also chips in 350Nm of torque from 1450rpm to 4800rpm, so promises to be flexible in urban situations.

It still manages 5.4 litres/100km on the NEDC, which is 11 percent better than its predecessor, and emits 126 grams of CO2/km.

BMW claims it will pull to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds and on to a limited 250km/h top speed thanks to a combination of direct fuel injection and variable valve-timing and lift, plus a twin-scroll turbocharger.

The 540i flagship (well, flagship so far) adds another two cylinders and uses a different turbocharger to deliver 450Nm of torque from only 1380rpm, which is an oddly specific number for BMW to use. It holds this all the way through to 5200rpm, and then the 250kW power peak takes over at 5500rpm through to 6500rpm.

It’s the pace leader, too, with the xDrive all-wheel drive version boasting a 4.8-second sprint to 100km/h and a limited 250km/h top speed, though it only emits 150 grams of CO2/km and uses 6.5 litres/100km on the NEDC cycle.

All of the powertrains will mate up to eight-speed ZF automatic transmissions and all of them will have all-wheel drive as an option.

Plug-in hybrid

The glaring absence there is a hybrid, and BMW will rectify that in Europe by March next year by introducing the 530e iPerformance.

It’s a plug-in hybrid that runs the same basic interior specifications as the 530i, but can run emission free for up to 45km on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery pack.

It will have a combined torque output of 420Nm of torque from 1450rpm thanks to using both a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and a disc-shaped electric motor, fitted inside its eight-speed automatic transmission.

BMW claims it delivers 2.0-litres/100km on the NEDC cycle and emits 46 grams of CO2/km, while moving to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds, which is marginally quicker than the stock 530i.

The same timing will also see the thriftiest of the pure internal-combustion models and the biggest hitter, with a new V8 engine.

The thumper of an M550i xDrive all-wheel drive runs a new version of the 4.4-litre biturbo V8, complete with 340kW of power at 5500rpm.

Its strong suite is torque, with 650Nm of it from just 1800rpm and it’s all enough to get the fastest of the new Fives to 100km/h in 4.0 seconds. That doesn’t leave the next M5 a lot of choice but to limbo beneath the four-second barrier, and to do that it will need all-wheel drive.

The V8 has an NEDC figure of 8.9 litres/100km, giving it 204 grams of CO2/km, and only combines with the eight-speed automatic.

At the other end of the fuel-consumption scale, BMW will also offer up the 520d Efficient Dynamics Edition, which will use wholesale aero and friction reduction trickery to pull the 520d’s 4.0 litres/100km down by a tenth of a litre.

It will still deliver 400Nm and still reach 100km/h in 7.5 seconds, but it pulls the CO2 figure down to 102 grams.