What's New for 2010
In its twilight year before a complete overhaul, the 2010 BMW 5 Series has been only mildly updated. When equipped with the optional navigation system, the 5 gets the latest version of BMW's iDrive electronics interface. There are also a new Value package and M Sport package.
Like Frank Sinatra singing "My Way," the 2010 BMW 5 Series is looking at the tail end of its career. With a completely redesigned model just a year away, the latest 5 is facing its final curtain, but does so while still remaining a top choice for a premium midsize luxury sedan. Indeed, while newer competitors have surpassed this segment's elder statesman in certain areas, the 5 remains one of the finest vehicles in the world to travel each and every highway.
Regrets? The 5 has a few, but the most worthy to mention is iDrive, which has been harped on endlessly since its introduction in the early 2000s. For 2010, all 5 Series thankfully get the latest iDrive knob and accompanying menu buttons, but without navigation, the same old convoluted menu structure remains. We suggest opting for the navigation system, which includes the higher-resolution screen and improved iDrive menus found in the all-new 7 Series.
Other than those updates, the 2010 5 Series continues to consist of the 528i, 535i and 550i sedans and 535i xDrive wagon. Of all these, the 535i would certainly be our pick. Its twin-turbocharged inline-6 endows it with an ideal blend of seamless power and respectable fuel efficiency. This torque-rich engine pulls hard from low in its rev range and effortlessly gets this BMW up to speed. In fact, the 535i is only a few tenths slower to 60 mph than the V8-powered 550i, while returning only 1 mpg less combined than the 528i.
The strong engines, along with an ideal ride/handling balance, spacious interior and impressive build quality are still the 5 Series' core strengths. Yet it is certainly pricey, and its advanced age has put it behind the electronic times in a few areas. Also, its standard steering may be too stiff for some drivers. As such, the fully redesigned Mercedes E-Class, the sleek-looking Jaguar XF and even the very impressive Hyundai Genesis are worth close looks. But the 5 Series has faced them all and stood tall, continuing to be a favorite among our editors and shoppers alike. So although the end is near, the 2010 BMW 5 Series still does things its way.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 BMW 5 Series is available in sedan and wagon body styles. Three engines are available on the sedan that correspond to the three trim levels (528i, 535i and 550i), with xDrive all-wheel drive available on the 528i and 535i sedans. The wagon comes in 535i xDrive trim only.
The 528i comes standard with 17-inch wheels, a sunroof, automatic headlights and wipers, power front seats with driver memory and power headrests, a power tilt-telescoping steering column, leatherette vinyl upholstery, automatic climate control, the iDrive electronics interface and a 10-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The 535i adds adaptive xenon headlights and lumbar support, while the 535i xDrive wagon adds a panoramic sunroof, fold-down rear seats and a power tailgate. The 550i adds parking assist, leather upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Many of the features that are standard on upper-level 5 Series models are optional on the lower trim levels, as are numerous additional features available in packages and/or as stand-alone items. These include larger wheels, active steering, a lane-departure warning system, front and rear parking assist, a head-up display, an infrared night vision display, active cruise control, automatic transmission shift paddles, fold-down rear seats, rear sunshades, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel (package only), multicontour "Comfort" seats, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system (paired with a different iDrive system), satellite radio, HD radio, an iPod interface and a 13-speaker premium surround-sound system.
There are several sport packages available. The Sport package available on the 528i and 535i adds active roll stabilization, 18-inch wheels, performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, "Comfort" front seats and a sport steering wheel. The Sport package available on the xDrive models only includes the seats and steering wheel. The M Sport package available on all trim levels includes all the regular Sport package items, but adds an aerodynamic body kit, dark gray headliner and on the 550i, 19-inch wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
The 528i comes with a 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. The 535i gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that pumps out 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The 550i has a 4.8-liter V8 under its hood good for 360 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque. The sedans are rear-wheel drive by default, but the 528i and 535i sedans can be equipped with all-wheel drive. All three engines come with a standard six-speed manual or an optional a six-speed automatic.
Performance is adequate even in the base 528i, but for those who care about moving swiftly, the 535i won't disappoint. We clocked a 535i with the manual transmission at 5.8 seconds from zero to 60 mph. The 550i is fleeter still, completing the same sprint in 5.4 seconds with a stick shift. Fuel economy is very good in the 528i (18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with the automatic) and almost the same in the 535i sedan (17/26/20 mpg), with only a minimal penalty if xDrive is added. However, the 535i xDrive wagon drops to 16/24/19 with the automatic, and the 550i returns 15/23/18 mpg.
Standard safety equipment includes stability control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. Rear-seat side airbags are optional. The available lane-departure warning system alerts the driver via vibrations in the steering wheel if the car starts to veer out of its lane, and a night vision system is capable of displaying possible hazards that are otherwise out of regular headlight range. Both hill start assist and hill descent control are standard on AWD models.
In government crash tests, the 2010 BMW 5 Series earned only three out of five stars for driver protection in a frontal crash, although it did receive a full five stars for front passenger protection and front and rear side protection. In crash testing performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 5 Series achieved the top score of "Good" in the frontal-offset test. However, the IIHS gave it the second-lowest rating of "Marginal" for side safety because of potential torso injury risk for front occupants.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 5 Series boasts one of the most spacious and comfortable cabins in its class, particularly when optioned with the fantastic "Comfort" front seats, which adjust in seemingly infinite ways. Rear-seat head- and legroom are also generous for its class. In addition to the accommodating cabin, the 14-cubic-foot trunk can hold a fair amount of stuff, and its opening is wide. The wagon has a maximum cargo volume of more than 58 cubic feet.
The overall look of the interior is on the austere side, even though materials quality is very good. The 5 Series' standard iDrive electronics interface has drawn criticism over the years, but the situation has improved for 2010. When equipped with the new hard-drive-based navigation system, iDrive features the same updated control knob, physical menu buttons, high-resolution display screen and revised menu structure found in the new 7 Series. Without the navigation system, the 5 Series features the same new knob and menu buttons, but the screen remains, along with the convoluted and frustrating old menus. It's like getting a MacBook Air with OS 9.
The 2010 BMW 5 Series is just at home on a winding back road as it is on a leisurely cross-country road trip. Opting for either of the sport packages allows the 5 to tackle tight corners as skillfully as some dedicated sports cars. When driven aggressively, the steering has perfect weighting and a near-telepathic feel, but around town and in parking lots, it feels overly heavy. For this reason, we think casual drivers mostly interested in the 5 Series' looks, luxury and curb appeal should opt for the active steering system. Likewise, those drivers might find the ride quality to be a little stiff at times when equipped with the Sport package, but overall this BMW is a fine all-purpose luxury sport sedan.