A 5 Series Owner Weighs In - 2011 BMW 528i Long-Term Road Test

2011 BMW 5 Series Long Term Road Test

2011 BMW 528i: A 5 Series Owner Weighs In

September 01, 2011


I‘m a guest blogger, and while I’m known as one who is knowledgeable about cars, my real qualifying credential for this particular blog post on our long-term 2011 BMW 528i is that I am a dyed-in-the–wool BMW guy who is driving my 10th in an unbroken string of BMWs (1987 325ic, 1989 325ic, 1991 325i, 1992 325i, 2000 330ic, 2000 528i, 2002 X5, 2004 525i, 2007 525i, 2010 528i).

Currently, I own a silver 2010 528i with the sport package, and it is the 4th consecutive 5-series I have owned since my model year 2000 528i with the sport package. So while I may not have the broad expertise of my editorial colleagues – I do know the contemporary 5-series really well.
What I’ve appreciated most about my 2010 5 Series, and those before it, is its size – just big enough but not too big - and the balance it strikes between offering both sporty and luxury characteristics.


By sporty, I mean that the 2010 and previous model cars feel light, nimble and powerful, but handle precisely with balance and poise, always controlled and confidence inspiring.

By luxury, I mean the styling (I was on board with Bangle-inspired flame surfacing from the get go), materials quality, build quality, and the technology and telematics (I like iDrive, too). Once I became accustomed to it, it became second nature to control all vehicle functions through the knob and screen.

Much has been said in this long-term blog to address the specific qualities of the 2011 528i, so I won’t belabor the details, but I will focus on what I found to be different, and how I feel about these differences after two days behind the wheel.

It has grown to a size and scale that prevents it from achieving the simple qualities that were so attractive to me: lightness and nimbleness. Don’t get me wrong, the car is still spry and it accelerates well – though this requires use of the Sport transmission setting – but it has lost the nimbleness that really defined the dynamics of the previous model. In non-sport mode, the car feels like it was given a sedative.

In “sport” mode, and especially in “sport+”, acceleration is swift and gearing is optimized to deliver satisfying performance. However, there is the throttle tip-in issue, which is real, and despite my wanting to master it and have the throttle submit to my familiar foot, I was unsuccessful. Power delivery notwithstanding, this 5 series is just too big to feel nimble. This characteristic has apparently been relegated to the 3-series. Much has been said about this new 5 series approximating the size of 7-series of yore. If I wanted a 7-series, I’d get a 7-series.

The hope on my horizon is that the pending redesigned 3-series will also grow to fill the void left by the 5-series in terms of scale and size. Michael Jordan hit the nail on the head with his assessment – this is a little big car when it had previously, and so attractively, been a big little car.

The luxury aspects, on the other hand, have been positively amplified. The seats feel more thickly bolstered and yielding, and surfaces like the dashboard, door panels, and armrests are more luxuriously pliable soft to the touch. Though my 2010 528 is expectably quiet inside, in this 2011 528i, road, wind and tire noise are all but banished from the interior, however, you can still enjoy the wonderful sounds of the high-revving inline 6. As with the rest of the car, the construction of the cabin is first-rate, setting a new standard for elegant, austere, driving-focused luxury.

Simple interior aspects were particularly impressive – the enhanced iDrive functionality and resolution and clarity of the iDrive display screen, the matte aluminum trim underscoring the wood across the dash and on the doors, the flush surface of the center stack with the digital information display illuminated beneath it, the ambient interior lighting. All of these design elements, and many more, signify the newfound emphasis on luxury vs. sport, which was the hallmark of the 5-series previously.

Not sure what my next car will be. Odds makers would have me in a 2013 5-series, maybe with a turbocharged 4 that makes lots of torque (and with revised and corrected throttle response). BMW seems to want to appeal to the masses in a quest to achieve sales volume leadership. In this quest, they have clearly put emphasis on size and luxury. While I like the results, I am not bought in entirely. In 10 months, you can be sure I will be test driving the competition in earnest - for the first time in a long time.

Bryan Glickman, Vice President Sales Operations

Leave a Comment

Past Long-Term Road Tests

Price Drop Alert

We found that have recently dropped in price. Sign up to see this price drop and to receive future price drop notifications.