2011 BMW 5 Series Long Term Road Test

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2011 BMW 528i: Fix The Throttle Response In One Easy Step

December 15, 2011

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Step One: Buy a 2012 BMW 528i.

Hey, I said it was easy, not inexpensive. This is, however, a sure-fire, 100% effective solution to the crummy throttle response in our longterm 2011 BMW 528i. Hit the jump to learn why.

A 2012 BMW 528i recently showed up at Edmunds Global HQ for a few days, so I -- being the most vocal critic of our longtermer's driveability -- saw fit to spend some time with it. And I'm pleased to report that with the 2012 5er, BMW has exorcised all trace of our longtermer's throttle hesitation. Dip the throttle from a standstill in the 2012 model and the car immediately picks up. It's seamless and responsive, just as you'd expect from a normally aspirated straight six.

Except that you're not driving a normally aspirated straight six. The 2012 528i has a new, turbocharged (gasp!) four cylinder engine.

That's right, the new turbo four has better throttle response than the erstwhile inline six. To be clear, the '11 528i's hesitation seemed to be electronic in nature, perhaps some monkey motion associated with the drive-by-wire throttle/Valvetronic system. You'd dip into the throttle and for a brief, maddening moment, nothing would happen. At all. This to me is the telltale of something electron-fed and not a purely mechanical characteristic.

Whatever the case, the newfound alertness to throttle inputs is a welcome change.

There's more - the new turbo four has a (selectable) start/stop system that shuts off the engine when you reach a halt. You'd think this would defeat all the response-y goodness. You'd be wrong. Even with the start/stop system activated, the new car still manages to out-respond the old one.

Plus, this four cylinder is smooth and torquey and is said to provide better fuel economy than the six cylinder. The four cylinder engine could sound better, sure. But I'll trade that for the wholesale improvement in throttle response the 2012 model brings.

--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2011 BMW 528i: The Paddles Help

September 02, 2011

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It's a bit unusual to find paddles shifters in mid-sized luxury car, but our long-term BMW 528i has them. And they help.

It's been noted in these blogs several time before that the drivability of our 528 isn't great, with slow tip-in followed by abrupt acceleration.

So I've been trying the paddles as workaround and it seems to work. I'll put the transmission setting in Sport, and with the paddles I can choose my own gear and zing the engine all the way to top.

Which is good because this engine doesn't have a lot of bottom end.

And you? Do you use the paddle shifters in your everyday driving?

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 19,750 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: Little Big Car

August 30, 2011

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After all these miles, you’d think that I’d have gotten over the new size of the 5 Series.

It’s now a little big car instead of a big little car, more like a 7 Series than a 3 Series.

And I like the 7 Series. It’s far more of a driver’s car than you’d expect from something so hefty, and I’ve put in lots of miles in various iterations of this car over the years. And not just around the block, either.

Drove the first V12-powered 7 Series E32 from Dallas to Big Bend National Park and back. Drove the controversial Bangle-designed 7 Series E65 from San Antonio to L.A. Drove the Alpina B7 F01 around Sonoma County and then burned the tires off it at Infineon Raceway.

So I should be fine with the big car personality of the new 5 series. Only I’m not. In a way that I still cannot quite pin down even after 20,000 miles, this car has captured all the clumsiness of an even larger car and no amount of fiddling with the electronic chassis set up will make it go away. The bigness is always noticeable, from the slightly obscured sightlines from the driver seat to the delayed response from the control inputs.

This car still seems like a pricing strategy to me, a way to make 7 Series attributes more affordable. The trouble is, the big car attributes it displays are the very ones that remind me that smaller and lighter better suit the way I drive.

If it were my money, I’d be spending it on the world’s most expensive 3 Series. I still want a big little car, not a little big car.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 19,665 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: Sport+ > Normal

July 27, 2011

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Other editors, like Al Austria already covered the difference in the Normal, Sport and Sport+ settings of our 2011 BMW 528i so I decided to play around with them to feel the difference for myself. Running through them I felt like Goldilocks. OK, actually I skipped over just the Sport mode, which apparently you can customize to suit your tastes. I wanted to feel the drastic difference from Sport+ to Normal.

Sport+ felt just right. I loved the engine braking and thought it perfect during rush hour traffic since I didn't have to hit the brakes so often to slow down. The car felt tight, easier to control. I didn't have as much of an issue with the throttle tip-in as others had simply because I'm not as aggressive while driving in stop-and-go traffic, in terms of switching lanes a lot.

I loved how the car rev-matched my shifts, too. Felt so luxurious compared to the tester of another make I had driven the night before. Since the short-termer might be for an upcoming test, I can't really say what it was except that it had a Hemi, paddle shifters and was automatic. Upshifting and downshifting were herky-jerky while in the BMW, the shifts were imperceptible and smooth. They may not be cars that are usually cross-shopped but it's hard not to compare the two when driven back to back.

Anyway, back to the BMW, while in Normal mode, the Bimmer felt comparatively loosy goosey and floaty. I hated this mode so much that I kept the car in Sport+ most of the time.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 17,670 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: Skipping

July 25, 2011

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Our long-term 2011 BMW 528 got new rear tires on Friday, just before I took it for the weekend. Mike Schmidt warned me to take it easy for a bit to break them in. I told him, sure, I know. I related to him a story of a friend of mine in Detroit who had never fallen from his motorbike. Until he got a new rear tire and rode fast just after mounting it. That big, greasy donut spun up and spat him off in a corner. "I don't know about those Dunlops," he said. The rest of us in the riding group asked him if he forgot about wearing off the tire mold release...

By coincidence, we also got Dunlops on our 528 -- 18-inch runflat SP Sport Maxx GTs. After driving 100 miles (more than enough to scrub the tires), I decided to drive quickly on a freeway on-ramp. The pavement turned out to be bumpy, and the rear of the car noticeably skipped a few times going around the bend. Nothing to get worried about, though.

I hadn't notice this before in the 528, but I will try it when I get it the next time I get the car. Because those tires should have been scrubbed in by then.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 17,600 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: We Went to Montana, Part 5

July 21, 2011

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My tight schedule for the Montana trip didn't leave nearly enough time to try out fun back roads.

When I got back to Missoula after my detour to Glacier National Park, I was dying to hop on U.S. 93 (which gets pretty twisty when you cross into Idaho), and then I'd maybe cut over to state highway 75... But it was getting late (already 7 or 8 p.m.), and U.S. 93 looked kind of remote and I didn't have a plan in place for where to stay that night, and so with considerable disappointment, I continued on I-90 to I-15 and pulled into Idaho Falls sometime after midnight. I still have regrets over making the safe choice, and I'm trying to talk my significant other into making another trip up to the far north next summer (or maybe even this fall). I did use U.S. 93 through Nevada, and I found it blissfully serene and light on traffic. Beautiful, too, as seen in the above photo.

So I had to settle for the occasional series of sweeping turns on Montana highways 200 and 83 -- a couple of the roads I used to get to Glacier. Actually, the road that goes through Glacier, Glacier Route 1 or Going to the Sun Road, is very curvy with a lot of elevation gain (and then a steep descent going back down), and could be a lot of fun, but it's posted between 25-40 mph and jammed with tourists who are in absolute awe over the enormous scale of the mountains and the glaciers... which is to say, people like me. However, that translated to a traffic jam worthy of an L.A. freeway, and after two hours of crawling along and stopping to take photos, I had to turn back. That was frustrating, but the scenery is stunning, and if you haven't been here, you should go here... just reserve 2-3 days to get through the traffic. Many photos await after the jump.

And the 528i? Well, it will come as little surprise to you that this isn't a car I'd take out on a "just because" drive. It is, however, a good companion for adventures on unfamiliar roads.

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2011 BMW 528i: We Went to Montana, Part 2

July 18, 2011

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Somewhere around Ogden, Utah, I had to exit Interstate 15 to watch our long-term 2011 BMW 528i's hit the 15,000-mile mark*. We didn't linger long, because there were still another 500 miles between us and Missoula, Montana, our destination for the night.

While I was photographing the occasion, an E46 3 Series coupe rolled by and reminded me just how large BMW's family of sedans has gotten over the last decade. Throughout this trip, I had moments where I'd forget which car I was driving... was I in the 528i or was I back in our 2009 750i (which I also took on a long road trip)?

*The warning triangle in the cluster is a low wiper fluid warning. However, despite mass windshield-based killings of bugs in Utah and later Idaho, I never ran out during the trip.

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2011 BMW 528i: We Went to Montana, Part 1

July 15, 2011

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About a year ago, I told you I was headed to Montana with our long-term 2011 BMW 528i. I'd planned to blog in semi-real-time, but except for some scattered Facebook updates, I've been on radio silence since leaving town last Sunday. Turns out I had to spend pretty much all my waking hours at the wheel, stopping only to sleep, eat and refuel.

Well, I'm back now and I feel kind of rejuvenated in spite of the near-nonstop driving. That means you can expect a bunch more posts with various thoughts (some interesting, some boring) I had during all those hours alone in the car.

Of course, you can't help but grow attached to a car on a trip like this, and as a couple of you predicted, I never thought about our 528i's jerky throttle response, except when pulling out of my motel in the mornings.

Meanwhile, I became an even bigger, even more annoying fan of BMW's normally aspirated inline six-cylinder engine. (Just how annoying? Well, I attended a media event for a rival automaker, and I took over the dinnertable conversation talking about this engine, until finally an employee of said rival automaker leaned over and said, "OK, we get it. Can we please talk about [X vehicle] that you've come here to drive?!" "Sure," I replied, "as soon as you acknowledge that this inline-6 is better than any of the comparable Vee engines your company builds." Wow, I'm kind of a jerk.)

Note the elevation posted on the sign, which appeared 997 miles into the trip. On this whole drive, we never saw anything higher than 8,000 feet, and most of the driving was at 4,000-5,000 feet. By about 6,000 feet, the N52N engine showed subtle altitude-related fatigue, so merging and passing required a few more revs -- a situation I actually enjoyed, because this engine makes some great sounds when it's working.

Before I left town, I was wondering how I was going to keep track of trip mileage since like all other BMWs, the 528i doesn't have the conventional Trip A/B counter -- there's just one trip counter in the cluster. Then, I found this page within the iDrive menus. Turns out we've always had the "automatic reset" box checked, so the data on this page is zeroed out whenever we clear the trip counter.

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2011 BMW 528i: Road Trip Complaints

July 05, 2011

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After a Canada Day weekend road trip to Las Vegas, I have the following complaints about our long-term BMW 528i ...

That is it. I have none. No complaints about its abilities on the highway, which is in stark contrast to how it drives me up the flippin' wall everywhere else. The 800-way power seats are superb. The ride is excellent. The damned annoying throttle isn't damned annoying. I get along with current-gen iDrive. Power is plentiful and I actually got 30.8 mpg averaging about 77 mph on the up-and-down hilly LA-Vegas route on I-15. That's pretty damned good for an engine about to be replaced by something even thriftier.

So as an Autobahn cruiser, the BMW 5 Series does its job exceptionally well. However, the old car did as well and it didn't drive me up the flippin' wall.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 14,148 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: Enjoy the Inline-6 While You Can

July 01, 2011

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Turns out, our long-term 528i is the last of its breed. For 2012, its 3.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-6 will be replaced by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection and stop/start technology. Like our car, it'll produce 240 horses, but torque goes up to 260 pound-feet from 230. Fuel economy is already pretty strong with the six-cylinder at 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, but it should go up by 15 percent says BMW.

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2011 BMW 528i: Left Hangin' By Default

June 29, 2011

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The freeway on-ramp I use nearly every day starting out for the office is a fun, straight two-lane strip that climbs about 25 feet to reach the highway. If you stay right, the same lane becomes an exit run for the avenue up ahead. Merge left, and you're quickly sucked into a long sweeping left-hander that feeds into the northbound 405 melee.

If I catch a couple of green lights before the on-ramp, the whole thing becomes a fun left/right combo, then a mash for the uphill sprint, merge, then set up the car and see how well it holds the lane through the descending ribbon. The other morning I caught the signals just right, and gave the 528 some throttle leading into the on-ramp.

And nothing happened.

For literally what seemed like three seconds. Nothing. I carried the speed I had into the turn and made it about a quarter of the way up the ramp before the car leaped forward and surged through its gears. We were up to merge speed in no time, but the moment had passed. So unromantic.

I'll cop to some driver error here. I hadn't engaged either Sport mode before setting out. Sorry to beat this horse again, but it's disappointing that BMW set the 528's bar this low for its default dynamic setting.

Hopefully the new M5 responds better than this test driver.

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2011 BMW 528i: It's Not Just Me!

June 24, 2011

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I was just sent a bit of information in regards to J.D. Powers' Initial Quality Study which spotlights one of my biggest peeves with some new cars. Throttle tip-in.

According to the study, "The problem lies in glitches with engine and transmission and in-car telematics technology. J.D. Power's report says that in the case of engines, "with high fuel prices and more stringent government regulations, automakers are designing engine and transmission software to make their models as economical as possible. However, this sometimes leads to the engine or transmission hesitating when accelerating or changing gears." Thus, consumers this year are reporting this as a problem more often than in past years."

Now, knowing about a problem doesn't necessarily mean that anything will be done about it, but at least I know I'm not alone.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 BMW 528i: Pull to Pass

June 07, 2011

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Sitting in bumper-to-bumper congestion last night and watching the driver-side mirror, I saw a long gap developing in the next lane. One of those times when your lane is inexplicably stopped, while everyone else is moving around you.

I let off the brake and pointed the nose in one motion, then applied throttle. Nothing happened. Then, not really giving the computer a chance to catch up, I asked for more and got plenty - quickly. Enough to have to lift, straighten the wheels and get back on the gas before the car behind started bearing down, Of course, within a matter of seconds, it was back to the brakes.

Metropolitan traffic. What are you gonna do? But it was a nervous moment that got me thinking.

The car was in Normal dynamic mode. I started in Sport, but as traffic thickened, that mode's shifting and engine braking felt too aggressive and I resorted to the workaround: roll out slightly, flick the downshift paddle, apply throttle. Dropping a gear tightens up response appreciably, and makes it easy to leap from a standstill or swiftly cut through a lazy merge stream.

Not revolutionary, I know. Then it dawned on me that the Outlander Sport needs to be driven the same way (although with far more attention and engagement). The TSX wagon also livens up with this approach.

Yikes. The new normal. No more day-dreaming in auto-pilot or simply leaning into the pedal for instant bursts. Nope. You can still get around the computer committee, but you'll need to start putting your hands into it. As a traffic-breaker or long-range commuter, an automatic 528i with paddles isn't a bad option. Let it shift for you most of the time, then grab a paddle to pass.

Otherwise, viva la manual.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 BMW 528i: I Like This Car More Than Most

June 06, 2011

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Our 528i has caught plenty of flack over the last few months. It's throttle is too touchy, it's not sporty enough, it's boring looking (that was me). I have my issues with it, but after a weekend behind the wheel, I still find this one of the most satisfying sedans in our fleet.

For one, the whole throttle thing doesn't bother me all that much. I think I just adapted to the point where it no longer feels out of the ordinary. It's not an overly powerful car anyway, so I'm generally not expecting a huge rush of immediate power.

I also like the solid feel of our 528i. From its doors to the movement of the shifter to the suspension tuning, it's all very precise and mechanical. And no other car in our fleet feels as planted at 70mph, even the cars with better steering and/or firmer spring setups. No, it's not really sporty in the traditional sense, but this 5 Series doesn't get flustered by much either. It does fine if you throw it into a corner at tire squealing speed, just don't expect to muscle it out of the turn with the throttle.

If it were my choice, I would find a way to get the 535i for the extra power alone, but for the majority of buyers in this category, the smaller engine and tamer tuning would feel just fine.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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2011 BMW 528i: I Don't Like This Car, Either

May 25, 2011

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"'This might be the perfect car,' exclaimed one of our road test editors after putting the BMW 550i through its paces at our test track. 'It's the perfect size, looks great, it's fast, it handles. Does everything well.' You could throw in supremely comfortable, quiet on the highway, luxuriously appointed and beautifully built. We would never go so far as to declare it 'the perfect car' — there are always going to be a few areas of contention — but the BMW 550i would most certainly be among the nominees with Vegas odds in its favor."

I wrote that back in 2008 about the previous-generation BMW 5 Series. While I always thought it looked silly and not like a proper BMW, I begrudgingly had to admit that it was sensational for all that stuff up there and that it still drove like a proper BMW.

This new 5 Series, however, does not get that same endorsement. It may look more like a proper BMW, but now it drives silly.

It starts the second I dip into the throttle and nothing happens. I have absolutely no idea why people supposedly like this lazy throttle response or why BMW thought it was a good idea, but it's infuriating. Alas, I am in "Normal" mode because the car defaults to that every time I start the car. Press "Sport" and now the throttle response still has a brief delay, but it's immediately followed by this manic, hyper sensitive reaction that makes you feel like you dumped a gallon of Monster Assault into the gas tank. Great on a canyon road I suppose, but nutty everywhere else.

Hey, I have an idea. What about a "BMW" mode that feels like, you know, what the 5 and all the old BMWs felt like. My Z3 may be old, flaccid and thrown together Frankenstein-style with parts from two different 3 Series, but at least it doesn't feel like it's A) Asleep or B) Controlled by a caffeinated squirrel.

Once I move beyond the throttle, the rest of the new 5 begins to sink in. Yes, it's very big now, but that's not my biggest beef. The last generation was pretty big, too. It just feels too soft and too isolating, almost (gulp) Volvo-like. The electric steering is a great approximation, but again, neither of the two driving modes successfully achieve the outgoing engineering artistry. It doesn't encourage you to drive; it feels like a limo now.

Now, I understand that typical midsize luxury sedan buyers aren't taking their cars to track days, probably don't live within 1,000 miles of a canyon and will rely on their car principally for commuting, errands and road trips. Yet the stereotypical BMW driver (and I've talked to a few about this very topic), want a car that makes them excited to drive regardless of where they're going. I count myself in that group. The old 5 Series begged me to drive it, the new car doesn't and I think that's sad.

Frankly, I think BMW is losing the plot and risks losing its core clientele while attempting to suck in Lexus drivers or whoever will supposedly benefit from "Normal" modes and all that isolation. One 5 Series owner I talked to said the new car doesn't interest him, coming to a similar conclusion I did after a test drive. I can't be certain, but I'd wager that could be a common response.

One thing I am certain about, however: BMW 5 Series is no longer in my running for perfect car.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 12,199 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: Rough Shifts?

May 11, 2011

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In the past, I've griped about throttle tip-in on our long-term BMWs. It's been a while since I've driven it, but last night in our 528i, I noticed something else: poor shifts.

It was noticeably jerky, with a quick lurch forward just before it drops unceremoniously into second gear. "That's odd," I thought. It's not consistently repeatable, but it does happen quite often. The roughness of this shift is definitely something I would've noticed (and posted on) before.

Besides the one-two shift, I also found another lumpy transmission spot. After coasting a short while, I'd re-apply the throttle -- not a good wallop on the pedal -- just slight pressure to resume speed. Again, a rough shift.

In luxury cars, I often coast to a super smooth limo stop, but the BMW wouldn't let me. In the last 20 feet or so, the transmission awkwardly downshifts into first gear. It lurches forward enough to feel as though I had a leg spasm and gave a quick jab to the brake pedal. This leads me to believe that perhaps we need to have the car looked at, as it's very un-BMW-like. It's as annoying as our Cruze was when we first took delivery of it.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 BMW 528i: The Good And The Bad

May 05, 2011

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The Good: Our longterm 2011 BMW 528i's headlights are probably the best in our fleet. Bright, even light, color temperature is spot on (no blue to speak of), the cutoff has no murky rainbow nonsense. Just a wall of illumination. I wish all of our cars had headlights as good as these.

The Bad: The awful throttle response. Initial tip-in in particular is so irritatingly bad that it alone would prevent me from buying this car.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2011 BMW 528i: Throttle Tip-In Insanity

April 20, 2011

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I drove our long-term 2011 BMW 528i the other night for the first time in a while. I switched back and forth between the Normal, Sport, and Sport+ settings. We all agree here that Normal setting is too lethargic with regard to powertrain response, so we'll forget that altogether. However, many people here like the Sport setting. But for me, this too has the familiar combination of sluggish throttle tip-in, followed by wild acceleration.

So Sport+ must be the place, yes?

Nope.

The accelerator pedal feels stiffer in Sport+, as if the throttle return spring rate was increased. It's difficult to smoothly tip-in the throttle. And in Sport+ the throttle is jumpy, the transmission is jerky, and there is too much engine braking as the transmission tries to hold a low gear.

If I sound too fussy, I'll once again state that our long-term 2011 Hyundai Equus is just fine for me. The Equus' powertrain is much more refined, while still remaining adequately exciting (in Sport mode.)

Yeah, this isn't a straight up comparison as the Equus has a 4.6L V8, while the BMW has the normally aspirated 3.0L inline 6.

Whatever, they're both executive sedans that cost about $60K.

The bottom line is if you told me five years ago that one day I would prefer the powertrain of a Hyundai to any BMW, I would have called you insane!

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 10,800 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: BMW Got The Paddles Right

March 02, 2011

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That's the upshift paddle on our 528i's steering wheel. It's placed well, turns with the wheel and stops with a deliberate but damped thud and at the end of its travel.

And there are more reasons why it's awesome.

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2011 BMW 528i: The Contender

February 23, 2011

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I'm a card-carrying member of the E-Class fan club. The sedan strikes an ideal luxury-car balance, shielding the driver from plebeian things like rough pavement without leaving him feeling like he's piloting the thing from North Siberia. And I have a soft spot for the 5.5-liter V8, with its flawlessly smooth power delivery.

I never thought I'd find myself switching allegiances, but our 5 Series has me giving it serious thought. For my tastes, it's a bit of a slug in "Normal" mode, but get it in "Sport" and it's ready to dance. True, its growth spurt has robbed it of some of its playfulness, but there's still ample fun to be had. And I love the way the car looks, both inside and out.

Its redesign has left the car feeling more luxury-focused -- which makes it more appropriate for most shoppers in this segment -- but the shift hasn't stripped it of its vitality. The 5 Series played bridesmaid to the E-Class last year in sales. It'll be interesting to see if this new Fiver finds the model a broader audience.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 9,494 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: The Eight-Speed Automatic

February 18, 2011

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You might think that having eight speeds in a transmission is just a few too many. But the eight-speed automatic in our 528i (it's made by ZF; you can watch a nifty cutaway video here) does work exceptionally well. If you're just driving the car normally, you'll never notice that the car has so many gears. Each shift is smooth and quick. And as Jay noted before, it makes a big difference in helping the 3.0-liter engine (just 240 hp for a 3,910-pound curb weight) seem perfectly adequate.

A video of the tachometer in motion with each gear shift follows after the jump, along with more transmission observations.

You have to watch carefully to see each shift, but it does go into eighth gear right at the end of the video, which was about 50 mph. This was in the car's Normal drive setting with light throttle applied.

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2011 BMW 528i: The 7 Series Experience

February 09, 2011

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In many ways, our 528i reminds me of our 2009 BMW 750i. First, there's the exterior. We mentioned previously that it can be tricky at first glance to tell the difference between the latest 7 and 5. Sitting inside, it's the same thing, with a very similar dash layout and feel. This deja vu applies to the driving experience as well. I haven't driven our 528i on a curvy road yet, but around town at least the dominant feeling is that of a luxury sedan rather than a sport sedan. Our 528i just feels big and not something that'll inspire you to slice around corners.

Whether this is good or bad likely depends on your perspective. On one hand, we're getting 90 percent of the 7 Series IMAX 3D experience for just $60,050. Equip a 740i similarly to our 528i and it'd cost about $75,000. Fifteen grand discount? That's pretty cool. On the other hand, our 5 doesn't really seem to follow the same playbook as previous 5 Series cars. Rather than seeming like a bigger 3 Series or even its own distinct model, it's mostly a smaller 7.

My take? I'd say the shift is a win for the majority of luxury sedan buyers. (You know who they are.) Enthusiasts with fond memories of the 1997-2003 5 Series get the loss.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2011 BMW 528i: 600-Mile Road Trip

January 19, 2011

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A couple of weeks ago I drove our long-term 2011 BMW 528i from L.A. to Vegas and back. It's about a 600 mile round trip through absolutely nothing. Before I left I asked you for questions you would like answered about the BMW. Things I might learn on the trip.

Well, here are the answers to some of your questions.

throwback says:

11:28 AM, 01/ 5/11

How are the seats? I have found that many modern cars have seats that are no designed for long distance travel. Its as if manufacturers are only building cars for commuters. My '02 Saab 9-5 Aero has spoiled me when it comes to supportive comfortable seats.

Throwback, I found the BMW's seats to be a B+ on the long drive. For me, (I'm 5' 11" 180 lbs.) they're comfortable for about 300 miles. When I arrived in Las Vegas I was happy to get out and stretch.

apinault says:

01:07 PM, 01/ 5/11

What do you think of the power of the vehicle? Is the 528 "enough" or is the 535 necessary?

On a drive like this the 528i had plenty of motor. No complaints, even up grades.

joefrompa says:

01:18 PM, 01/ 5/11

How's the car feel at very high speeds? Does the steering tire you after a few hours with twitchiness, or does it feel solid and stable?

Can you do a powerslide on pavement in the desert? Was it hard? :)

Joe, the 528i is solid and stable out on the highway. No twitchiness. No fatigue. And no, for powerslides on pavement you've got to pay up for the 535i or 550i. Better yet the upcoming M5.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2011 BMW 528i: Tip-in, Illustrated

January 14, 2011

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Both Jay and Karl noted the throttle tip-in (the delay between the time you press the accelerator and when the car starts moving) in our long-term 528i. It's just like our 7 Series in that regard, so I brought out the handy-dandy Dynolicious iPhone app to show the BMW's lazy response.

Above is the graph generated by Dynolicious with the 528i in Comfort mode. It's just a short and conservative acceleration run from a red light. In the first half-second or so, the speed and horsepower lines remain almost horizontal. Then, it feels like the car recognizes that you actually want to move forward and it begins applying power as a normal car would.

Below, is the same car in Sport + mode with similar pressure on the accelerator. Note the shorter pause before real acceleration begins and the steeper angle of the horsepower line. I also tried a few runs with the gear selector set in sport mode, but found no appreciable difference between that and normal mode.

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2011 BMW 528i: Rides Just Fine in Sport Mode

January 04, 2011

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I was never a huge fan of the Sport mode in our BMW 7 Series. It never felt quite right when dialed up to its stiffest setting. It was like the car just didn't want to be there. Normal always felt like its natural state.

Our 528i feels different. I drove it around in Sport mode most of the weekend and it feels right at home. Not overly jumpy or stiff, just taut around corners and firm over dips. It's a fine line and I think this 5 Series straddles it nicely. I didn't notice that much of a difference between the "Sport" and "Sport+" modes, so I generally left it in the former.

As you can see, there's some variation to the Sport mode settings if you want to mess with things a little. Probably a good thing as the throttle response is pretty quick when you dial it up. As far as the chassis goes, I could leave that in Sport all the time and not get tired of it. if only it would stay there after I set it.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 6,503 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: Lexus Mode Standard

December 08, 2010

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There, I fixed the switch titles on our long term 2011 BMW 528i.

You'd think that with a bunch of cars, picking cars would be like picking berries. But really, there are a number of factors that combine to make some cars feel like asteroids, passing once a century or so. The BMW 528i is my Halley's Comet. It's never been available to me before. Not once. So when I saw a free brick of white space next to it, I snagged it without looking any further. I still have no idea what short term cars we have.

But the point: The 528i is remarkably soft. Seats, steering and ride are all plush and numb. Like a pillow coated in novacaine. Like a Lexus with the steering precision to stay in your lane / on the road. On my ride home it was per-fect. I didn't even care that I was in traffic. But then I got home and realized that, for maybe the first time ever, I'd taken a BMW straight home. I didn't hit a canyon and I wasn't planning to hit one later. Which, of course, forced me to hit one later.

Rocking that little rocker upwards puts the car in sport mode (and then Sport +) and the throttle's sharper and the steering is a little heavier, but its still a very soft ride. Each time you start 'er up, you're back to 'normal' mode -- fuel economy regs and whatnot.

As noted by Jacquot in our Track Tested, "Feels fairly soft in rapid transitions -- even in Sport Plus. Is well-mannered, however. Chassis isn't snappy like an Infiniti. BMW is showing a change of direction here."

And as it is on the track, it is in the real world. Even in Sport +, this rides like a comfortable non-sport BMW. Maybe the $1,000 adjustable dynamic dampers help that, but truth be told, I really like this ride. I won't take it through the canyons again, but if I ever get a change to drive it home, or up PCH, or back to Massachusetts for a vacation, I'll jump at the chance. I rarely said that about our old 1-Series.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Inside Line

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2011 BMW 528i: Throttle Response via My Right Foot

November 28, 2010

Long Term BMW 528i Sport Mode.JPG

I spent Thanksgiving Week in our long-term 2011 BMW 528i. That right there should be reason enough for feelings of grattitude, and certainly the overall experience was positive.

However, as with BMWs dating back to the first Z3, I found the need to repeatedly activate "Sport Mode" after every start-up annoying. The default mode is "Normal," and throttle response in that setting is, well, not responsive enough. As Jay noted, there's actually a slight pause/stumble when you first tip in, which only exacerbates the problem.

It makes me wonder why BMW even offers different throttle response programming. Maybe it helps eek out another MPG or two on the EPA test cycle. Plenty of other manufacturers are compromising their vehicles' driving characteristics for that reason.

In my mind offering different throttle programs is like offering different power window speeds or different volume knob turning ratios. Don't offer multiple versions of this. Just figure out the best one and be done with it. And yes, this holds true for variable steering too, as too many of those systems also do more harm than good.

You know what I use to vary throttle response in my older cars? It's a pretty exotic tool that can modulate the throttle to the perfect amount I need for any given situation. I call it my right foot.

I can see the value in different suspension settings, because those aren't something I can quickly change by simply altering my driving inputs. Otherwise, just give me a single, effective setting. I can do the rest myself.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor at Large @ 5,656 miles

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2011 BMW 528i: More From Yosemite

November 20, 2010

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We left Yosemite in the 2011 BMW 528i determined to take the Tioga Pass out of the park. Our only obstacle was the weather, which was rolling in quickly from the east and threatened to close the pass before we made it. We crossed our fingers and hit the road.

The drive out and more pictures in Yosemite after the jump.

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2011 BMW 528i: Delivering The Power

October 11, 2010

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It turns out a straight six sans turbo can move our longterm 2011 BMW 528i with ample conviction. All it requires is the willingness to exploit the rev range.

And that's where the 8-speed autobox comes in.

Eight speeds is apparently not too many, if they're managed well. This is the conclusion I reached with the 8-speeder in the Lexus IS-F as well, so the art is two for two in my book.

If you just plant your foot, the 'box's fairly-quick shifts and close ratios keep the BMW near its peak power production range as revs don't fall very far with each upchange. It's also cooperative with the downshifting during part-throttle driving, especially if you slot the electric razor -- er, console shifter -- over to 'S' mode. And the shifts are smooth. Nearly imperceptible.

Yup, this car has plenty of thrust if you just feed it some revs. Don't fear the revs. Exploit them.

Oddly enough, when you're leaving from a dead stop this normally aspirated powertrain exhibits an annoying pause similar to that of our estwhile twin-turbo 750i (and yet the X5 M didn't do this). The lack of turbos in the former suggest that it's some kind of drive-by-wire throttle delay/fussiness creeping into certain modern BMWs. Shame, that.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2011 BMW 528i: Track Tested

October 05, 2010

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The decision to get a 2011 BMW 5 Series was easy. Seriously, easy. The decision to get the base, 240-horsepower 3.0-liter 528i, however, was not. Sure, it's hugely popular, but we could've had a V8. Remember, we're the guys who opted for a V8 in our Infiniti FX.

And it's not just an available V8 (550i) we're missing out on, but there's the 535i, which has the 300-horsepower turbocharged 6. We love that motor. We know that motor. We know the 535i. Last time we tested one, the 535i went from zero to 60 in 5.9 seconds and returned a quarter-mile time of 14.3 seconds @ 95.1 mph.

Buuuut, that's not what we got. We got the 528i. It's down 60 horsepower on the 535i and we just returned from the test track.

Follow the jump for full Track Tested results on our Long-Term 2011 BMW 528i.

Vehicle: 2011 BMW 528i
Odometer: 1,498
Date: 10/05/10
Driver: Josh Jacquot
Base Price (with destination and tax): $45,425
Options: Deep Sea Blue Metallic Paint ($550), Convenience Package ($1,700), Cold Weather Package ($1,050), Premium Package ($4,500), Sport Package ($2,200), Sport Automatic Transmission ($500), Ski Bag ($150), Split-Folding Rear Seat ($475), Side- and Top-View Cameras ($800), Xenon Headlights ($900)
Price As tested: $60,050

Specifications:
Drive Type: Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Eight-speed automatic
Engine Type: Direct-injection I6
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 2,996cc (183 cu-in)
Redline (rpm): 6,750
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 240 @ 6,600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 230 lb-ft @ 2,600 rpm
Brake Type (front): 13.7-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): 13.6-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Steering System: Electric speed-proportional power steering
Suspension Type (front): Independent multilink with two lower control arms and double ball joints, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar

Tire Size (front): 245/45R18 96Y
Tire Size (rear): 245/45R18 96Y
Tire Brand: Dunlop
Tire Model: SP Sport Maxx GT
Tire Type: Asymmetrical Summer Performance
Wheel Size: 18-by-8 inches front and rear
Wheel Material: Alloy
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,910

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2011 BMW 5 Series: Still Don't Like Electronic Shifters

October 04, 2010

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The whole shift-by-wire thing has been slowly making its way into luxury cars over the past several years and I still can't get used to it. I'm talking about automatic shifters that aren't really connected to the transmission. Instead, they're just oversized toggle switches that send signals to the transmission computer to shift up or down.

In the BMW, the shifter doesn't actually move, you just bump it forward for reverse and pull it back for drive. For park, you push the button. After several hundred miles behind the wheel, I'm starting to get used to it, sort of.

Still, it's one of those things that seems complicated for no apparent reason. Sure, it makes for slightly more efficient packaging, but just how much room did BMW save with this design? There are other reasons too, but shouldn't something that you touch every time you get in the car have some sway over other less prominent features? I think so.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line @ 1,298 miles

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