The 5 Series is BMW's longest-running current production model, and for 2014, it crosses a psychological threshold. The car that came to embody the midsize luxury sedan segment now costs more than $50,000 for the base model -- a jump of more than $2,000 from its predecessor. While not an excessive leap, the $50k barrier has long been a bright line over which many buyers simply wouldn't step.
But BMW can hope to charm some of those straddlers with several improvements to its stalwart sedan. The front fascia features a new lower front air intake design and more pronounced nose embracing the signature kidney grilles. A revised taillamp design punctuates changes to the rear end.
A standard air suspension with automatic rear self-leveling reminds you that the 5 Series is beyond an ordinary family luxury four-door. For 2014, BMW offers the 5 Series with Luxury and Modern trim packages, in addition to the M Sport. There's a new optional rear entertainment system and Harman Kardon surround-sound audio, along with a full suite of connected services that includes text-message/e-mail dictation and personal concierge.
Adaptive LED headlights are optional, as is a feature that opens the trunk when you swipe your foot under the rear bumper. And, addressing one of our gripes of the current model, BMW says the new trunk is larger, offering 2.1 more cubic feet of luggage space. That's a number based on European specs, which differ from EPA ratings. Regardless, any additional trunk volume is welcome.
A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder carries over in the base 528i model, as does the 300 horsepower/300 pound-feet turbocharged six-cylinder in the 535i. The top-trim 550i also carries over its 4.4-liter V8, although with significantly more juice. The twin-turbo engine now makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, gains of 45 hp and 30 lb-ft. BMW says the new 550i will cover zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
Bigger news is the availability of a diesel engine. The 535d will offer a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder delivering 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is offered on the 535i at no cost, while other models get an eight-speed automatic with optional steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The refreshed 5 Series faces perennial rivals in the Audi A6, which retains more of the sporting flavor that the 5 Series has gradually traded for comfort, and the luxury-amplified Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Less traditional alternatives include the Jaguar XF and Lexus GS 350.
The 2014 BMW 5 Series goes on sale in August starting at $50,425. Check back for a full review of the new 5 Series, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.