Full 2014 BMW 5 Series Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 BMW 5 Series lineup expands to include the diesel-fueled 535d sedan, which features a turbocharged, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Meanwhile, the V8-powered 550i now makes 443 horsepower, up from 400 last year. BMW has also added Luxury and Modern equipment lines to give shoppers more opportunity to customize their cars. You'll also notice minor exterior styling revisions, and inside you'll find slightly more storage space along with new options like a personal concierge service and a rear entertainment system. Finally, a navigation system is standard across the board this year, and the iDrive controller now supports freehand text entry.
For most of its four-decade history, the BMW 5 Series has been known for its classic style, exacting craftsmanship and athletic personality. More so than perhaps any other model in the company's lineup, this midsize luxury sport sedan epitomized BMW's "Ultimate Driving Machine" advertising tagline. The 2014 BMW 5 Series represents a larger, more practical generation of this famed nameplate that prioritizes comfort, safety, technology and, yes, fuel economy over a sporty driving experience. Even so, the 5 Series remains one of the world's pre-eminent midsize luxury sedans, and if you're shopping in the class, you'd be remiss to skip over it.
For 2014, the 5 Series continues to evolve. The big news is the arrival of the diesel BMW 535d sedan, which has a turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine good for 255 hp and 413 pound-feet of torque. Better yet, it's EPA-rated at 30 mpg combined (whether you stick with rear-wheel drive or opt for all-wheel drive), which tops the four-cylinder 528i's efficiency numbers and makes the diesel 5 Series one of the most fuel-efficient midsize luxury sedans out there. In a nod to shoppers with different priorities, BMW has also upgraded the V8 engine in the 550i. It now makes 443 hp and should deliver you to 60 mph with even more haste as a result. In between you'll find the 302-hp 535i sedan, which remains impressively quick in its own right.
The 5 Series already had one of the nicest interiors in this class, but BMW has made a number of changes here as well. New Luxury and Modern equipment lines join the existing M Sport package, and each has its own interior and exterior trim combinations to help you tailor the car to your liking. A navigation system is now standard across the board (formerly, it was optional for the 528i), as is a revised control dial for BMW's iDrive system with a touchpad that recognizes hand-traced characters. A longer options list includes a new rear entertainment system with dual, tilt-adjustable screens and an upgraded suite of connected services that includes a personal concierge.
However you equip it, the 2014 BMW 5 Series offers an impressively complete package. Nonetheless, it faces formidable competition, starting with the 2014 Audi A6, the all-new 2014 Cadillac CTS and the 2014 Lexus GS 350. All three of these sedans offer much of the sportiness the 5 Series once had but sacrificed in favor of increased comfort and refinement. If you're after more of a full-on luxury experience, the Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz E-Class are also worth a serious look.
Ultimately, each of these midsize luxury sedans has its own personality, and there's really not a bad choice to make in this group. Whether you bring home the BMW or one of the others, you'll likely be quite happy with your purchase.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 BMW 5 Series is a midsize luxury sedan available in four main trim levels that correspond with engine choice: 528i, 535i, 535d and 550i. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while xDrive models are all-wheel-drive. The high-performance M5 and ActiveHybrid 5 models are reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the 528i includes 17-inch wheels, adjustable driving settings (which alter suspension, steering, throttle and automatic transmission response), adaptive bi-xenon headlights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, a sunroof, cruise control, auto-dimming mirrors and keyless ignition/entry. Inside you get dual-zone automatic climate control, dark wood trim, ambient lighting, 10-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar), driver memory functions, split-folding rear seats, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery and a power tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel. Electronic features include the BMW Assist emergency communications system, the iDrive electronics interface (with smartphone app integration), a navigation system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The 535i gets a six-cylinder engine, 18-inch wheels and leather upholstery. The 535d is equipped exactly like the 535i, only with a diesel-powered six-cylinder. The 550i gets a V8 engine, a sport version of the automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters and 20-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar). With the exception of the V8, all of the 550i's extra features are optional on other 5 Series models.
There are three major equipment lines available on 2014 BMW 5 Series models: Luxury, Modern and M Sport. The Luxury Line trim package includes 18- or 19-inch wheels (depending on the trim level); either leather upholstery (528i) or upgraded leather upholstery (all other models); the sport steering wheel; anthracite wood trim and LED foglights. The Modern Line trim package features all the same equipment but brings turbine-style wheels, satin aluminum exterior trim and dark pearl interior trim. The M Sport package is similar, but it adds staggered-width, double-spoke wheels; summer performance tires (all-season tires remain standard on xDrive models); a special aerodynamic body kit; aluminum interior trim; an anthracite headliner and an M Sport steering wheel. The Individual Composition package (not available on 528i) provides many of the same cosmetic upgrades as the M Sport package.
Additionally, the Premium package is available for the 528i, 535i and 535d, and includes a hands-free power trunk lid (opens or closes automatically when you pass your foot under the rear bumper while holding the remote), keyless access to all doors, satellite radio and leather upholstery (528i). The Executive package for the 550i bundles these items with soft-closing doors, ceramic-trimmed interior controls, a head-up display and an upgraded, 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
Available across the board, the Cold Weather package provides heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel, while the Lighting package upgrades you to full LED adaptive headlights with automatic high-beam control. The Driver Assistance Plus package sets you up with a blind-spot warning system, a lane-departure warning system, side/top-view parking cameras and a forward collision warning/mitigation system with pedestrian detection. The Dynamic Handling package is available on all models except the 528i, and includes adaptive suspension dampers and stabilizer bars to improve the sedan's handling.
Stand-alone options include adaptive cruise control, an automated parallel-parking system (called Parking Assistant), an active steering system, an infrared night-vision display, four-zone automatic climate control, a top-tier Bang & Olufsen audio system, concierge services (which can assist you with hotel reservations), a power rear sunshade (with manual rear side-window sunshades) and a rear-seat entertainment system with twin, tilt-adjustable 9.2-inch screens.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 BMW 528i is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, and an automatic stop-start function shuts down the engine when the car stops in order to save fuel. In Edmunds performance testing, a 528i went from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, which is about average for base-model midsize luxury sedans. The EPA's fuel economy ratings are 27 mpg combined (23 mpg city/34 mpg highway) with rear-wheel drive and 26 combined (22/33) with xDrive all-wheel drive.
Next up is the BMW 535i, which has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine rated at 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Rear-drive models come with your choice of the eight-speed automatic or an optional six-speed manual, while xDrive models are automatic-only. Automatic stop-start is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, a rear-drive 535i with the automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, which is average among comparable sedans. Fuel economy for rear-drive models is 24 mpg combined (20/30) with the automatic and 23 combined (20/30) with the manual, while the AWD model achieves 23 combined (20/29).
The 2014 BMW 535d features a 3.0-liter diesel inline-6 engine that produces 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. The eight-speed automatic and automatic stop-start are standard. In Edmunds performance testing, a rear-drive 535d went from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 30 mpg combined (26/38) with rear-wheel drive and 30 combined (26/37) with xDrive.
Finally, the BMW 550i gets a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine that produces 443 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. A sport version of the eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is standard (it's optional on other 5 Series sedans), as is auto stop-start. The EPA's ratings for the 2014 550i are 20 mpg combined (17/25) with rear-wheel drive and 19 combined (16/24) with AWD.
BMW 5 Series sedans with the xDrive AWD system include hill descent control to help you negotiate slippery driveways.
Standard safety equipment for the 2014 BMW 5 Series includes stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. The stability control system integrates several features designed to improve braking performance, such as periodically wiping the brake rotors dry in wet conditions and automatically snugging the brake pads to the rotors when the driver abruptly lifts off the throttle. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an emergency response button, remote door unlock and stolen vehicle recovery.
A rearview camera and front/rear parking sensors are standard on the 550i and optional on other models. A more deluxe side/top-view camera array is available via the Driver Assistance Plus package, which also includes a blind-spot warning system, a lane-departure warning system and a forward collision warning/mitigation system with pedestrian detection. Finally, the optional night-vision system is capable of displaying possible hazards that are otherwise out of regular headlight range.
In Edmunds brake testing, various 5 Series models with optional summer run-flat tires came to a stop from 60 mph in distances ranging from 110-114 feet. Those are excellent numbers, but they're typical for summer tires. Most 5 Series models are equipped with all-season run-flat tires and will have slightly longer braking distances as a result.
In government crash tests, BMW's midsize luxury sedan earned a top five-star rating for overall performance, with four out of five stars given for overall front-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the 5 Series earned a top rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
Both driver and passengers will be quite pleased with the 5 Series cabin, as it's elegant, spacious and comfortable, but not over the top. The instrument panel is an evolution of the twin-dial, analog gauge cluster BMW has been using for decades, but now there's a configurable display between the primary gauges. The rest of the dash has a clean look, thanks to the standard iDrive interface that minimizes the need for buttons.
In the 5 Series, the iDrive system consists of a wide screen in the center of the dashboard and a dial-shaped controller on the center console. For 2014, BMW has added a touchpad to the top of the controller that can be used to "hand-write" inputs using your finger. Overall, iDrive is pretty easy to use thanks to straightforward menus, crisp graphics and quick processing times. But compared with some rival systems, it often requires a few more twirls and clicks to get what you want.
The front seats are quite comfortable, especially with the available 20-way adjustable "multicontour" seats, which provide an unmatched degree of adjustability. In back, there's enough room for a pair of 6-foot adults to be comfortable, and the backseat is nicely contoured and padded. The trunk, at 14 cubic feet of luggage capacity, is smaller than average for this segment.
Of all the 2014 BMW 5 Series models in the range, the 443-hp 550i comes closest to embodying the company's traditional definition of the "ultimate driving machine." This is a very quick sedan with more than enough power to take charge of any situation. That said, the 302-hp 535i is rapid in its own right, and a great many shoppers will be perfectly satisfied with the acceleration of the entry-level 528i, especially when you factor in its strong fuel economy ratings.
Still, the new-for-2014 BMW 535d is the most fuel-efficient model in the lineup, and if you can afford its higher price of admission, it's an intriguing choice. From the driver seat, the diesel 5 Series sedan is remarkably quiet, and when you do hear the engine, it sounds much like the gasoline-powered inline six-cylinder in the 535i. Step on the accelerator pedal and it delivers a massive wave of thrust that makes it ridiculously easy to pass slower motorists. In fact, the 535d is just as quick as the 535i.
Regardless of which engine you choose, the 2014 BMW 5 Series comes standard with BMW's Driving Dynamics Control, which alters the engine, steering and automatic transmission response based on driver-selected settings (cars equipped with the optional Dynamic Handling package also have adjustable suspension settings). The idea is to allow drivers to set up the car as they'd like, and although the adjustability is nice to have, the 5 Series never feels as sporty as we'd like in any of its settings. Compared with its Audi and Lexus rivals, the BMW feels bulkier and less precise around tight turns, and its steering transmits less feel.
On the other hand, the BMW 5 Series cabin is quieter than ever before at highway speeds, while its comfortable ride makes it a natural for long road trips. One small grievance is the intrusive stop-start system equipped on all 5 Series sedans. While few of these systems are seamless, BMW's stop-start system has a marked delay and feels a bit jolting on restarts (particularly with the diesel engine). Fortunately, there's a button to disable this system if it bothers you.