Premium midsize car; Built in Germany
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $20,100 – $71,700*

2011 BMW 5-Series Front

2011 BMW 5-Series Rear

2011 BMW 5-Series Interior

2011 BMW 5-Series Rear-2

  • Acceleration
  • Quietness
  • Ride/handling
  • Cargo room
  • Rear-seat comfort
  • Rear-seat room

The redesigned 5-Series maintains its position as the auto world’s sportiest premium-midsize sedan, while becoming somewhat more user-friendly in the bargain. No, it isn’t as roomy as some competitors. When new, too, it could get pricey when equipped with even a partial load of its numerous high-tech options. Secondhand examples with plenty of extras will be relatively costly, too. For those who value the driving experience as much as luxury and creature comforts, on the other hand, BMW’s 5-Series remains a fine value.


BMW redesigned its 5-Series sedan for 2011. Now entering its sixth-generation, this premium-midsize car returned as a four-door sedan. BMW also offered a four-door hatchback body style that the company calls the 5-Series Gran Turismo (see separate report). Six-cylinder and V8 engines were offered, working with rear-wheel drive or BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system. Entry-level 528i models had a 240-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. The 535i got a 300-horsepower, turbocharged version of the 3.0-liter inline six. Topping the 2011 line, the 550i held a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that cranked out 400 horsepower. Rear-drive 535i and 550i models came with a six-speed manual transmission. An eight-speed automatic transmission was optional on those cars and standard on the 528i, as well as the AWD 535i and 550i.

Standard safety features included all-disc antilock braking, traction control, an antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags. Blind-spot alert, lane-departure warning, a night-vision camera, and a top-view camera also were available, as was parking assist. BMW’s Dynamic Damping Control adjustable suspension and Driving Dynamics Control, which allows the driver to alter powertrain settings, was optional. Also optional was BMW’s Integral Active Steering, which electronically alters steering response; it can also steer the rear wheels depending on driving conditions. A power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and 10-way power front seats were standard. Among the other available features were a navigation system and head-up display. With its 5-Series, BMW competed against such premium vehicles as the Audi A6, Infiniti M, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Yearly Updates

2012 5-Series
Several fairly major changes marked the 2012 BMW 5-Series. First, the base 528i model switched from six-cylinder to a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In addition, the ultra-high-performance M5 returned as the most powerful production 5-Series ever, unleashing a 560-horsepower rendition of the 4.4-liter V8. Also new for 2012 was the ActiveHybrid 5, a gasoline/electric hybrid. An Executive Package was offered for the M5, and a high-end Bang & Olufsen audio system was an M5-exclusive option. Auto Start/Stop operation became standard for 528i and 535i models.
2013 5-Series
For 2013, the V8-powered 550i sedan got a boost in projected fuel economy (when equipped with an automatic transmission). Other 5-Series models saw minor trim but otherwise no major changes.
2014 5-Series
A turbodiesel model was added to the 5-Series range for 2014. Grille and rear-end styling were revised and LED headlights joined the option list.


longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive

Four engines have been available in 5-Series models. In the 528i, a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine developed 240 horsepower. A turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder was installed in the 535i, producing 300 horsepower. In the 550i, a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 generated 400 horsepower until 2014 when horsepower rose to 443. A six-speed manual gearbox has been offered in 535i and 550i models, with an eight-speed automatic transmission available. Only the eight-speed automatic has been offered in 528i sedans. For 2012, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine replaced the inline six in 528i models. BMW’s revived M5 got a 560-horsepower, 4.4-liter V8 with two transmission choices: a six-speed manual and a seven-speed automated manual unit. Also new for 2012, the ActiveHybrid 5 combined BMW’s six-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor, for a total output of 335 horsepower. Added for 2014 was a turbodiesel 3.0-liter inline six that generated 255 horsepower.

Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 240
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 255
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic



dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 240
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 230
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic



Turbodiesel dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 255
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 413
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic


Turbocharged dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 300
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 300
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual



Turbocharged dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 300
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 300
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic



dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 335
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 300
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic



Road Test

Acceleration is a strong point. With the six-cylinder engine of 2011, the base 528i delivers fine thrust overall, but touchy throttle response makes it difficult to drive smoothly at times. There’s often a slight pause between depressing the gas pedal and receiving the power requested. Sport mode improves things somewhat, but it’s tuned a bit too aggressively for normal commuting. Turbocharged six-cylinder (535i) and V8 (550i) engines deliver strong acceleration regardless of engine or road speed–the V8 somewhat more so than the turbocharged six-cylinder. BMW quoted a quick 5.7 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph with the turbo six, and 5.0 with the V8. Both figures seem believable. The manual transmission exhibits none of the notchiness of some other BMW manuals, and the clutch provides smooth, easy-to-modulate engagement. The eight-speed automatic works well in the 550i, but some testers have found it a bit too busy in the 528i. No four-cylinder, M5, or ActiveHybrid 5 models have been tested to date.

No opportunity to measure fuel economy has occurred as yet. With rear-wheel drive, the EPA estimated 2012 5-Series models as follows: four-cylinder 528i, 23-mpg city/34-mpg highway; 535i manual, 20/30 mpg; 535i automatic, 21/31 mpg; ActiveHybrid 5, 23/30 mpg; 550i manual, 15/22 mpg; and 550i automatic, 15/23 mpg. With AWD, the four-cylinder 528i was rated 22/32 mpg; 535i, 21/30 mpg; and 550i, 15/20 mg. BMW requires premium-grade gas for all engines.

The 5-Series’ combination of ride and handling continues to set the standard in the premium-midsize class. The 535i sedan rides best, smothering most bumps with little fanfare. A 550i with the standard suspension isn’t quite as compliant, and the ride gets noticeably stiffer with the optional Sport Package.

With their base suspensions, all 5-Series cars are well-balanced, agile, and composed. When a Sport Package was installed, BMW’s Active Roll Stabilization could be included. If so equipped, the 5-Series suffers virtually no body lean in fast corners, turning these BMWs into some of the best-handling sedans available.

Road noise is noticed only on coarse pavement, and wind noise is impressively low. All engines emit a rich, sporty growl under full-throttle acceleration and cruise quietly.

In its latest form, the 5-Series interior is quite similar to that of the larger 7-Series. BMW’s iDrive has been standard, but the latest incarnation is far less cumbersome to use than earlier versions. Climate controls are mounted low on the dash, but are easy to see and reach. Most audio controls are separate, and the system includes a row of eight programmable buttons that can be set for radio stations or shortcuts to an iDrive screen. This greatly eases everyday use, as do redundant steering-wheel controls. For cars equipped with BMW’s optional navigation system, the programmable buttons can be set for destinations. Guidance instructions may be viewed on the right-hand side of the dashboard screen, as well as on the available head-up display on the windshield. If installed, the optional adjustable suspension is controlled with console-mounted buttons.

Interior materials closely mimic those of the 7-Series and appear to be of high quality. They also come across as either classy or sporty, depending on trim, but certain color combinations look more drab than upscale.

Even the tallest drivers should have plenty of headroom and legroom. Entry and exit are easy enough, and the front seats are quite comfortable. Standard upholstery on the 528i and 535i was leatherette (vinyl). Leather has been standard on the 550i and optional for the others. Visibility is good in all directions except over the driver’s left shoulder, where the thick roof pillar blocks much of the view.

Entry and exit for the rear compartment also are easy enough, but the seat cushion is mounted rather low, so passengers drop down onto it. In addition, adults have to cope with a knees-up position. However, rear headroom is generous even for 6-footers. Legroom is fine behind average-size front-seaters, but tall folks who push the seat all the way back (and it goes far back) will leave virtually no legroom behind them.

Cargo space isn’t perfect. The trunk is wide at the back, but narrows significantly between the wheels. It’s also not as usefully shaped as most, partly because sickle-type lid hinges dip into the load area–though they’re covered to avoid damaging cargo. Split-folding rear seatbacks have been optional rather than standard, so not all examples have them. Interior storage consists only of a modest-size glovebox, shallow console box, map pockets, console cupholders, a small console tray, and a small ash tray.


Model Tested: 2011 BMW 528i

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 7
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 8
Steering/Handling - 8
Quietness - 8


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 9
Room/Comfort Rear - 6
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 8

Total: 70


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
116.9 193.1 73.2 57.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14 NA 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.5 38.3 41.4 36.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2011 5-Series 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: If the transmission will not come out of park, the vehicle must be towed or dollied and serviced on a lift as the emergency park release cable was eliminated. (2011-12)
Engine misfire
Description: Fuel injectors on some vehicles will need to repaired or replaced. (2011-12)
Electrical problem
Description: The lights, wipers and windows may quit working sporadically or permanently due to a bad connection at the front power distribution box. (2011-12)
Electrical problem
Description: Accessories connected by an aftermarket USB cable (including cables that came with the device) may not work and may even kill the battery. (2011-12)
Description: The head-up display may be too bright during nighttime driving requiring reprogramming of its software. (2011-12)
Software problems
Description: Engine management software problem may cause engine to go to reduced power mode. (2014)
Fueling problems
Description: The fuel cap tether is prone to breaking. (2011-12)

Recall History

2011 5-Series
Description: Fuel level sensor within fuel tank could become wedged against the tank, so gauge would display a larger amount of fuel than was actually in the tank.
2011 5-Series w/Turbocharged V8
Description: Circuit board for electric auxiliary water pump could overheat, leading to smoldering of the pump or, possibly, an engine-compartment or vehicle fire.
2012-13 528i
Description: Braking power assist may fail.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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