BMW has officially revealed the sixth generation of the 5 Series and at the same time welcomed home the prodigal son that has been the Bavarians’ executive saloon of the past six years.
The dramatic exterior lines of the E60 are gone, and left is a conservative cruiser that fits the family mould, inheriting from the 7 Series and sharing with the smaller 3.
However, during its years in the wilderness of aggressive design – put it down to an early midlife crisis for the now 37-year-old German – the 5 Series learnt a few things.
Among the long feature list of the most highly specified 5 Series ever is Start-Stop technology, an eight-speed automatic transmission and a double-wishbone front suspension setup.
Europe will start with seven different engine options when the car is launched first quarter 2010, from a four-cylinder diesel to the range-topping twin-turbocharged V8.
The base 520d coming to Australia gets the 137kw/380Nm 4-cylinder diesel, capable of 4.16 litres/100km while emitting just 132g/km CO2.
The 530d steps up 9kW and 40Nm over the outgoing model to punch out 182kW/540Nm from its 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six.
Fuel consumption is down from 6.6 to 5.2 litres/100km while emissions drop by 10 to 166g/km.
While the M5 still perhaps a year away, the 550i is doing more than just keeping its seat warm at the top of the line-up, slamming out 304kW and a commanding 600Nm of torque, propelling the saloon from 0-100km/h in five seconds dead and winding out to the top speed limited at 250km/h.
Despite this, combined economy is still an impressive 8.64 litres/100km with emissions topping out at 243g/km – less than any Falcon or Commodore.
The new eight-speed gearbox is standard on the 550i and optional on all other models.
It comes in both traditional and paddle-shift forms and improves fuel efficiency by six per cent.
Standard features include leather upholstery, fully-automatic air-conditioning and radio and Bluetooth phone integration, while all but the 520d get USB audio interface and ambient lighting.
The list of optional features stretches far and wide, from comfort and convenience to performance and safety.
Park assist locates suitable spots for the five metre 5 Series and slides in with the driver’s help on the accelerator and brake only.
Four-wheel Integral Active Steering helps the process, reducing the turning circle by 0.5 metres, while the Surround View and Reversing Assist systems incorporate cameras from all over the car (including the wing mirrors and wheel arches) to provide a 360 degree view of what’s around the car.
Safety features range from head-up display to night vision, information and warnings about pedestrians, lane changes and departures and speed limiting, while four optional sports packages kit out the 5 Series with 19-inch alloys, sports seats and steering wheel and adaptive, xenon, high-beam assisted headlamps.
We will find out whether the new restrained, conservative styling spawns disenchantment or desire among drivers when the prodigal son goes on sale from mid-next year, along with the fast-back Grand Tourer.
Prices for the 5 Series are expected to rise slightly over the current model, which means the 520d should start from around $78,000 and the 550i top out close to $175,000.
by Tim Beissmann