The moral of the story is simple, “Love the life you live and live the life you love.” So when the delayed voicemail came in that I hadn’t signed up to join my auto comrades in Lisbon, Portugal to play around with the nucleus of the BMW family — the 5 Series — I immediately switched gears faster than their new “Sport Automatic” 8-speed transmission, cleared my schedule and commenced working on my Portuguese. Obrigado (thank you) BMW was my initial thought, for the Bimmer “5” definitely makes its case to start at shooting guard on Automotive Rhythms’ all-time starting five (no pun intended). The enlightenment of experimenting with the 5 Series on the glorious Oceanside roads of Cascais and Estoril racetrack in Portugal is what I deem a “profound moment of exposure!”
5 Series Background: BMW revealed the new 5 Series to the world back in November in its hometown of Munich , Germany . The company’s revelation is that it is “the perfect symbiosis of modern design and dynamic performance.” And it’s also what the world measures as the gold standard for four-door sports sedans. Especially when you precede the 5 Series moniker with an “M,” denoting the high-performance M wing cars. The 5 Series is, and always has been an integral vehicle to BMW’s sales success. The 2011 model represents the 6th generation 5 Series. Since its introduction in 1972, 5.5 million units have been sold, with the 5th generation model being the leading seller in its class four years of its seven-year run. “The BMW 5 Series is one of the core model lines of the BMW Group,” stated Josef Wüst, project director, BMW 5 Series. “In terms of volume and heritage the BMW 5 Series has always set standards in design, technology and driving dynamics. This will also apply for the new BMW 5 Series sedan.”
5 Series in Portugal: Lisbon is the largest city in and the capital of Portugal . It’s a global city with massive economic and financial impact to the Iberian Peninsula. Its history has seen it ruled by the Romans, Moors, Crusaders and Christians. BMW chose Portugal because of its splendor and beauty and they contended they felt at home, especially since the Group was in Portugal last summer with the 5 Series Gran Turismo. Great climate and good road conditions added to the profound moments of exposure we enjoyed. Upon landing into Lisbon we jumped into Gran Turismos and headed over to The Portuguese Pavilion where thirty new 5 Series were waiting patiently to be driven like “Ultimate Driving Machines!” I must say, though I enjoyed the ride comfort of the Gran Turismo, it’s an odd vehicle in the line-up and doesn’t seem to mesh well. Especially since BMW has a few sport crossovers and wagons already in the fleet. Nevertheless, my mind immediately became pre-occupied by an entertaining cruise to Cascais down by the Atlantic where we stayed at the Hotel Villa Italia.
5 Series Performance: There are three new key features to the 5 Series which BMW is quick to point out including a new suspension, innovative engines as well as a bevy of active safety technologies borrowed from the 7 Series. “The outcome is a vehicle that offers substantially improved driving dynamics and comfort – ensuring that the new BMW 5 Series will lead the competitive field,” said Dr. Klaus Draeger, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “International press customers who are keen on technology will certainly not be disappointed.”
The new suspension features a standard V-axle rear and double wishbone front made mostly of aluminum. It was developed elaborately with intense design specifications to offer optimal “wheel to road” contact, while delivering comfort and agility. With Electric Power Steering (EPS) the 5 Series is able to corner tighter at lower speeds and performs more dynamically at higher speeds. Its turn radius is reduced by .50 cm allowing increased rear axle agility and better vehicle maneuverability. Include the optional Sport Package, which adds Adaptive Drive, which in-turn adds Dynamic Damping Control, Driving Dynamics Control (which adjusts vehicle mannerisms via four settings: Sport + Sport, Normal, and Comfort), and Active Roll Stabilization to reduce body lean, and you have a vehicle with flexibility — engineered like Phoenix Suns’ guard Steve Nash who’s dynamic moves on the court are as controllable as the ball itself.
The new 5 Series will debut with one V8 and one inline-6 gasoline engine. My favorite, the 550i, receives the “reverse flow” 4.4-liter, twin turbocharged, direct injection V8, producing 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. This is the same V8 on the 750i/Li which we can attest to its power and efficiency since we’ve been toying around with a 7 Series for the last year. It’s not tweaked any differently in this application and allows the 550i to move from 0 to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds. The new turbo inline six for the 535i features a single twin-scroll turbocharger and delivers a maximum output of 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. There will be a naturally aspirated 528i as the base model coming a little later.
I like the fact that higher precision engines are offered at launch opposed to the opposite. It’s an anomaly in the auto business where the weaker engine kicks off the campaign while executives are scrambling for explanations other than “you’ll love the turbo version coming next year!”
Three transmissions are available for both engines consisting of BMW’s new 8-speed automatic transmission, the new “Sport Automatic” 8-speed or the conventional 6-speed manual. These new engines along with the taller gears in the 8-speed and Brake Energy Regeneration contribute to BMW’s EfficientDynamics technologies which lowers vehicle fuel consumption and emissions.
BMW is pragmatic on technology. After all they are German. When driving the “5” and it feels like a “7,” it’s because of the many similarities between the two including the aforementioned V8, cabin layout and feel, iDrive and multimedia controls, and many of the driver assistance systems including BMW Night Vision, Head-Up Display and Lane Departure Warning. New to the “5” is Park Assistant which locates a parking spot via ultrasound sensors if you’re driving up to 22 mph. Once spotted, the driver is alerted to reverse the gears and control gas and brake while the vehicle self-steers into perfect position. Active Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go can bring the vehicle to a complete stop if need be.
5 Series Design: Adrian Van Hooydonk, Director of BMW Group Design, correlates the 5 Series to a tailor made suit. It’s no coincidence he designed the 6 Series ten years ago, a vehicle that still holds its own with grace and style. For the new “5” BMW, the 120 designers who were tasked wanted to achieve a combination of sport performance and elegance. The side view is the most impressive as it’s slightly lower with sharper panel lines, longer hood (also with sharp lines) and sportier kidney grill that sits lower to the road. The front view was essential to recognize the “5” head on.
Back on the Portuguese roads we drove hours and hours. No worries, the BMW 5 Series represents a dichotomy of driver comfort and vehicle dynamics. You NEVER get bored of driving it! We took in the sights and sounds of the Atlantic . It was a profound moment of exposure.