AutoWeek welcomed a 5-series to our long-term fleet.
If there's a midsize sports sedan standing above the rest, one could argue that it is BMW's 5-series. So we thought it critical that we spend a year with one. That there was a new 5-series last year would also give us a chance to see how all of the changes BMW made would hold up over the long haul. If nothing else, we figured it would make a fine replacement for our long- term Jaguar XF Supercharged.
Why did we wait almost a year to get our hands on the new car? Because rather than snap up one of the first cars off the boat, we waited several months so we could take delivery of one of the first all-wheel-drive models to come to the United States, the main market for the AWD version.
We started with a 550i xDrive sedan with a base price of $62,875. It comes with oodles of standard equipment, including adaptive headlamps, a moonroof, automatic climate control, navigation system and rain-sensing wipers.
To that we added a bunch of options we simply could not live without, such as the Dynamic Handling package (including adaptive drive, dynamic suspension control, active roll stabilization); Premium 2 package, including rearview camera, power rear sunshade, heated front seats, iPod and USB adapter, satellite radio and premium audio; the Sport package, with 19-inch W-spoke alloy wheels, leather steering wheel and multicontour seats; rear-seat entertainment; a cold-weather package, including a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats; side- and top-view cameras and a split fold-down rear seat. All told, the price came to $74,700.
What did we get for the money? A 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 powers the car, producing a stout 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The BMW will hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and the quarter-mile takes 12.8 seconds at 111 mph, so no one on staff is complaining about it being slow. The car rides on a new aluminum-intensive suspension with double wishbones in front (introduced on the fifth-generation 7-series), while the rear continues with multilinks with revised geometry. Our car's Dynamic Handling package uses three-stage electronic shocks with a switchable program offering comfort, normal, sport and sport-plus modes and also altering the throttle mapping and shift speed.
Our first order of business was to put winter tires on our tester, so we swapped the Goodyears that came on the car for a set of Dunlop SP Winter Sport M3s in the stock 245/40R-19 size and had them installed on our stock rims. We've run these tires on long-term cars before—our Jaguar XKR convertible and Audi S6—and in both cases, they were great. Ride quality is good, the tires are quiet, and they turned both of those cars into snowmobiles. (We clearly remember driving the Jag convertible home in a blizzard and trucking through the left lane, easily passing Hummer H2s and Jeep Grand Cherokees.)
The Dunlops are classified as performance winter tires, so they should keep BMW's handling prowess up.
It's all good so far: Even with the stock run-flat tires on, which some of us around here generally hate, the ride is calmer than that of the old car. The reworked suspension is supple in comfort mode, soaking up Detroit's nasty expansion joints and potholes without the old 5-series' harsher ride.
“This thing is unflappable in lousy weather,” one staffer wrote. “It heats up fast and goes through anything—it simply rocks in the snow. I had no trouble this weekend. Even with the single-digit temps, it warmed up quickly—a blessing.”
“Best 5-series I've driven yet,” another chimed in. “Yes, the exterior is more conservative than before, but I love the interior, and it drives like champ—rock-solid and comfortable.”
Hmmm. “Rock solid.” “Drives like a champ.” Will it remain that way for 12 grueling months? We're about to find out.
Specs & Data
2011 BMW 550i xDrive Sedan
PRICING & OPTIONS
Base price (includes $875 delivery): $62,875
As-tested price: $74,700
Options: Dynamic Handling package, with adaptive drive, dynamic damper control and active roll stabilization ($2,700); Premium 2 package, with rearview camera, power rear sunshade, rear sunshades, heated front seats, iPod and USB adapter, satellite radio with one-year subscription, premium hi-fi system ($2,400); Sport package, with 19-inch alloy W-spoke wheels, sport leather steering wheel, multicontour seats, shadowline exterior trim ($2,200); rear-seat entertainment, with two eight-inch color screens ($2,200); cold-weather package, with heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, retractable headlight washers ($1,050); side- and top-view cameras ($800); split fold-down rear seats ($475)
Wheelbase (in): 116.9
Track (in): 63.0 front, 64.1 rear
Length/width/height (in): 193.1/73.2/57.6
Curb weight/GVWR (lb): 4,519/5,600
Front-longitudinal 4.4-liter/268-cid DOHC twin-turbocharged V8
Power: 400 hp @ 5,500-6,400 rpm
Torque: 450 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 rpm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Fuel requirement: 91 octane
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Final drive ratio: 3.077:1
Front: Double wishbone, coil springs, electronically controlled variable damping shock absorbers, hydraulically actuated antiroll bar
Rear: Multilink, coil springs, electronically controlled variable damping shock absorbers, hydraulically actuated antiroll bar
Vented discs front and rear, ABS; aluminum 245/40R-19 Goodyear Eagle LS2
EPA combined: 18 mpg
TRACK TEST DATA
0-60 mph: 4.5 sec
0-quarter-mile: 12.8 sec @ 111 mph
60-0 mph: 127.3 ft
490-ft slalom: 42.3 mph
Lateral acceleration (200-ft skidpad): 0.84 g
INTERIOR NOISE (DBA)
Full throttle: 68
Steady 60 mph: 66
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