Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 BMW 528i Sedan: Balancing Performance, Ride, Design And The Latest High-Tech Features

Highlights: This is the German automaker’s sixth-generation 5-series sedan. During the first five generations, a whopping 5.5 million 5-series BMWs have been sold.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $53,075 (Base price of starts at $45,925)

Seating Capacity: 5 occupants

Standard Safety Features: Traction Control; ABS; Front (and rear) Head Protection System; Tire Pressure Monitor; Front-Seat Side Impact Airbags; Driver (and passenger) front airbag with advanced technology; Crash sensors that activates battery sensor terminal to disconnect alternator, fuel pump and starter from battery, automatically unlocks doors, and turns on hazard and interior lights

Standard Equipment: 17-inch rub-flat tires; rain sensing wipers; an oversized power moonroof; leatherette seats; a 10-way power driver’s (4-way power front passenger) seat; power tilt/telescopic steering wheel; remote keyless entry; an automatic climate control system; an automatic tilt-down of passenger's side-view mirror - when car is shifted into reverse gear; BMW’s Safety Assist System with Bluetooth wireless technology; and an engine star-stop button

Standard Audio: 12-speaker sound system with AM/FM/HD radio - Including 2 subwoofers under the front seats, and digital 7-channel amplifier with 205 watts of power

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles

Trim Levels:

Bluetooth Compatibility: Yes.

MP3 Capability: Yes.

iPod and USB adaptor: a $400 option

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 3.0-liter, 6cylinder/240-hp

Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded

Standard Fuel Mileage: 22-city/32-hwy

What’s New: For the 2011 model year, the BMW has introduced the six-generation 5-series sedan, which now wears a long hood, short overhangs and a coupe-like roofline, to carry all of the high-tech comfort (and safety) features. Unfortunately, unlike the previous generation, the wagon is no longer in the product mix.

Pros: Consumers who are in the market for a German engineered luxury fullsize vehicle with phenomenal driving dynamics will find a variety of configurations to suit their needs.

Like the 528i we reviewed, buyers can outfit their vehicle with a number of high-end features. Some of the features on our test vehicle included a Cold Weather package, which consisted of a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, heated rear seats and a retractable headlight washer to remove the snow and grime. Our vehicle was also equipped with a keyless access feature, allowing us to lock and unlock the doors (and trunk) without the use of a key.

Furthermore, our 528i was outfitted with BMW’s optional Sport package, which consisted of stylish 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-oriented leather steering wheel and BMW’s signature 20-way power multi-contoured form-fitted front seats.

And besides the features noted, the redesigned 5-series can also accessorized with these high-tech features: a blind-spot lane changing system, a lane departure warning system, an automatic high beam headlight system, a radar-activated cruise control system, both front and rear audible parking sensors, a night vision system with pedestrian detection, a rear view camera and a navigation system. This vehicle does almost everything except provide a personal driver. We guess that feature will be available sometimes in the near future.

Moreover, for the high-performance driver, an 8-speed automatic transmission is available with shift paddles on the steering wheel. Or they could opt for the M-Series package, which includes 19-inch wheels, an increased top-speed limiter and an aerodynamic kit, adding an additional bold flair to the 5-series.

Ride Handling/Driving Experience:

The ride in our BMW was quite compliant, offering a variety of settings to meet the needs of the driver when equipped with the optional Dynamic Handling package, which offered a variety of drive settings: comfort, normal, sport and sport plus. In fact, we were able to tell the distinct difference with each setting while cruising on the highway. Each of the settings affects the engine throttle response, the transmission shift characteristics, and the power assist level from the steering.

And although the BMW 528i we reviewed was equipped with a 240-horsepower engine, it seemed more than adequate and quite responsive for the fullsize luxury vehicle. Furthermore, it also assisted the vehicle in earning respectable fuel mileage. Now for those power-hungry, lead foot drivers, they can step-up to the 300-hp and 400-hp engines, which are available.

Cons: We only had a few gripes with the redesigned BMW. For one, we don’t understand why a 1-year satellite subscription-based system isn’t standard for a vehicle in this price range. It is available, but as a $350 option. This makes no sense to us. Also, why isn’t leather seats standard? This premium feature was a $1,450 option on our vehicle.

We would rather for BMW to build these features into the price, as opposed to nitpicking us for features many consumers would expect to be standard at this price point.

The Verdict: Overall, we were extremely impressed with the redesigned 5-series sedan. The design of the 5-series sedan mimics that of the 7-series sedan. And the upcoming 3-series redesign will resemble the same elongated design found in the current 5-series sedan. Unlike last year’s 5-series sedan, this model year contains a lot of must-have high-tech features, which we lacked in our test vehicle.

Unlike last year’s 5-series sedan, this year’s model contains a lot of must-have high-tech features, which we lacked in our test vehicle. However, once consumers’ add-on such features as the lane departure system along with the array of other high-end options we noted earlier, pricing could rise by an extra $15,000 to $20,000. This could mean the difference between driving a modestly equipped 5-series like the one we reviewed without all the bells and whistles or driving one that literally allows big brother (or big sister) to ride along. Regardless of how one equips the redesigned 5-series, they won’t go wrong. Also BMW is one of the few import automakers that includes maintenance in the price of the vehicle during the first four years of ownership.

Competition: Audi A6, Infiniti M-series, Lexus GS and Mercedes E-Class


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