The Truth About Cars » 5-Series http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:54:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 5-Series http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Fix My Beeeemer, Sanjeev! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-fix-my-beeeemer-sanjeev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-fix-my-beeeemer-sanjeev/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 12:41:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=731250

Nitin writes:

Sanjeev,

I read your blog about the problem in BMW. I have a 2009 BMW 535i X drive with turbo. The car just ran out of warranty and has 45000 miles only. My car started having engine problems last week. First, the BMW said it needs new spark plugs as they were dirty. That cost me $740 dollars. That did not work. They said it needs new fuel injectors. That was another $2100 dollars.

I picked up my car yesterday evening and drove it on the highway. The problem is still not fixed. The Car is still shaking badly. I will have to get it back to service. I am afraid they don’t have a handle on this problem. I called another mechanic who works on BMWs. He mentioned the probable need for walnut shell blasting. What do you know about it? Do you know of any pending lawsuits regarding this problem? Would appreciate your insight.

Sajeev answers:

And here’s another reason why European cars should be leased, or sold immediately after the warranty expires…I mean, when you’ve seen people being burned by the fire so many times…WAIT YOU GIVE THAT BACK RIGHT NOW YOU LITTLE…

Sanjeev retorts:

Listen, Sajeev–if that really is your name–I am sick of hearing your reverse elitist, MBA-toting hipster bellyaching on cars you wouldn’t buy.  But should buy.  Your co-workers, your friends and even your family are ashamed that you bought (special ordered, no less) a Ford Ranger instead of getting the nearest 3-series with a premium package.

So stop being a disappointment to everyone and answer the question correctly.  Jerk.

Sajeev re-answers:

Perhaps I should start over. Direct injection problems are commonplace for many brands, and multiple fixes are used to cure the carbon buildup/misfire problems.  So maybe you did need spark plugs, as that was the most logical and cheapest place to start.  And from there…well, the spiraling cost is unfortunate because it seems they are “throwing parts at the problem” and hoping for the best.  Which is never pleasant for the customer, as they will never know the truth of the diagnostic tree behind their repair bill(s).

The walnut shell blasting thing is a very logical next step.  Perhaps it shoulda been the first step, considering the (low-ish) mileage on the plugs/injectors. But will it work?  Hopefully so.

Lawsuit? Perhaps…but it’s not worth your time because you can probably get something by reading this, especially the following quote:

“BMW will extend the emissions warranty coverage period to 10 years or 120,000 miles, whichever comes first, on affected vehicles in all 50 States. If the HPFP fails during the extended warranty coverage period, BMW will replace it with a newer-production version. Customers who experience long starting times or notice the Service Engine Soon lamp should contact an Authorized BMW Center to schedule a service appointment. Customers with further questions should contact BMW Customer Relations at 1-800-831-1117 or email customer.relations@bmwna.com.”

Sometimes, even if this isn’t the source of your specific problem, BMW N/A will cut you a break in the name of customer goodwill.  Because you already spent a ton of cash with their dealership and they do feel bad about that.  Why would they feel bad? Because a few bucks back in your pocket might get you back in a newer Bimmer. Customer Retention is the name of the game, and it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.

So best of luck to you, from me and Sanjeev.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Review: 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/#comments Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686066 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-001

It’s been decades since Cadillac produced the “Cadillac” of anything. However, when car buffs dismiss the only American luxury brand left, they fail to see Cadillac’s march forward. 2002 brought the first RWD Cadillac since the Fleetwoood. A year later the XLR roadster hit, followed in 2004 by Cadillac’s first 5-Series fighter, the STS. Not everything was rosy. The original CTS drove like a BMW but lacked charm and luxury fittings. The XLR was based on a Corvette, which made for excellent road manners, but the Northstar engine didn’t have the oomph. The STS sounded like a good idea, but the half-step CTS wasn’t much smaller and ultimately shoppers weren’t interested in a bargain option. That brings us to the new ATS and CTS. Ditching the “more car for less money” mantra, the ATS has been created to fight the C/3/IS leaving the CTS free to battle the E/5/GS head-on. Can Caddy’s sensible new strategy deliver the one-two punch fans have hoped for? I snagged a CTS 2.0T for a week to find out.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I found the outgoing CTS a little discordant, but 2014 brings an elegant more aggressive refresh. GM’s Art and Science theme has matured from “cubism gone wrong” to shapes that flow and jibe with a larger grille and softer creases. The 5-Series continues to go for elegant and restrained, I find the XF and A6′s design a mixture of plain-Jane and snazzy headlamps while the Infiniti Q5o and Lexus GS are going for flowing elegance.

The demur side profile continues with a simple character line to draw your eye from front to rear. One thing you’ll notice during that eye-movement is the distinct RWD proportions that separate the CTS, E, 5, GS, XF and Q50 from the long-nosed Audi A6 and near-luxury FWD options. Out back the CTS’ rump is a bit less exciting but employs all the latest luxury cues from hidden exhaust tops to light piped tail lamps. I was hoping Caddy’s fins would be further resurrected,  but the “proto fins” on the XTS are absent. Pity. Obvious from every angle is an attention to build quality absent from earlier generations with perfect panel gaps and seams.

Structurally, the CTS has jumped ship to a stretched version of the Alpha platform the smaller ATS rides on. Thanks to the automotive taffy-pull, the CTS is now 2.3 inches longer than a BMW 5-series. However, because of the Alpha roots, the CTS has actually shrunk for 2014 by 3 inches in length while getting 2 inches wider and a 2 inch roof height reduction.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-006

Interior

GM has proven they are able to create a car that drives competitively and looks sexy on the outside, but interiors have always been a mixed bag. The last gen CTS felt as if it was built with a mixture of custom parts and Chevy hand-me downs. No more. Like the ATS, the Caddy shares little with the rest of GM’s mass market-rabble. It is hard to find fault in the CTS’s dashboard’s combination of injection molded soft touch plastics, leather, faux suede, real wood, carbon fiber and contrasting stitching. Cadillac continues their dedication to shiny touch buttons on the dash and no luxury sedan would be complete without a little gimmicky drama. The CTS’s motorized cupholder lid ties with the XF’s automated air vents for the feature most clearly designed to brag about. I’m not sure how long that little motor will crank away, but it can’t be any less reliable than Jaguar’s theatrical air vents.

Because of the way Cadillac chose to stretch the CTS’ donor platform, cargo and interior space aren’t the primary beneficiaries. This means that rear legroom actually shrinks for 2014 to the smallest entry in this segment by a hair. Trunk volume also drops from a competitive 13.6 cubes to 10.5 which is a 20% reduction compared to the Lexus and BMW and 30% smaller than the Mercedes. The CTS makes up for some of this with comfortable thrones all the way around and when equipped with the optional 20-way front seats the CTS ranks #2 in the segment just behind BMW’s optional 24-way sport seats in comfort. Taller drivers and passengers beware, dropping the CTS’ roof height made the profile sexier but cuts headroom to the lowest in the segment.

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

There is one glaring flaw. The decidedly dowdy base instrument cluster is shared with the ATS (pictured above) and the XTS. Our Facebook followers were so put-off by Caddy’s base dials, the fervor spawned a Vellum Venom Vignette. While the ATS is saddled with the four-dial layout, the CTS and XTS have a savior: the most attractive LCD disco dash available. (My tester was so equipped.) Perhaps it is this dichotomy that is so vexing about the base CTS models. If you don’t fork over enough cash, you’ll constantly be reminded that you couldn’t afford the Cadillac of displays.

The 12.3-inch cluster offers the driver more customization than you fill find in any other full-LCD cluster. Unlike the Jaguar and Land Rover screens that simply replicate analogue gauges, you can select from several different views depending on whether you feel like analogue dials or digital information and the amount of information overload you prefer. (Check out the gallery.) My preferred layout contained a high res navigation map, digital speedo, fuel status, range to empty, average fuel economy, audio system information with album art and track information and the speed-limit on the road I was traveling on.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-001

Infotainment

I have been critical of Cadillac’s CUE system but 2014 brings some important software fixes resolving the random system crashes and demon possessed touch controls I experienced in the ATS and XTS. After driving the CTS for 852 miles, the CUE system proved rock solid in terms of reliability. Unfortunately, little has been done to address the sluggish response to inputs, unintuitive menus and old-school nav graphics. Despite the still flaws, I have to stick by my words when MyFord Touch landed: I’d rather have slow infotainment than none at all. BMW’s iDrive still ranks 1st for me because the interface is intuitive, attractive, responsive and elegant. BMW continues to add new features to their system and, unlike other systems, the new features in general operate as smoothly as the rest of the iDrive interface. You may be surprised to know that CUE ranks second for me.

CUE’s graphics are more pleasing to my eye than MMI, COMAND, Sensus, MyLincon Touch, Enform or AcuraLink. COMAND’s software should have been sent out to pasture long ago. The graphics are ancient and trying to load any of the smartphone apps is an exercise in frustration. Instead of reinventing their software, Lexus reinvented the input method taking their system from most intuitive to least in a single move. Senus isn’t half bad but Volvo’s screens are small and the software lacks the smartphone integration found in the competition. MyLincoln Touch is well featured but lacks CUE’s more modern look and the glass touchscreen.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-006

The scratch resistant glass touchscreen and proximity sensors used by Cadillac are part of what give the system a clean modern look. Most systems use resistive touchscreens which are pressure sensitive and require that the surface of the screen actually move to sense your touch. This means they need to be made of a ductile plastic which is several layers thick. The consumer comparison is to think of your iPhone or Android phone vs a color Palm Pilot from years past. Cadillac uses the screen to allow intuitive finger-sliding gestures and the proximity sensor to reduce visual clutter when your finger is away from the screen. Move you hand closet to the screen and the less critical interface buttons reappear.

Cadillac continues their relationship with Bose, giving the base model an 11-speaker sound system that brings everything but navigation to the party. Our model was equipped with the up-level 13-speaker Bose sound system, navigation software and the optional single-slot CD player hiding in the glove box. Compared with BMW’s premium audio offerings, the Bose systems sing slightly flatter and lack the volume capable in the German options. However compared to Lexus’ standard and optional systems the Cadillac holds its own.

Ecotec 2.0L I-4 VVT DI Turbo (LTG)

Drivetrain

Thanks to the new GM Alpha platform, all three engines sit behind the front axle which is ideal for weight balance. Base shoppers get the 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder worth 272 ponies and 295 lb-ft of torque, besting BMW’s 2.0L by 32 HP and 35 lb-ft. On “Luxury” trim and above you can opt for GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L V6 (321HP/275 lb-ft) for $2,700, but I’d probably stick to the 2.0L turbo if I were you. Aside from being lighter, the turbo delivers more torque at lower RPMs and has a more advantageous power delivery which make it a hair faster to 60.

Shoppers looking for more shove and willing to part with $59,995 can opt for a 420 horsepower twin-turbo V6 in the CTS V-Sport that cranks out 430 lb-ft. Despite sharing thee 3.6L displacement of the middle engine, GM tells us that only 10% of the engine components are shared. Sending power to the pavement in the 2.0T and 3.6 models is essentially the same GM 6-speed automatic transmission BMW used to use in certain models of the 3-series until recently. Optional in the 3.6L and standard on the twin-turbo V6 is an Aisin 8-speed automatic that is essentially shared with the Lexus LS.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-014

Drive

Unfortunately, the first thing you’ll notice out on the road is the coarse sound from under the hood. GM’s 2.0L engine is no less refined than BMW or Mercedes’ four-bangers, but the difference is you can hear the engine in the CTS. In fact, based on the overall quietness of the cabin (a competitive 67 dB at 50 MPH), I can only conclude that Cadillac designed the engine to be heard. I don’t mind hearing the 3.6L V6, but most luxury shoppers would prefer not to be reminded they chose the rational engine every time they get on the freeway. On the bright side, because GM does not offer start/stop tech, shoppers are spared the inelegant starts and stops that characterize 528i city driving.

While I’m picking nits, the 6-speed found in the 2.0T and most 3.6 models lacks the ratio spread and shift smoothness of the ZF 8-speed automatic found in most of the competition. While I prefer GMs 6-speed to the somewhat lazy 7-speed automatic in the Mercedes E-Class, the rumored 8-speed can’t come soon enough. The 8-speed used in the V-Sport (optional on the 3.6L) solves the ratio and marketing issue, but the Aisin unit feels just as up-shift happy and down-shift reluctant as it does in the Lexus LS 460. As a result when you use the shift paddles, your actions feel more like suggestions than commands.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-013

The reason I label those flaws as mere nits is because of how the CTS accomplishes every other task on the road. Acceleration to 60 happens a 4/10ths faster than an E350, a half-second faster than the 528i,  a full second faster than a GS350, and practically years ahead of the A6 2.0T. Part of this has to do with the engine’s superior torque curve and higher horsepower numbers, but plenty has to do with curb weight. At 3,616 lbs, the CTS 2.oT is 200lbs lighter than the BMW or Lexus, 400lbs lighter than an E350. The comparable Audi A6 would be the front-wheel-drive 2.0T model with the CVT at 3,726. If you think that’s an unfair comparison, the 2.0T with Quattro is 3,900lbs and does little to correct the A6′s front-heavy weight balance.

As a result of the CTS’s near perfect 50.3/49.7 % weight balance and the light curb weight, the CTS feels more agile and responsive on winding mountain roads, especially when you compare it to the V6 competitors. The steering is as numb as anything on the market thanks to electric power steering, but you can get faint whiffs of feedback now and then and the steering weight is moderate rather than strangely firm in the 528i. Admittedly we’re splitting hairs here when it comes to steering feel, as there is precious little difference between the CTS, GS and 528i. Even the hydraulic system retained in BMW’s 550i doesn’t feel as crisp on the road. Helping out the handling is a standard moderately firm spring suspension or an optional MagneRide active suspension as our tester was equipped. The adaptive dampers feel more refined than in previous versions, despite them not changing the vehicle’s personality much from regular to sport mode. The CTS never felt out of sorts on rough or uneven terrain and despite being moderately firm, never felt punishing. This places the CTS right in line with the modern Germans. Toss in standard Brembo brakes and the CTS is far more willing to hike up its skirt and dance than the establishment competition.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-007

For 2014, Cadillac added $6,035 to the MSRP and put “value” on the back burner. At $45,100, the CTS starts $4,400 less than the 528i and $2,600 less than the GS350. Of course the Caddy’s base model has fewer features, so an apples-to-apples comparison brings the delta up to around $1,500 less than the BMW. That’s a much smaller window than there used to be, and it’s not surprising when you consider the CTS’ interior is finally equal to or better than the Germans. The pricing deltas get more interesting as you go up the ladder. The CTS 3.6 is a few grand less than a BMW 535i. In that mash-up, the BMW provides superior thrust but when the road gets winding the CTS is more enjoyable. Then we get to the CTS V-Sport. The V-Sport brings a twin-turbo V6 to a twin-turbo V8 fight. At 420 HP and 430 lb-ft the numbers are stout to be sure, but trail the 443 HP and 479 lb-ft from BMW’s 4.4L V8 and most importantly, the V8 delivers a far superior torque curve delivering all of its torque 1,500 RPM earlier. Still, the Cadillac is 325 lbs lighter, handles better, is $4,830 cheaper and by the numbers gives up little in terms of straight line performance.

The two sweet spots for the CTS are a nearly loaded 2.0T with the LCD disco dash and a moderately well equipped V-Sport. The 2.0T offers the best road manners of its direct competition at a reasonable value. The V-Sport on the other hand offers BMW shoppers an interesting alternative. At an $1,800 up-sell over a comparably equipped 535i and $4,800 less than a 550i, the V-Sport is probably the best value in the luxury segment for 2014. After a week with the middle child Cadillac, GM seems to finally be on the right path with their luxury brand. As long as the XTS is replaced with a large rear driver sedan soon I might even say that the American luxury brand is on a roll. While I can think of a few reasons to buy a BMW 5-Series over a CTS (the base CTS instrument cluster is a good reason), shoppers have no reason to dismiss the CTS as they might have done in the past. Although the CTS is still 20lbs of sound deadening and an 8-speed automatic away from being the Cadillac of mid-size sedans, it is a truly solid competitor.

 

 GM provides the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 5.9 Seconds

1/mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 97.5 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 24.8 MPG over 852 Miles

Sound level at 50 MPH: 67 dB

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-001 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-002 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-003 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-004 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-005 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-006 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-007 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-008 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-009 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-010 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-011 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-012 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-013 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-014 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-015 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-001 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-002 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-003 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-004 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-005 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-006 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-007 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-008 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-009 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-010 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-011 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-012 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-001 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-002 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-003 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-004 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-005 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-006 ]]>
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Piston Slap: E39 M5, Labor of Lust? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/piston-slap-e39-m5-labor-of-lust/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/piston-slap-e39-m5-labor-of-lust/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2011 15:56:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411639  

Still The Ultimate...

 

Jul writes:

Hey Man, I’d like to have your opinion: What do you think of the E39 M5?

Let me rephrase: What would you think about a 98000 miles absolutely mint condition, owned by an older gentleman with 3 or 4 other cars (the E39 not being his daily driver), with VANOS changed, clutch changed, and everything that could break down been changed as a preventive measure, E39 M5? … For $15K?

Wondering if I would treat myself to a potential money pit here buying this beast (that I already test drove, I’m in Love) knowing that I will not be driving it more than…5000 miles a year for the next two years MAX!

THANKS!

Sajeev answers:

I gotta say, E39 M5s are still the best super sedan on the planet. Sure they aren’t the top performer and lack the necessary gadgetry to spank today’s overstyled iron, but the driving experience is purer in the best BMW sedan ever made. The only flaw was the numb steering on-center. Which I quickly overlooked to fall in love with the rest of the package: I drove the finest E39 M5 (Sterling Gray with Caramel Leather) in 2002 and…well…that car completely changed my life.

Go ahead and buy it, but have about $5000 lying around for the next two years, because you could very well use it. Anything with rubber can and will fail at this age: go price a new power steering hose and see for yourself. The pixels (that always fail) on the cluster will be another few hundred. Anything that can possibly wear will do just that, even if the car sits around for most of the time. Time is not on its side, this will be a labor of love.

No wait…a labor of lust. I would buy this car, but you have been warned.

Jul answers:

Hey Sajeev,

Thanks a lot for the super quick reply man, really appreciate. As far as your answer I think we’re on the same page, unfortunately, if I want to be serious…I ride my motorcycle 90% of the time to commute but once in a while I need 4 wheels…So I guess the M5 would be driven about 2 days a week average, not enough to sit and wear all the rubber and seal components but still… As far as the pixel on the meter cluster screen they already started, it made me laugh cuz you’re right: They always do!

Oh well… I think I’m going to keep enjoying the bike and my old car and will wait a bit for a sport sedan… It’s not like I REALLY need it at the moment, but I liked entertaining the idea I think.

Sajeev concludes:

I really want you to buy this car, even if common sense demands otherwise. One thing we need to be clear on: rubber degrades just by sitting around…and once you heat cycle it a few times because you want to take the M5 on a few trips….boing! Something fails! And that’s assuming that all the electrics, leather, paint, suspension bits are like new. Which isn’t the smartest idea.

Tell me how this turns out for you.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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And the Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/and-the-winner-is-15/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/and-the-winner-is-15/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2011 05:31:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=400455
A BMW has taken the overall win at the Pacific Northworst 24 Hours of LeMons, but it wasn’t yet another dime-a-dozen E30. Nope, the winner this time was the bigger and more dignified E28 5 Series.
An El Camino-ized E28 won the notorious “demolition derby LeMons” at Altamont in ’07, and quite a few E28s have contended for a LeMons win on laps since that time. Finally, a long-overdue E28 victory. Now it’s the E23‘s turn!

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Review: 2011 BMW 5 Series (535i and 550i) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/review-2011-bmw-5-series-535i-and-550i/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/review-2011-bmw-5-series-535i-and-550i/#comments Mon, 09 Aug 2010 17:46:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=362499

Back in the 1980s, BMW was all about the compact, performance-oriented 3-Series. They also offered the 5 and 7, but these were greatly outsold by competing Mercedes. Seeking to expand well beyond its driving enthusiast base, BMW made its cars ever more stylish, luxurious, and laden with technology. Despite mixed reactions to the Bangled exteriors and iDrive, sales of the larger sedans grew even faster than their curb weights, and in recent years they have often outsold the E-Class and S-Class. A redesigned 2011 5-Series recently arrived at dealers. With the new car, has BMW further lost the plot, or rediscovered it?

With the new 5 and 7 BMW has returned to its old formula of “same timelessly styled sausage, different lengths.” The new F10 BMW 5-Series looks much like the F01 7-Series, only a size smaller. Which is still considerably larger than the previous generation (E60) 5-Series: the wheelbase has grown by three inches (bringing it within an inch of the E65 7-Series), the length by two, and the curb weight by about 400 pounds.

The styling of the previous generation (E60) 5-Series certainly had its critics, but I was not among them. It was the best of the Bangle-era designs. When fitted with the right wheels, it possessed a bold stance and aggressive edginess that the new cleaned-up 5 lacks. Looking at the new 550i fitted with the Sport Package, I kept wondering if it really had this package, for it doesn’t modify the lower body styling and its frilly 15-spoke alloys appear less sporty than the standard 18s.

The new 5’s interior styling has been similarly refined. The nav screen, though enlarged, is much more cleanly integrated into the instrument panel. A wider, shorter center stack angled six degrees towards the driver visually connects the instrument panel with the center console rather than visually separating the two. The new interiors still aren’t as driver-focused as those in classic BMWs, but they’re a definite step in the right direction. The main aesthetic fault: even more than the exteriors, the interiors’ designs are very conservative, and provide little visual excitement. Major gains have been made in ergonomics and usability. There are more buttons, so the much-improved iDrive doesn’t have to be used for as many things, but these buttons are logically grouped and located.

The standard driver’s seat in the 5 is serviceable for those who won’t be taking corners quickly. But the optional “comfort seats” included in the Sport Package are both much more comfortable and much more supportive in aggressive driving. They’re a must. One puzzling deletion: the comfort seats have lost their power-adjustable side bolsters in the new 5-Series. Apparently these are more needed for aggressive cornering in the 750Li, where they’re still included?

The specs suggest that the new 5-Series is about the same size inside as the old one. But, relative to the driver, the instrument panel is farther away, and so provides the impression of a larger car. A fan of compact cars, I prefer the cozier driving position of the E60. The rear seat remains sufficiently roomy and comfortable for adults, but the view forward is more constricted. The largest dimensional change with the new 5: cargo volume has grown by a substantial 4.4 cubic feet, to 18.4. This is a bit more than in the 7, and up with the best in the segment.

The BMW 535i continues to be powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six officially rated for 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. But not by the same 300-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six as last year’s car. In another strike by the bean counters, one of the turbos has been deleted, though that remaining is a twin-scroll design. I haven’t driven the old car recently, but at low rpm the new engine seems to have more lag and more of a boosted feel. Get on then off the throttle in casual driving, and the new engine is a noticeable split-second behind in both directions. From 3,000 rpm on up, though, power delivery is seamless. Even aided by a new eight-speed automatic, a gain of two ratios, acceleration doesn’t feel quite as strong as before. Credit here likely goes to the gain of 400 pounds rather than the loss of one turbo. A very quick car nevertheless.

With the E60, the 535’s twin-turbo six felt nearly as strong as the 550’s naturally-aspirated eight. What it couldn’t approach: the sound of the eight. For the F10, the V8 has lost 400 cc of displacement but has gained a pair of turbos to yield 400 horsepower and—even more noteworthy—450 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration ranges from effortless to astounding, depending on how deeply you plant the pedal. The 535i is plenty quick, but its engine is clearly working harder, and its boost builds less transparently. The traditional advantage of a V12 over a V8 has become the advantage of a twin-turbocharged V8 over a turbocharged six. Lost from the old 550: the turbocharged eight sounds relatively ordinary.

BMW deserves credit for continuing to offer a six-speed manual with both engines in the 5. Sadly, both of the cars I drove had smooth-shifting eight-speed automatics. The 550i had handy paddle shifters, but the shift lever summoned up quick shifts just as well in the 535i.

Even Hyundai can offer a quick luxury sedan these days. BMW’s key advantage has always been handling. At the event I attended, a Mercedes E350 was provided for comparison purposes. Its steering was far too light and vague, and its standard suspension permitted too much lean in turns and generally lacked composure. The optional sport suspension would have helped the handling, but not the steering. BMW didn’t have to stack the deck, but did anyway. In BMW’s defense, the 535i on hand also lacked an optional sport suspension. Even so un-optioned, the BMW handled with far superior precision and control. The electric power steering, a first for this segment, is on the light side, but is still much better weighted and more communicative than the system in the Benz. Between the chassis and the steering, you can delicately place the BMW exactly where you want it. Driving the car along a winding road involved little guesswork. As with other BMWs past and present, the car readily seems a tightly integrated extension of the driver.

This said, anyone who cares about driving will want the Sport Package, and perhaps also the Dynamic Handling Package. I say “perhaps,” because I drove no car with the former’s sport suspension but without the latter’s adaptive shocks (new to the 5) and active stabilizer bars. With these two packages, the midsize BMW feels tighter, if still not tight, quicker to respond, and even more precise. Conveniently located buttons can be used to vary the suspension, steering, transmission, and throttle programming between “Comfort,” “Normal,” “ Sport,” and “Sport+,” the last of which disables the stability control. Want some throttle-induced oversteer? Done. Even with the torquetastic rear-wheel-drive 550i, oversteer comes on gradually and proved very easy to modulate even with the stability control off.

Oddly, the ride felt the same to me in every setting, and much smoother than in past sport suspended 5ers. Noise levels are all fairly low, if not the lowest. All is not better, though. From the driver’s seat the new 5 feels larger and heavier than the old one. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, because it is larger and heavier, and (as noted above) the driving position is that of a larger car. The new 5 doesn’t as evenly split the difference between the 3 and the 7. It’s more 7, less 3.

Even though the Bangle-era cars were very successful, BMW clearly attended to critics when designing the new 5-Series. The styling is cleaner, the ergonomics are much improved, and the chassis is more refined. No great leap forward has been attempted this time around, and the car is better in virtually every way as a result. By nearly any objective measure, these are excellent cars. So why didn’t I enjoy looking at them or driving them more? Somehow, when BMW ticked off the boxes of items in need of improvement, enjoyment wasn’t in the list. They’ve rediscovered the plot, but in letter rather than spirit.

Vehicles for this review were provided by a dealer-hosted Ultimate Driving Experience

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

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BMW 5 Series Sells Out In All Markets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/bmw-5-series-sells-out-in-all-markets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/bmw-5-series-sells-out-in-all-markets/#comments Wed, 23 Jun 2010 14:33:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=359372

BMW, it turns out, can sell out more than just the odd “frozen grey” special-edition M3. According to BusinessWeek, BMW’s sales boss has confirmed that the new 5 Series is sold out, and that customers will have to wait between three and four months for orders to be processed.


Second-quarter global sales at BMW Group are hewing close to the “high single digit” growth the firm predicted, and should come close to its Q1 figure of 14 percent growth. And despite being likely to pass the UK to become BMW’s third largest market, China is not the only source of BMW’s growth.

Says sales boss Ian Robertson

The U.S. is coming back more strongly than expected

But BMW’s rolling 12-month sales in the US are still about 20k units off the previous 12 month’s numbers (246,382 vs. 265,031). With 5 Series sales down 41 percent last month, and the new model now completely sold out, expect those overall numbers to continue to rise. China’s love of the 7 Series may make it the more critical profit center, but BMW is already tasting the labor unrest that’s sweeping the country, as Businessweek reports that one of its largest Chinese dealers faces worker action over unpaid bonuses.

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The Ultimate Niche Machine: BMW Considering X4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/the-ultimate-niche-machine-bmw-considering-x4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/the-ultimate-niche-machine-bmw-considering-x4/#comments Fri, 30 Apr 2010 16:53:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=354832

You can already buy a BMW 3-Series in sedan, coupe, station wagon and X3 “cute-ute” bodystyles, and for some automakers that might be enough. For niche-crazed BMW though, it’s just the beginning. A 3-Series GT is planned in the mold of the 5-Series GT, as a midway-point between the coupe, sedan and station wagon versions. You know, in case you can’t decide which you want. “This has never existed!” screamed Autobild… back in 2008. Of course, now it does exist in the form of the 5-series GT, which could actually end up replacing the 5-series wagon in the US market. And as the march of the niche vehicles rolls onward, there’s one more segment that the 3-series architecture still hasn’t capitalized on: the jacked-up midway point between coupe and SUV. That’s right babies, the X4.

But don’t blame BMW for considering a baby X6, which will likely resemble a jacked-up, slightly coupe-ier version of the 3er GT. After all, the Bavarians have sold over 80k X6s since launch, or twice the projected volume.That, BMW sources tell Autocar, makes an X4 far more likely to happen:

We haven’t made any firm decision. However, the X6′s success shows there is a continued demand for sporty off-roaders.

Of course, the relatively small difference between the current 1-series and the 3-series makes the niche spacing even more of a tricky task. Seriously, what are the differences between buyers of an X1, a 3er GT, an X4, and a 3er Wagon? Do we need to start making up Venn diagrams of these buyers’ priorities? Or is BMW trying to prove a kind of automotive Zeno’s paradox, in which niches can be infinitely subdivided? Where is the focus?

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BMW China Does Stretching Exercises http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/bmw-china-does-stretching-exercises/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/bmw-china-does-stretching-exercises/#comments Sat, 03 Apr 2010 09:04:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=351369

While everybody is afraid of China flexing its muscles, the Middle Kingdom is stretching its feet. And its cars. Long versions are very popular in the world’s largest auto market, where one can hire a permanent driver for a few hundred $ a month.

BMW joins the fray with a lengthened version of their locally produced 5 Series, called BMW 5 Series Li. The previous generation was also available in a stretched Li version.

According to China Car Times, the Fünfer gained 14 centimeters in length, giving the boss in the back ample space to spread. Like its regulation length counterpart, the stretched version comes with a six-cylinder engine, ranging from 204 to 306 hp. Produced in joint venture with Brilliance Automotive, Daddy Longlegs will debut at the upcoming Beijing Auto Show.

The leggy BMW 5 Li will join other stretched Teutonic drives, such as the Audi A4L and Audi A6L, both very popular in China.

Only problem, which the polite Chinese probably decided not to point out to their Bavarian counterparts: In Mandarin Chinese, “Li” is a very popular family name. In China, it’s akin to calling the car “BMW 5 Series Jones.”

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Number Five Is Alive Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-number-five-is-alive-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-number-five-is-alive-edition/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2009 14:30:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=336829 BMW's New 5-Series

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Automotive Traveler/TTAC Spyshot: New 2011 BMW 5-Series http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/07/automotivetravelerttac-spyshot-new-bmw-5-series/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/07/automotivetravelerttac-spyshot-new-bmw-5-series/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2009 11:40:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=321844

For more pics of the new 2011 BMW 5-Series caught in the desert, jump on over to automotivetraveler.com.

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