By on October 19, 2016

2017-2014 BMW 5-Series profile_128

The new 2017 BMW 5 Series, BMW’s seventh in a long line of revered midsize sedans, looks exactly like the outgoing BMW 5 Series.

Chip off the proverbial old block. Spitting image. Germany’s vehicular Dolly The Sheep.

If the new 5 Series, codename G30 in Bimmerphile parlance, were nothing more than a facelift of the departing F10 5 Series that will shortly end its 2011-2016 run, we would all surely consider the facelift to be an insufficient attempt at spicing things up.

But the new 5 Series isn’t just a mid-cycle refresh, it’s not merely a freshening of a tired old dog, it’s not the standard Munich riposte to a Stuttgart incursion.

This is the all-new BMW 5 Series. Or rather, one of these cars is the all-new BMW 5 Series. Can you say for sure which one it is?

This is by no means the first time BMW has run an old design through the Xerox machine, nor is self-plagiarism an unheard-of technique in the German automotive industry. Only four months ago, we discussed the reasoning behind the design direction of the new Audi A5, which looks exactly like the old Audi A5. Audi’s determination, summed up? Don’t mess with success.

2017-2014 BMw 5-Series front three4_4

The 5 Series has extraordinary history on its side. The degree to which it has looked terrific in most of its iterations works in its favour. The 5 Series’ intended demographic is full of conservative buying habits. So let’s be fair: we’re not dealing with, for instance, the successor to the Chevrolet Cruze up in here.

Nothing against the first-gen Cruze, but there’s no history there, no tradition, no street cred, no foundation, and little risk in rocking the boat. If General Motors released the second-generation Cruze with nary a noticeable styling change, we’d be more than a little confused. The Cruze isn’t an icon, it’s not a Porsche 911, it can’t take any credit for its role in developing the sports sedan category.

But the 5 Series is in another league. This is where laurels are meant to be rested upon, where an automaker is obliged to act as a trustee of past successes, where dancing with the one who didn’t brung ya could have catastrophic consequences.


Or is BMW just out of ideas?

2017-2014 BMW 5-Series rear 3quarter_188

It’s not as though the design ideas employed once again are bad ones. These design ideas have worked before. With the outgoing 5 Series, BMW USA reported record 5 Series sales in 2012 and then broke that record one year later. Last year, the 5 Series even (allegedly) outsold the all-conquering Mercedes-Benz E-Class in the U.S.

While a decline at the end of a lifecycle isn’t unanticipated, 5 Series sales slid 7 percent in 2014 and then plunged 16 percent in 2015 — harsh declines during growth periods for the U.S. auto industry. The 5 Series, America’s 76th-best-selling vehicle in 2013, tumbled to 104th overall in 2015.

It’s not just a 5 Series problem. Sure, U.S. new vehicle sales volume climbed to an all-time record high of 17.5 million units, but passenger car volume fell 2 percent to form 45 percent of the market. Through the first three-quarters of 2016, U.S. auto sales are up slightly, but car sales are down 9 percent and account for just 40 percent of the market.

In response to swift and dramatic changes in market demand that are abundantly obvious inside BMW’s own U.S. showrooms — car volume is down 18 percent; BMW’s five X crossovers are up 12 percent — BMW delivers this, the new 5 Series. Identical to the last 5 Series.

No, the sedan isn’t dying, but it is coughing, sneezing, aching, and complaining of a sore throat. And while automakers think outside the SUV box (Range Rover Evoque Convertible), adjust the scope of the SUV box (Mazda CX-3), expand how far the SUV box can be elevated (Bentley Bentayga), and break down the SUV box entirely (BMW Concept X2), where are the ideas that will help keep the sedan afloat?

2017-2014 BMw 5-Series headlights_159

Not surprisingly, the “all-new” seventh-generation BMW 5 Series is a handsome sedan. There are differences between old and new: BMW design boss Karim Habib says, “For the first time, the new BMW 5-Series Sedan brings together two traditional BMW design elements which are normally separate from one another,” referring to the swage line that apparently merges with the Hofmeister kink, “rather than continuing into the rear.”

Sure. Whatever. The grille features more chrome. The taillights are more rectangular. The headlights are, no, wait, the headlights are almost identical on outgoing and incoming 5ers.

The 2017 BMW 5 Series is a new car that won’t be distinguishable from its predecessor with a cursory glance or even a brief moment of study.

For owners of current BMW 5 Series sedans who have a vested interest in preserving resale values, that’s great news.

For the sedan — in the collective, general, en masse sense — it’s just more sad news.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook

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53 Comments on “Sadly, The Handsome New 2017 BMW 5 Series Looks Exactly Like The 2016 BMW 5 Series...”

  • avatar

    The new 7er looks a lot like the old 7er, too. While this has been common practice for Audi lately (and Porsche since forever), BMW generations used to be more distinguishable from each other. Maybe they’ve just grown gun-shy since they Bangled themselves.

    That said, the complaints folks have had about BMW sedans recently haven’t been about their looks, but about the fact that the driving experience no longer distinguishes BMW from Mercedes &c., leaving little room to buy one other than brand equity. Maybe they’re trying to fix what _is_ broken instead?

    • 0 avatar

      I never understood what the “er” meant when talking about BMW models. I know all about the codenames etc. but what’s 3er 5er etc all about? Fiver? Threer? Sevener? Or does everyone pretend to know German?

      • 0 avatar


        If you look at, that’s how they’re referred to. It’s partly people pretending to know German, but mostly people being lazy typists.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I believe that, quite simply, it’s an abbreviation of the German names for those cars.

        In Native German, the cars are not referred to with the “-Series” suffix, but rather as plurals of numbers. So instead of 7-Series, you have 7s or Sevens. In German, that’s the number 7, Sieben, plus the -er suffix to make it plural: Siebener. Abbreviated, you get 7er.

        I think.

        So something like “der neue 7er” would describe “the new 7-Series”.

        Of all the models, Siebener is the name that happens to look most-recognizable in English, as “Sevener”, so that’s probably how that practice hopped the pond and the language barrier.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s not quite plural, it’s more like “The seventh” or “the seventh in the sequence”.

          English doesn’t explicitly do this: we’d say “A three, a five, a seven” with the membership in a sequence implied. “Series” in BMW’s English marketing refers to the product family; I think the -er in the German material does the same, but the emphasis is on it’s being part of the sequence.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Gotcha! That is a foreign concept, because a natural English-speaker would expect a “seventh” car to refer to evolution and time of a specific model, not a number in a sequence of models. For instance, I drive the “seventh” Golf that Volkswagen has made.

            But what you’re saying is that, in BMW’s lineup, the car is the seventh or 7er. That makes sense. It also explains why BMW has gone to such lengths to separate sedans and coupes and have a full lineup that spans from 1 to 7, whereas previously they just had odd numbers.

            Thanks for the explanation!

          • 0 avatar

            Whereas Mercedes identifies a line (or series) of cars as a Klasse (E-Klasse, C-Klasse), BMW does it with the -er to identify the line, not a single variant (hence 5er or 3er, not 525i or 325i). So, while not plural in the strictest sense, it denotes the entire range of that series collectively. And yes, as my log in name would hint at, I’ve owned several 3-series.

          • 0 avatar

            “It also explains why BMW has gone to such lengths to separate sedans and coupes and have a full lineup that spans from 1 to 7, whereas previously they just had odd numbers.”

            There have been a 6 or 8 for quite some time.

            It’s more about pricing. As demand for two-doors declines, they need justifications to charge more for them. Creating a distinct model helps to sell the story.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m pretending not to have forgotten German. Spend too much time away and it slips – but the abbreviations stick.

  • avatar

    But the swage line doesn’t connect with the kink…it still cuts across the side of the car just like the old one.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking the same thing, until I clicked the full-size front 3/4 view.

      The new swage line bifurcates on the front quarter panel. The lower, and more dominant, portion continues through the door handles and to the rear quarter as usual. The top portion rises up toward the greenhouse and connects with the Hofmeister kink.

      I’m not sure that I like the change, it makes the kink look heavy and awkward from some angles.

      • 0 avatar

        Ugh, I was having the same problem until reading your comment. Now I see exactly. I’ve never been a fan of the ever-increasing prominence of the swage line (just look at any BMW from the 90’s to compare), and now I think it looks even worse.

        It just makes it seem like the designers are trying to obfuscate the overall shape of the vehicle by messing with things like this, or the hockey stick doodad on the fenders, rather than focusing on getting the small details right. For instance, the relationship between the length of the nose and the height of the hood relative to the wheel wells (no car does this better than the E38), or the relative prominence of the nose of the car vs its length due to where the headlights sit fore-aft relative to the grill, etc.

      • 0 avatar

        Macca, I see what you point out now; I didn’t realize that echo line around the chrome trim at the kink was part of the feature across the top of the doors. That whole line above the swage annoys me because it doesn’t follow the horizontal plane or the lines of the car, cutting from the top of the swage to the bottom of the windowline at that ambiguous angle.

  • avatar

    I do like what they did with the front-end. It takes some of the bulbousness out of it. The rear looks better, too.

    I can’t say I really care for the doubling-down on the rear window kink.

    Hopefully it steers better: BMW has been off it’s game since the E60* and each iteration of 3/4/5/6-series has been worse than it’s predecessor.

    * I will say the V8 E39 sucked, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      With all-due respect, I think the stuff BMW has now is miles better than anything they had in the early 2000s. First off, I’d say the E65 7-Series (2002-2008) is where BMW first lost the plot. You can’t tell me the current 6-Series looks *worse* than the Bangle-butted model that first debuted in 2004. Okay, maybe the 6-Series Gran Coupe looks like someone sat on it, but there was no equivalent to that bodystyle back then. And the outgoing F10 5-Series looks much better than the E60, with its weird eyebrows and interior that looked rather like a disjointed kit of parts than a cohesive effort.

      And your opinion that the E39 V8 sucked is an unpopular one. I can’t agree or disagree, since I’ve never driven one, but a lot of people say the E39 540i (a moniker which will now refer to the I6, BTW) was most of a contemporary M5 at a lot less of the cost. That could all be hype and rose-tinted glasses, of course…

      • 0 avatar

        I was referring to the steering only: my E46, may it rest in pieces, had pretty good steering. So did the I6 E39s; they had the same steering rack.

        The V8 E39, M5 included, had a recirculating-ball setup, like a truck (or E-Class Benz) would. The car itself was faster, but the steering feel wasn’t a patch on the six-cylinder models.

        I think the V8 E60 5-Series added rack-and-pinion, but also botched the power-assist. I can’t speak for the F30, but I found the E90 lacking.

  • avatar

    I thought this was a refresh.

    3 series is the new 5 series. Market for cars like the 5 & 7 are not long for this world and they don’t like change. So this is a smart move. Boring as hell though.

  • avatar

    It is now in fact uglier because it has inherited the 3 series’ awful hood cut.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that’s the old one that shared the 3-Series’ lobotomy-scar hood line. The new one doesn’t do that.

      ETA: I think that this might be what the author is getting at

      • 0 avatar

        You are right, they did fix it. The cars are so damn similar (and I haven’t seen a 5-series in a while) that I thought the one with the hood cut was the new one. Would be nice to just have a picture the car by itself to set the tone before comparisons are made, but that mistake is on me.

        I’m also used to “old” and “new” being on the left and right side in many comparison views. So, apologies from me, BMW, and thanks for fixing the thing that made an otherwise decent looking car ugly.

  • avatar

    This is a redesign with very evolutionary styling. Nothing wrong with that per se, a lot of automakers use the same design over several model cycles.

    However it looks like the hardpoints are exactly the same so I would guess this rides on the same chassis as the old one. What exactly are all the changes between this model and the old one?

    New engines? Transmission?

    • 0 avatar

      Google says the wheelbase is over 3″ longer on the new 5 Series. To me, that says it’s an all-new platform 95% of the time.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe the G30 utilizes BMWs new CLAR platform, sans the carbon core utilized in the 7 Series. I believe BMW was able to reduce some weight, making this generation less of a pig than the F10.

      Also, the G30 will utilize the new 4 and 6 Cylinders currently in use in the X1/2/3 Series, hence the switch over to -30 and -40 nomenclature. Same ZF 8-speed.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        No, there’s no carbon-core on the 5-Series. That’s a 7-Series exclusive. I suspect it will also be on the Rolls-Royce Ghost, Wraith and Dawn when those models are redesigned. Probably the Phantom to start, since it’s about to get a full re-do.

  • avatar

    This happens all the time. The designers and engineers can only seem to renovate parts of the design. Since the new 5 series is an all new mixed material chassis, for whatever reason that means the styling just gets copied over from the previous generation. We see that at Audi as the cars all switch to the new modular platform. I don’t quite understand it, since the stylists don’t engineer the car, but that seems to be how it works.

  • avatar

    I expect the G30 to drive much the same as the Germanic Oldsmobilian lump it’s replacing, so kudos to BMW for their consistency. However, if I really need a same-sausage-different-length hovercraft I’ll take an E-Class, thank you. It’s a much warmer environment to spend time in.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I don’t know about warmer; that could go either way. For me, I’m more familiar with BMWs (because my own Bimmer broke so often that I got to get intimate with the entire BMW lineup as loaners)…so BMWs seem warmer.

      However, I will say that the E-Class has quite a bit more legroom than the 5-Series. Somehow, the current F10 5-Series with the thicker MultiContour seats is more cramped than a contemporary 3-Series in any guise.

      • 0 avatar

        Modern car seats are _huge_.

        I don’t think people who complain about weight and packaging really appreciate how massive they are. I remember noticing it years ago on the Lexus GS.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          They really are.

          My X5 was roomy, though, and it had the MultiContour Seats.

          I tried to find one with the base seats, which would have been significantly cheaper, and then I could retrofit the MultiContour Seats in; unfortunately, the wiring harness is completely different and no one I’ve seen successfully knows how to code an E70 to activate the various functions on the premium seats. Plus, unless I bought the seats new from BMW, at some princely sum, I’d have to worry about whether the airbags in them had been deployed or not.

  • avatar

    Is this a marketing issue – if your latest iteration model of a car is hardly distinguishable from the previous, will buyers be less likely to purchase the car?

    Another car I can think of is the Mini. My wife drives a 13yo Mini and I would bet that your average person couldn’t tell the difference between it and the latest generation. I can, but I “follow” the brand.

    Related – when I used to show up to place in my departed ’04 BMW 325i – which looks quite a bit different from the next or current generation – people would just see the badge and assume it was still an expensive or even a newer car, not something that I picked up for $9k.

    Of course some car brands – Porsche, Mercedes come to mind – have cars that age really well. When I see an old Mercedes that hasn’t been abused I don’t think – “god look at that ancient car!”. It’s more like “That’s a nice Mercedes.”

  • avatar

    The 5er did not need a better body to compete- it needed better tech, better standard features, and better driving dynamics. I believe most of those were addressed.

  • avatar

    so, seriously – which of the two that you posted is new and which is old?

  • avatar

    This car isn’t for me, so it doesn’t matter that I think the new headlights serve as a reminder of when BMW threw their heritage in the toilet and defecated the E65 and E60 on it. I certainly enjoyed the part about 5-series owners who are concerned about resale value though. Maybe the last generation will retain more value than a used pizza as a result of this perceived design conservatism.

  • avatar

    Of course newly redesigned German models look nearly the same as the outgoing; this is because the overwhelming majority of them are leased. When a vain person actually wants to take advantage of depreciation with a pre-owned model, they’re not going to buy something that won’t pass off as the newer model…you know…they have to keep up appearances. The dealer networks also get pre-owned lease return product that won’t look stale on their lots, especially as the consumer perceives German vehicles, particularly used ones as risky due to high maintenance costs. German autos have now become the equivalent of say, a Hugo Boss suit. Subtle changes here or there in the lapels, maybe the tail and cuffs, but in the end…a grey suit is a grey suit.

    This is why, I believe, non-German luxury auto makers, such as Lexus, and more recently, Volvo, have and can make huge gains and cut even more market share from the Germans, with bold and radical designs in their new model intros. Volvo is a text book case of this. Lexus, too, even with how their new grille is so polarizing, you know it is the new Lexus, I have seen a lot of them, lately. And isn’t that what luxury is about…look at me? The Germans will have to continue to make the equivalent of suits, until they can break the cycle of their own doing.

    • 0 avatar

      So vain people buy used BMWs, which are conservatively styled, because they want people to think they have a new model, whereas Volvo and Lexus buyers buy radically designed new models, because they want people to think that they have a new model. Ah.

      • 0 avatar

        Not necessarily NEW models, but late model versions, purchased at a discount when used. The people who buy them aren’t all vain, there’s a value proposition involved. At least you know the off-lease models have been properly maintained.

        • 0 avatar

          Lorenzo, I know. I have an off-lease BMW myself; because of all the vanity. So, so much vanity. I was merely pointing out that Haterade’s comments don’t make much sense.

  • avatar

    Razor sharp steering, great sight lines, rock solid braking….Not any more.
    Former BMW 5 series owner now looking at new Genesis.
    If I’m not going to get a “BMW”, why pay for one????

  • avatar

    So what’s the problem here? The last time BMW tried to be innovative with their designs we got the e65 7 series. Be careful what you wish for. Anyway, Lexus now has a monopoly on flame surfaced cross-overs if that’s your thing. And its not like BMW doesn’t play around with every mongrel body style it can come up with (as this website often points out).

    I’m actually relieved that they are still offering a good looking sedan. The outgoing model was one (and still is) one of the best looking sedans on the market. It looks like this design cleans up some of its less desirable elements (lobotomy scar cutline) while offering the latest tech and lighter weight.

    Mercedes is trying to be all fashion-forward now which has resulted in lots of swoops and droopy butts. They won’t age well. The CLS looks like a personal luxury coupe from the 70s. I’m happy that BMW and Audi are still carrying the traditional Germanic torch of evolution not revolution.

  • avatar

    I’m struggling with the thought that the BMW exterior designers have spent the last 4-5 YEARS compiling their collective creative thinking caps and THIS is what came out of that process.

  • avatar

    I do see a lot of changes in the new design. I think when you see the car in person these changes will be much easier to spot, the photos don’t do the car justice. The headlights are significantly larger and connect directly to the grille. There are now two character lines under the side glass. One keeps going to the rear lights and the other connects to the Hofmeister kink. The front hood is also significantly longer. Better design detailing has also made the car look lower and longer from the side. Its both sportier looking and more luxurious.

    I think the designers did a good job, it’s not as classically clean design as the old 5, and a bit busy, but its more interesting to look at.. The risk for BMW is that Mercedes has upped their design game and has a significantly new design language being introduced across all their cars. BMW has decided not to make that jump, which good hurt them in the long term.

  • avatar

    I feel like the 5-series has become an Old Man’s Car.

    Yes, of course generally Old Men can afford these. But you don’t see the rare rich 30-something, or more commonly, the image-conscious, leveraged-to-the-hilt 30-something who is willing to lease an expensive car, going after a 5-series anymore.

    The 5-series lost its cool factor with the outgoing gen and the model has become more staid than the E-class.

  • avatar

    I hate the new BMW styling of that brake vent and line all the way down the side. It looks beyond cheap.

    As a big BMW lover I also hate the new cars. No reason to choose them over the competition anymore. Don’t drive well. Soft. BMW expensive. Why bother when you can get a better driving, nicer to be in audi or if you want soft just get a Lexus.

    BMW has jumped the shark.

  • avatar

    The new 5 looks like the body had a tuck here and there, and tightened against its structure relieving the bloat of the last 5. The interior is perhaps similarly refined proportionally and prolly where the real changes are in terms of style, function and tech.

    For the typical leasee, the exterior will be changed just enough to appeal, and the mood inside will be reassuring for those accustomed to BMW; great site lines, with near perfect ergonomics once new modes and tech features are gestated.

    Maybe if that certain something steering feel that BMWs use to have (and your average lowly Ford now has) comes back into the equation and regain its status as the best sedan in the world.

  • avatar

    If you think those look exactly alike (or even alike at a glance) you need new glasses. Does the new one look like a BMW? Yes. Does it look like a 5 series? Yes. Does it look exactly like the old one? Uh, no. Not from any angle. It’s a far more significant change than the last A4 revision.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Doesn’t look exactly alike. Similar, sure…but exactly alike? Not by a long shot.

    The new A5, from a profile view, looks more like the old A5 than these two versions of the BMW 5 Series.

  • avatar

    I have no problem telling the two apart from any angle, inside or out. Personally I thought the previous 5-Series was a very handsome car, so I don’t mind the new one being an evolution of that design. The two areas it needed the most updating were the interior and the drive — from the photos they certainly upgraded and modernized the interior, and based on the prototype drive reviews all over the internet it sounds like they succeeded on the driving front too.

    For a better example of what this article intends, replace the 5-Series with an Audi. Any Audi. Every new Audi is indistinguishable from the previous version (and frankly, from every other Audi).

  • avatar

    can anyone comment as to how the F10 has held up in terms of reliability? Typical BMW horror stories, or quasi reliable? I’m looking at a late model F10 CPO with low miles, but even w/ a CPO warranty, i’m hesitant to pull the trigger. I’m not concerned with maintenance type stuff as I DIY brakes, oil changes, fluid changes, plugs, etc. I’m more concerned with major repairs, or expensive sensors that continually go out.

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