Sadly, The Handsome New 2017 BMW 5 Series Looks Exactly Like The 2016 BMW 5 Series

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
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.
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.Really?Or is BMW just out of ideas?
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?
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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  • JRobUSC JRobUSC on Oct 20, 2016

    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).

  • EX35 EX35 on Mar 20, 2017

    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.

  • Dartdude Having the queen of nothing as the head of Dodge is a recipe for disaster. She hasn't done anything with Chrysler for 4 years, May as well fold up Chrysler and Dodge.
  • Pau65792686 I think there is a need for more sedans. Some people would rather drive a car over SUV’s or CUV’s. If Honda and Toyota can do it why not American brands. We need more affordable sedans.
  • Tassos Obsolete relic is NOT a used car.It might have attracted some buyers in ITS DAY, 1985, 40 years ago, but NOT today, unless you are a damned fool.
  • Stan Reither Jr. Part throttle efficiency was mentioned earlier in a postThis type of reciprocating engine opens the door to achieve(slightly) variable stroke which would provide variable mechanical compression ratio adjustments for high vacuum (light load) or boost(power) conditions IMO
  • Joe65688619 Keep in mind some of these suppliers are not just supplying parts, but assembled components (easy example is transmissions). But there are far more, and the more they are electronically connected and integrated with rest of the platform the more complex to design, engineer, and manufacture. Most contract manufacturers don't make a lot of money in the design and engineering space because their customers to that. Commodity components can be sourced anywhere, but there are only a handful of contract manufacturers (usually diversified companies that build all kinds of stuff for other brands) can engineer and build the more complex components, especially with electronics. Every single new car I've purchased in the last few years has had some sort of electronic component issue: Infinti (battery drain caused by software bug and poorly grounded wires), Acura (radio hiss, pops, burps, dash and infotainment screens occasionally throw errors and the ignition must be killed to reboot them, voice nav, whether using the car's system or CarPlay can't seem to make up its mind as to which speakers to use and how loud, even using the same app on the same trip - I almost jumped in my seat once), GMC drivetrain EMF causing a whine in the speakers that even when "off" that phased with engine RPM), Nissan (didn't have issues until 120K miles, but occassionally blew fuses for interior components - likely not a manufacturing defect other than a short developed somewhere, but on a high-mileage car that was mechanically sound was too expensive to fix (a lot of trial and error and tracing connections = labor costs). What I suspect will happen is that only the largest commodity suppliers that can really leverage their supply chain will remain, and for the more complex components (think bumper assemblies or the electronics for them supporting all kinds of sensors) will likley consolidate to a handful of manufacturers who may eventually specialize in what they produce. This is part of the reason why seemingly minor crashes cost so much - an auto brand does nst have the parts on hand to replace an integrated sensor , nor the expertice as they never built them, but bought them). And their suppliers, in attempt to cut costs, build them in way that is cheap to manufacture (not necessarily poorly bulit) but difficult to replace without swapping entire assemblies or units).I've love to see an article on repair costs and how those are impacting insurance rates. You almost need gap insurance now because of how quickly cars depreciate yet remain expensive to fix (orders more to originally build, in some cases). No way I would buy a CyberTruck - don't want one, but if I did, this would stop me. And it's not just EVs.