The all-new 2017 BMW 5 Series is everything a luxury sedan should be: Engaging to drive, comfortable to spend time in, and full of useful features.
But in addition to a new look and new engine options, BMW also gave its midsize four-door advanced tech that’s not found in any other car. The result is a sedan that’s still cutting-edge, despite some dull spots.
For instance, the 5 Series is the first vehicle in the world to offer a wireless version of Apple’s CarPlay smartphone integration setup.
I love how CarPlay replaces a car’s own finicky navigation and entertainment system with a familiar iOS skin, plus driver-focused versions of popular apps. But until now, it required that your iPhone remain tethered to the car with a Lightning cable.
With my phone in my pocket, pulling up the Spotify app on the BMW’s new touchscreen was as simple as tuning in an AM radio station on a Nash Rambler. But it also ran down my phone’s battery—and fast.
The $2,300 Premium Package includes a wireless charging tray in the center console, but it won’t juice up your iPhone unless you buy a wireless charging case.
Of course, things would be a lot worse if you were among the 53.2 percent of Americans who own an Android phone.
Since BMW refuses to add Android Auto compatibility to its iDrive infotainment system, Android users can’t seamlessly navigate phone apps on a 5 Series’ dashboard. So if you love your brand new Samsung Galaxy S8, you might want to shop for a brand new Audi A6 instead.
But if you skipped the 5 Series for the sake of a phone, you’d be missing out on an amazing car.
I spent a week driving the entry-level BMW 530i. Yes, it has a turbo four-cylinder engine under the hood—but put away all your preconceived notions of “four-bangers” and turbo lag. BMW’s all-new 248 hp, 2.0-liter four felt sprightly and responsive, and I still got 24.5 mpg in mixed city and highway traffic. In fact, it’s such a good match for the 5 Series’ new, lighter-weight design that I prefer it to a more powerful engine.
Still, $52,195 is a lot for the base model of anything, and options—such as a $4,200 upgraded sound system, $600 soft-close doors, and $2,450 Mocha Nappa Leather with contrast stitching and piping—drove the sticker on my test car to just shy of $75,000. That doesn’t include optional all-wheel drive, either.
Some of those additions proved more impressive than others. For example, as part of the $1,700 Driver Assistance Package, the 5 Series’ Active Cruise Control took the stress out of a traffic jam by automatically following the car in front of me, braking and accelerating as needed.
Gesture Control, however, was only useful as a party trick. As its name suggests, the $190 option lets drivers accept a phone call with a swipe of a palm, or turn up the volume with a finger twirl. After much (literal) waving of hands, I decided the sensor-based system wasn’t quite ready for real-world applications.
Although it’s bad at charades, the 5 Series still excels at driver communication. See, BMW has a knack for building cars that speak to the driver through steering feel, suspension travel, and throttle response—and the 530i proved no exception.
Some luxury cars are so silent and smooth that they isolate the driver, and some sports cars are jarringly candid with their bumps and rattles. But, as always, the 5 Series’ feedback is both direct and laconic—even moreso when I got used to its optional adaptive rear-wheel steering, designed to help smooth out high-speed lane changes.
Even though it couldn’t talk with Android phones or understand hand signals, the 5 Series and I did share a mutually intelligible language. Whether it was a late-night cruise on an empty highway, a quick jaunt down a twisty country road, or a slog through rush-hour traffic, we grew to anticipate each other’s reactions.
Few cars interact with their drivers as competently as the 2017 BMW 5 Series. If only it could do the same with a Google Pixel.
What Stands Out
Handling: Still the gold standard for a sporty luxury sedan
Technology: Look, ma: No hands, and no wires
Power: New turbo four is a perfect match for this BMW
2017 BMW 5 Series
What? An all-new version of BMW’s driver-focused, midsize luxury sedan
Where? Made in Dingolfing, Germany
When? Available at dealers now
What makes it go? A 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder good for 248 hp
How thirsty? 24 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined with premium fuel
How big? 16.22 feet
How much? Starts at $51,200, plus a $995 destination charge
Overall? Despite some high-tech misses, still the perfect sport sedan