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2011 BMW 5 Series
BMW gets a bit more kinky for 2011

By Malcolm Gunn

2011 BMW 5 SeriesGood news, BMW fans: the 5 Series' Hofmeister Kink has returned to Plant Dingolfing.

The terminology sounds borrowed from the latest Harry Potter instalment, but actually refers to the sixth-generation BMW 5 Series sedan with its re-energized styling and a trio of equally invigorated engine.

The new BMW, which shares its basic platform with the larger 7 Series, also shares a common manufacturing plant located in the Bavarian city of Dingolfing. BMW cars share a common styling cue called the Hofmeister Kink, which appears as a unique hook or a flair in the rear roof pillar. It was not nearly as noticable on the previous-generation 5 Series, but has now been restored to its full prominence on the 2011 edition.

The kink is but a footnote to the car's design story. The sheetmetal makeover is nothing short of drop-dead gorgeous and represents a return to a more traditional shape. Although a respectable seller, the 2004-'10 BMW 5 Series design failed to evoke much in the way of got-to-have-it emotion, especially with the rear deck's controversial tacked-on clamshell appearance.

The physically enhanced sedan joins the 5 Series GT hatchback that will be the only other body style in North America; there are apparently no plans to continue offering a 5 Series wagon here. However, you will see all-wheel-drive variants arriving soon and perhaps a new ultra-performance M5 sedan in a year or two.

2011 BMW 5 SeriesAlong with its improved skin, BMW increases the distance between the front and rear wheels by about 7.5 centimetres and adds five centimetres to the length. The width has also been slightly increased. The result is a roomier cabin with improved back-seat space for legs and feet and a bit more elbowroom for both rows. Additionally, the trunk area has grown by an impressive 30 per cent.

Not unexpectedly, the 5 Series oozes up-level class and comfort, with perforated-leather seat coverings and expensive-looking burled ash wood trim framed in satin nickel. The control panel is angled slightly toward the driver but is still viewable from the passenger side. BMW's console-positioned 'iDrive' controller returns to reign supreme over the ventilation, communications and optional navigation system, although when ordering the latter, the view screen size is 26 centimetres, up about 30 per cent from what was used in the previous model.

As before, three different grades of 5 Series will be offered. The base 528i is fitted with a 240-horsepower 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine that makes 230 pound-feet of torque, up from the previous 230/200 rating.

The mid-range 535i has a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder rated at 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Although those numbers remain unchanged from the previous turbo engine, the new unit uses a single turbocharger instead of twin-turbo plumbing.

2011 BMW 5 SeriesThe top-of-the-range 550i comes with a 400-horsepower 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that also belts out 450 pound-feet of torque. Compare that to the 2010 model's 360/300 rating derived from its non-turbocharged 5.0-litre V8. Official fuel-economy numbers are not out yet, but the 4.4 should significantly outperform the 5.0 here, too.

All powerplants come with six-speed manual transmissions, but an optional eight-speed automatic replaces the six-speed automatic. BMW says the new eight-speed helps out fuel economy without adding any extra weight.

Further efficiencies are realized from a new Brake Energy Regeneration system. The alternator, which the engine turns via a belt to charge the battery, engages only under deceleration or braking, thus saving fuel. The battery is more efficient, too, and instead of using the usual liquid electrolyte, it features a solid material that maintains its energy for longer periods between charges.

The best of the rest of the techno-goodies arrive with the optional Sport Package. Highlights include the Driving Dynamics Control that allows the driver to adjust the ride, handling and drivetrain characteristics to Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ settings.

There's more - a lot more - leading-edge wonderment available in the 5 Series (have we mentioned the active cooling air flaps or the night vision pedestrian detection?), but suffice to say the new 5 Series is one special sedan, whether you select the $53,900 528i, $62,300 535i or $73,300 550i . . . especially now that the kink is back.

What you should know: 2011 BMW 5 Series

Type: Four-door, full-size mid-luxury sedan

Engines (hp): 3.0-litre DOHC I6 (240); 3.0-litre DOHC I6, turbocharged (300); 4.4-litre DOHC V8, twin-turbocharged (400)

Transmissions: Six-speed manual; eight-speed automatic (opt.)

Market position: BMW uniquely creates a first-class luxury vehicle that has been designed from the ground up to provide the driver with the maximum level of performance and road-holding capabilities.

Points: New design will give BMW lovers plenty to smile about. * Inviting interior accommodations include superb seats. * Level of available high-tech content approaches overkill. * BMW should consider making AWD standard on all 5 Series cars. * More good news: 5 Series base price $2,300 lower than for 2010 model.

Safety: Front airbags; front/rear side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.

L/100 km (city/hwy): 11.7/7.5 (3.0, MT, est.)

Base price (excl. destination): $53,900

By comparison:

Audi A6
Base price: $52,900
Prestige, power and price comparable to 5 Series. AWD wagon available.

Mercedes-Benz E-class
Base price: $58,600
Sedan, coupe and convertibles offer impressive power and elegance.

Jaguar XF
Base price: $61,800
Knockout looks with coddling content. Ultra-quick 510-hp XFR available.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted April 3, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM


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