Mercedes-Benz has been launching hit after hit for the past few years, making it hard for rivals, even perennial luxury leader BMW, to keep up. Mercedes has catapulted to the top of the sales charts thanks to a focus on traditional values such as handsome design, plush interiors and stout performance, but now it’s BMW’s turn for a product onslaught.
BMW is treading down a more technical path, introducing even on its core vehicles carbon fiber construction, downsized engines and advanced interface systems. The strategy hasn’t worked so well for the latest 7-Series, whose sales pale in comparison to those of the S-Class, but there’s a good chance it will hit home with the more technology focused and less conservative buyers typical of its 3- and 5-Series.
The Bavarian brand on Wednesday unveiled a new 5-Series, the seventh generation of the nameplate. The look is clearly evolutionary—we’re sure some buyers will have trouble spotting the new one from the old—but there are radical changes in the parts you can’t see.
The new 5-Series, which is expected on sale next spring, as a 2017 model, is the second to adopt BMW’s modular platform known as CLAR. The platform made its debut in the latest 7-Series and will eventually underpin most BMWs sized from the 3-Series up. BMW says the multi-material construction of the platform has helped the new 5-Series shed 137 pounds compared to its predecessor, with the lightest version bound for the United States weighing 3,746 lb. The size is similar to the outgoing model, with the length coming in at 194.6 inches (+1.2 in) and the wheelbase at 117.1 in (+0.2 in).
At launch, there will be 530i and 540i models. The 530i gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 delivering 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque and the 540i gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 delivering 335 hp and 332 lb-ft. An 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive is standard on both, and both can be ordered with all-wheel drive. Interestingly, BMW for the first time is allowing all-wheel-drive versions to be ordered with the M Sport package, which, among other items, adds lowered, sport-tuned suspension.
Eventually, we expect the range to be expanded with a 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid model and M550i and M5 performance-oriented models. The latter should stick with the outgoing M5’s twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8, albeit with output dialed up to 600 hp or more. The quickest for now is the 540i with all-wheel drive. It will sprint from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Top speed on all models is 130 mph, though as an option BMW will lift this to 155 mph.