The 2021 BMW 5-Series is a luxury mid-size sedan that runs more options than a college quarterback with a weak arm and quick feet. It competes with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6, and Genesis G80. Yet an adaptive suspension, loaded standard feature set, advanced convenience and safety technology, and an available plug-in powertrain make it a standout.
A mild refresh of the seventh-generation 5-Series broadens the grille, narrows the adaptive LED headlights that come standard this year, and lengthens the hood a bit to allow for a new mild hybrid system on the 540i model.
The base 530i packs a punchy turbo-4 in rear-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive, with a seamless 8-speed automatic transmission that’s as impressive an engineering feat as the adaptive suspension that reads the nuances of the road and enhances good driving while mitigating sloppy driving.
The 530e turns the base sedan into a plug-in hybrid with improved power this year, though the pedestrian 20-mile electric range remains. In day-to-day driving however, we found our plug-in test vehicle achieved closer to 30 miles of all-electric range.
The 540i uses a mild hybrid system that boosts the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 and shuts off the engine to recapture energy while coasting, improving fuel economy 2 mpg to 27 mpg combined, which is just 1 mpg shy of the 530i. Strap on all-wheel drive to hit 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds.
The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the M550i does it quicker and has an enhanced M suspension with a lower ride height, added grip on larger tires, and more performance goodies. For the full M treatment, there’s the 617-horsepower M5 Competition that rockets to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds.
The 5-Series seats four in comfort but the fifth seat should be used as an armrest or a pass-through to the long but narrow trunk. Standard 16-way power front seats with lumbar support provide plenty of comfort, but luxury essentials like leather upholstery, heated seats, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cost extra.
BMW shows off its commitment to advanced technology with a 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s 2.0 inches larger than last year and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that customizes driver preferences. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as excellent natural voice commands and silly but addictive gesture controls, simply the infotainment experience while still providing layers of options.
Standard driver assist systems such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitors complement top safety ratings from the IIHS, and a slew of safety options, such as a surround-view camera with parking sensors, help safeguard the body and the bodies inside.
The 530i costs $55,195, including $995 destination, the M550i stretches to $77,795, and the full M as in Masterful tops out at $112,095. Yeah. All-wheel drive adds $2,300 on all but the M550i and M, where it’s standard.
The 2021 BMW 5-series retains its status as the sportiest of executive sedans. Following a slight nip-tuck this year and the addition of the 530e plug-in hybrid the 5-series remains our top pick in the premium executive sedan class. Drive one and it’s easy to see why the 5-series is spectacular.