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#8

in 2009 Luxury Large Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $16,122 - $22,996
Original MSRP: $45,800 - $60,400
MPG: 18 City / 28 Hwy
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2009 BMW 5-Series Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 5-Series offers a choice of three engines, one a bit underpowered for this class, and two quite potent. But its strong performance reputation comes from its responsive steering and sporty suspension. Optional all-wheel drive improves the handling even further and gives the car impressive road grip.

  • "As for its driving characteristics, it is everything you come to expect from BMW." -- AutoWeek
  • "Great handling is mandatory for BMW, and the 535i sticks to the road with delightful balance." -- Kansas City Star
  • "There's simply nothing like stomping the loud pedal, hearing those turbos spool up and getting punched back in the seat by raw, unadulterated power, which in the 5 continues well into triple-digit speeds." -- Edmunds
  • "The BMW 5 Series earned its deserved reputation as the supreme midsize sport sedan almost on driving dynamics alone." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 5-Series' ride and handling combination is among the world's best." -- Consumer Guide
  • "BMW, better than any manufacturer, manages to blend crisp handling with a smooth ride, and the 550i is no exception." -- Orlando Sentinel
  • "A blast to drive" that is "well worth the money." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The base 528i is powered by a 230-horsepower inline-six cylinder engine that, reviewers say, is nothing groundbreaking. If you just want a luxurious commuter car that can occasionally provide some fun, that's your choice. But the other two available engines are much more impressive. The 535i comes with a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo six cylinder making 300 horsepower, and the 550i features a 4.8-liter V8 making 360 horsepower. According to BMW, the manual 550i can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. A six-speed manual is standard, but switching to a six-speed automatic transmission doesn't add any cost. The  EPA estimates that the most efficient model is the 528i, with a manual transmission, managing 18 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The 550i, however, has a city/highway fuel economy of 15/22 mpg.

  • "Despite a somewhat small engine for the class, the 528i has sufficient power for most needs, even with the automatic transmission. The 550i is potent at all speeds; it did 5.5 seconds 0-60 mph with automatic transmission in our test. The automatic works well, but can be tardy on downshifts. Manual transmissions shift smoothly." -- Consumer Guide
  • "BMW is also known for power, and this car has plenty of it. I was literally unable to accelerate slowly in it. Whether coming off a red light or heading onto the highway, I just had to 'let her go.'" -- Mother Proof
  • "The 528i is powered by a 230-hp inline-six-cylinder engine. While its power is adequate, it didn't supply any of the visceral thrills that most BMWs offer. There is a slight delay in acceleration off the line or when trying to hustle out of slow-moving traffic." -- Cars.com
  • "Power delivery in the 535i is very linear, even with the turbochargers, meaning that you'll get the same response and acceleration whether the engine is turning 2500 rpm or 5000 rpm when you step on the gas. There's virtually no turbo lag in this engine." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "The test 535xi could zoom forward after just a hint of a lag when the gas pedal was slammed down. I found the car moving aggressively to claim openings in traffic and bound up hills." -- Associated Press
  • "The silky smooth power of the [535's] new twin-turbo six-cylinder is an enthusiast's delight. This is BMW's first production twin-turbo engine. It has direct fuel injection and an all-aluminum crankcase. Noise and vibration are minimal because an inline engine is inherently smooth." -- Kansas City Star
  • An unusual dissent: "We did find the automatic perform with a bit of uncertainty at times, seeming to shift hard one moment only to smooth out nicely the next." -- Auto Week

Handling and Braking

While BMW's engines can be impressive, the cars earn their sporting reputation in the corners. The 5-Series sits at the top of our performance ratings because of its handling. Still, some say the steering is too heavy at low speeds. In searching through everything the automotive press has written on the 5-Series, that's the closest we came to finding a complaint.

  • "If you can find a premium luxury sedan with better ride and handling, buy it." -- Washington Post
  • "Handling, as expected in a BMW, was exceptional. The car body was well-controlled in all maneuvers, giving the feeling of it hunkering down securely over the wheels even over some busy road surfaces." -- Associated Press
  • "An extremely balanced machine that can handle aggressive driving maneuvers on winding back roads as well as it dispatches weekday commutes on crumbling expressways." -- Edmunds
  • "Steering is about the best in the business, though it can feel a bit too heavy at low speeds for some folks." -- AutoWeek
  • "Although designed with a little understeer, the 535i handled hard corners well, with the rear end giving a satisfying kick out." -- CNET
  • "It's a rewarding car to drive, but not in the traditional definition of luxury. Rather than wafting around town on a cushion of Cool Whip, it feels more like a go kart that's been outfitted with leather seats and all kinds of crazy gadgets. It's bumpy, powerful, exciting and high-tech." -- The Cullman Times
  • The brakes "slow the car from high speed in sports car fashion, and they hold up under harder use than any driver is likely to dish out. Even after repeated stops that would smoke the brake pads on lesser cars, the 5's brakes show very little fade." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "BMW brakes are among the best around, and the 535i stops with authority." -- Kansas City Star

Next Steps: 2009 BMW 5-Series

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