2017 BMW 5-Series first drive review: playing the middle Page 3

Mit feeling, ja?

BMW has selected two approaches to transport all that leather and tech for starters.

The first, a 530i that’s powered by BMW’s new turbo-4 that’ll trickle all the way down to the 2-Series. It makes 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet here and will sprint up to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds.

That engine is far from anemic and sounds somewhat pleasant pushing the 5er through the hills of northern California. If anything, it lacks top-end ambition—once it’s up to highway speed, it prefers to stay there and chew up the highway miles at a steady beat.

For more animated highway sprints, the 540i packs an uprated turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes 335 hp—up 35 hp from the last 535i—and 332 lb-ft. While the 540i badge was normally reserved for V-8s, its absence isn’t missed here; the turbo-6 spins its rears up just fine without additional cylinders and makes passing maneuvers faster than a creepy uncle.

2017 BMW 5-Series

2017 BMW 5-Series

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Both engines are teamed to an 8-speed automatic transmission that’s smooth on the way up, and crisp on the way down with a blip of throttle in sport modes. Pull back on the column-mounted shifters to pick your own, if you like, but it’s not the best way: the logic in the 8-speed can keep up with any side road hustle just fine, provided you're in one of those sport modes.

All-wheel drive (which BMW calls xDrive) is available for both models and for the first time can be paired with adaptive dampers or rear-wheel steering, which BMW calls Integral Active Steering.

Two words on IAS: skip it—at least for now. At low speeds, the rear-wheel steering can aid in maneuverability around town, but at higher speeds it can feel like an unnaturally quick grocery cart ripping around the frozen pizza aisle. Sharper turn in may sound more appealing, but the overall sensation of having your back end do something that your front end may not be expecting is probably how my 2-year-old dog feels turning the corner in my kitchen at full speed.

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Rather, the base suspension setup—and the adjustable dampers—are plenty to make the 5er feel fun on twisty roads. Even with a light steering feel in the middle and a softer tune for 18-inch standard run flats, the BMW’s wheel builds up around corners nicely and holds a line. Although the weight loss may seem marginal, the new 2017 BMW 5-Series feels more athletic than the outgoing model, and more excited to hustle around side roads.

And that might be the 5-Series best secret.

Its identity now may be more of a tech sedan than a sports sedan. On the tech front, the new BMW feels a half-step behind others in what you can see (what you can't, namely app integration is another story.) On the performance front, the BMW may be a half step ahead once more potent versions arrive later this year.

But like any good middle child knows: it has dirt on both sides and can play both siblings from the middle.

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