The BMW 5 Series is a midsize luxury car that so far has spanned seven generations.
2017 - Present BMW 5 Series (G30 7th Generation)
The current and seventh-generation BMW 5 Series went on sale for 2017. In the U.S., it is only available as a sedan as the Gran Turismo hatchback model was discontinued.
This 5 Series uses a new platform shared with the larger 7 Series sedan, with stronger materials and a more advanced electrical system to support more technology.
The 530i uses a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 248 horsepower, while the 540i uses a turbocharged six-cylinder with 335 horsepower.
These were followed by the 530e plug-in hybrid model, which also produces a combined 248 horsepower, but offers a small electric-only range.
Later, the M550i was introduced with a turbocharged V8 engine and 523 horsepower. It came standard with all-wheel-drive, which was an option on all other models.
When the full M5 appeared for 2019, it too used a turbocharged V8, this time with 610 horsepower or 617 on the Competition model.
All 5 Series models kept similar sizes, but used automatic transmissions and offered technology such as gesture control for the audio and infotainment functions. They also featured a driver assistance technology package that could perform minor steering corrections and automatically stop the vehicle at high speeds to minimize an impact.
2011 - 2016 BMW 5 Series (F10 6th Generation)
For its sixth iteration, the BMW 5 Series lost some of its controversial styling cues. While the sedan returned, the wagon was replaced in the U.S. by the Gran Turismo, a five-door hatchback with a longer wheelbase than the sedan’s. This new GT model was derided by critics for its awkward looks and questionable interior benefits.
The entire line of 5 Series models grew more advanced in terms of technology. Vehicles were offered with a 360-degree camera, rear-wheel steering, and a night vision camera.
The sedan range started with the turbocharged, four-cylinder 528i, then the turbocharged six-cylinder 535i and the 550i with a V8 turbo.
An M5 closely followed, swapping the previous V10 and available manual transmission for a turbocharged V8 and dual-clutch automated manual.
Two new variants also appeared for the first time in this generation. The first was a diesel, the 535d, powered by a turbocharged six-cylinder engine.
Later the ActiveHybrid5 was the first gas-electric hybrid model offered on the 5 Series.
2004 - 2010 BMW 5 Series (E60 5th Generation)
The fifth-generation 5 Series had a lot to live up to, following the acclaim its predecessor earned. BMW decided to incorporate plenty of radical elements with the E60, however.
The styling, which aped the equally controversial 7 Series from two years prior, didn’t hide the fact this 5 was much larger than the old one.
Inside, the relatively simple controls of the previous model were replaced by BMW’s iDrive. It was one of the first extensive infotainment systems in a new car that was a screen controlled by a central knob and voice commands, and it was roundly panned by critics and owners alike in its early years.
Nevertheless, the iDrive was indicative of the level of technology the 5 Series offered, as many of its features are still making their way into cars today. Adaptive cruise control was a new feature, as was active steering, Bluetooth, and push-button start with keyless entry to start.
The 530i (in sedan and wagon) kept a version of its previous six-cylinder engine, but a new 545i offered a larger V8 before. Later, the 535i replaced the 530i, and a 550i supplanted the 545i.
All-wheel-drive was newly available, and the transmissions consisted of six-speed manuals and automatics.
The M5 swapped in an enormous V10 engine that jumped horsepower a full 100 to 500 horsepower. It used an automated manual transmission, but customer complaints prompted the introduction of a six-speed manual midway through its life.
While the E60 set the mold for the future of the 5 Series, it may not be considered the most loved by loyalists.
1997 - 2003 BMW 5 Series (E39 4th Generation)
This may be the most loved generation by purists and BMW fanatics. The fourth-generation 5 Series, known as the E39, debuted in early 1996 as a 1997 model. It represented a significant step up over its long-lived predecessor but boasted several interesting derivatives.
It launched as the 528i sedan with a traditional BMW inline six-cylinder engine.
A 540i with a V8 closely followed, including a Sport model with the V8 and a six-speed manual.
The wagon variant came in 1999, also available in 528i and 540i models.
And in 2000, the M5 returned with a V8 engine and 400 horsepower, an unheard of combination even for a manufacturer like BMW.
Even more unexpected were the amenities in this generation 5 Series. Anti-lock brakes and traction control and xenon headlamps were commonplace, but satellite navigation was introduced midway through the car’s run. In addition to dual front airbags, side airbags appeared as did airbags that protected the head. BMW was the first manufacturer to introduce such a system that is now standard on nearly all vehicles.
The E39 earned also earned high praise for its neat and timeless looks and the way it drove, even when the last models were being produced. It is a modern classic.
1989 - 1995 BMW 5 Series (E34 3rd Generation)
The third-generation 5 Series represented a significant advancement on its predecessor, and a sign BMW was becoming a serious player in a field traditionally dominated by Mercedes-Benz.
Following the technologically advanced 7 Series, this new 5 Series not only looked a lot like the larger car but also inherited some of its features. This model was more spacious than its predecessor, but also got features like airbags and, later, V8 engines.
It launched as the 525i and 535i, both with six-cylinder engines.
In 1990, the M5 returned with a six-cylinder engine and more than 300 horsepower. But for 1993, two V8s became available in the forms of the 530i and 540i, as did a wagon variant was offered for the first time to compete with offerings from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.
The E34 received constant refinement over its life, resulting in a car that was still a reasonably accomplished product. Perhaps that set the tone for the follow-up.
1982 - 1988 BMW 5 Series (E28 2nd Generation)
BMW upgraded the second-generation 5 Series for 1982 with the E28. Keeping the same styling cues as its predecessor, the E28 brought new features, more luxury, and, eventually, a lot more performance.
The car launched with the 528e using a 121-horsepower six-cylinder engine, but more powerful 533i and 535i models quickly followed to compete with ever-powerful luxury cars following the fuel crisis.
A diesel was offered for the first time as the 524td, but it was unpopular and dropped in 1986.
Yet a now-revered E28 variant was a high-performance version known as the M5. For 1987, BMW gave this generation a runout special by putting aggressive spoilers and black trim on a sedan with a 256-horsepower six-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. To casual observers, it looked like a typical 5 Series, but enthusiasts knew it was one of the quickest sedans of its day.
They are highly sought-after vehicles now.
And the 5 Series line continued its march towards cementing its status as, well, a status symbol.
1975 - 1981 BMW 5 Series (E12 1st Generation)
The introduction of the 5 Series marked the start of a new era for BMW. Having established itself in the 1960s with sporty coupes and sedans, BMW sought to continue pushing into the luxury market and be taken seriously with the likes of Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, while being more youthful than the Cadillacs and Lincolns that still dominated American roads.
To do this, the original 530i featured a fuel-injected six-cylinder engine with 176 horsepower, impressive considering many American cars were struggling to get similar power out of a V8 then. A five-speed manual was standard, but a three-speed automatic was available.
The 5 Series wasn’t immune to emissions restrictions, however, and the 1979 528i received a catalytic converter and five fewer horsepower.
Nevertheless, these early 5 Series models helped attract attention to BMW and the company’s competence that it could replicate what it did with its early sports sedans and move that into the luxury sector.