First Look: 2011 BMW 5 Series Sedan

While the sixth generation of BMW's new mid-size sedan won't be arriving here until late next spring, the firm has released the first images and information on this completely redesigned luxury four-door. Like the 5 Series Gran Turismo due in showrooms next month, the new 5 Series Sedan shares much of its platform architecture and a goodly number of styling cues with the automaker's flagship 7 Series. More aggressively rendered, and now more aluminum-intensive, bodywork is crowned by a coupe-like roofline that encompasses an even larger greenhouse area -- and the most dramatic interpretation to date of the signature "Hofmeister kink" in the C-pillar. The net effect is to create a lower visual profile that's accentuated by shorter front/rear overhangs and a 116.9-inch wheelbase, longest in its competitive class and a 3.2-inch stretch over its predecessor.

Inside, the new 5 Series Sedan gets its own specific detail executions of the 7 Series look, including rich wood and leather trims and dramatic Black Panel display technology for both the main gauges and center stack. Also in house is the latest fourth-generation iDrive integrated controller that offers more intuitive operation whether in standard form with a 7.0-inch screen or paired with the optional navigation system that nets a 10.2-inch high-res alternative. In addition to more user-friendly controls, BMW's designers also improved the seating comfort, whether in the power front buckets or revamped rear bench that offers 0.5 inch more legroom and an optional 60/40 split folding back that adds even greater utility to the huge 18.2 cubic foot trunk.

Motivation for the new 5 Series Sedan will largely parallel that of the 5 Series GT. The top-line 550i gets BMW's latest and greatest V8, a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged and direct-injected gem that makes 400 horsepower and develops 450 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,800-4,500 rpm. One step down, the 535i will use the recently introduced 3.0-liter direct-injected in-line six fitted with a single turbo and tuned to make 300 horses and churn out its 300 lb.-ft. of twist from 1,200-5,000 revs. Later in the year, an entry level 528i model fitted with a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter/240-horse six will join the lineup. At that time, BMW also plans to offer the xDrive all-wheel-drive system for all three. Transmission choices include a high-efficiency eight-speed autoshifter as well as a six-speed manual for all but the 528i. Green partisans take note: An ActiveHybrid version is rumored to appear next March at the Geneva Auto Salon.

Although dynamic assessments are still a ways off, there's little doubt the new 5 Series Sedan will arrive fully prepared to live up to the marque's Ultimate Driving Machine credo. Tuned to BMW spec, its lightweight aluminum front-control arm/rear-multilink underpinnings have earned stellar marks for both the 7 Series and 5 Series GT. Those demanding even more "Ultimate" can step up to the Sport Package with Adaptive Drive that includes a host of functional enhancements headed by Driving Dynamics Control, Dynamic Damping Control and Active Roll Stabilization, a recalibrated paddle-shifted "Sport Automatic" and performance tires that bump the top speed from 130 to 155 mph. Integral Active Steering -- BMW speak for four-wheel steering -- can also be added to the mix. Rounding out the extras menu are a host of other high-tech features like a multi-view backup camera, Parking Assistant, Active Blind Spot Detection, Night Vision, Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Frontal Collision Warning with Brake Activation.

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