How sweet es ist

Behind the Wheel: 2011 BMW 5-Series

DiCaprio floundered in “Titanic,” U2 released the not-so-great “POP” album and Apple hyped the “what the crap is this?” Newton. We’re all allowed to hugely screw up at least once, but then we’ve got to do something truly great to make up for it. The Departed,” “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” and the ubiquitous iPad are evidence for the aforementioned three that the Phoenix really can rise. For BMW, the much maligned 2003-2009 5-Series was the Bavarian automaker’s reputational boat anchor. Following the superbly praised 4th generation 5-series, the car that defined the sport sedan category, was a tough act to follow and the 5th generation proved to be somewhat of a disappointment. It was rife with chief designer Chris Bangle’s “flame surfacing,” which effectively made the car look like it had been done by 4 different people who each had no clue as to what the other three were doing until the car was finished. The fully redesigned 6th generation 2011 BMW 5-Series not only rises from the ashes but silences the previous generation’s detractors with astounding authority.

The car is simply stunning without being visually arresting. And this time, the design is truly cohesive from front to back. It’s as if someone threw the beautiful 7-Series luxo-beast into a really big dryer.

Aesthetically, the new 5 is bold but elegant, refined but sinewy with a powerful character line running the length of the body and muscular metal work on virtually all panels, including the hood. The head and taillights no longer look like someone pulled back the loose skin on a dog’s forehead. Instead, they appear prominent but purposeful. Photos of the new 5 are beautiful, but seeing one in person is another story altogether. The car is simply stunning without being visually arresting. And this time, the design is truly cohesive from front to back. It’s as if someone threw the beautiful 7-Series luxo-beast into a really big dryer. Plus, the interior is sumptuous, with more acreage of softer, higher-quality leather and with more refined trim than the outgoing model. The cabin whispers luxury and ensconces the driver in ergonomic sophistication without being confusing like the last model. It is a very good place to conduct business, especially if business involves hitting the next turn’s apex. BMW claims that the new 5 will throw down the same kind of handling responsiveness as the much-praised current 3-series, a lighter and smaller car. Just think of Barry Sanders doing a pirouette — agility, squared.

If you’ve ever sat in a BMW, you know that the seats are astoundingly comfortable and supportive under spirited driving, especially with the optional sport package. Standard on the new 5 are 10-way power adjustable seats with optional upper and lower seatback angles for prime torso support. Other optional techno doo-dads splattered on this Bimmer are active steering with new rear wheel steering, reducing the turning circle, a boon for drivers on tight switchbacks and Driving Dynamics Control, allowing you to control the adaptive shocks, throttle response and active anti-roll bars—there are four settings: Comfort (trips with the folks), Normal (date night), Sport (commute) and Sport + (quick escape). Saville Row isn’t the only one who can customize, eh? For those of you less concerned with negotiating the Nurburgring, perhaps just jonesing to eyeball your beautiful 5 from a street side café, there’s the all-new parking sensors, which will navigate a parking spot 4 feet longer than the 5 and automatically execute maneuvers to get your cushy butt into place. Pile on blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, active cruise control, adaptive headlights, a headsup display, night vision and pedestrian detection (“It IS you, Bob! Where’s my $20?), and you officially have the BMW Full Monty.

Now let’s talk engines. The base model, the 528i, is fitted with the magnesium-and-aluminum 3.0-liter inline-six, with 240 horses, a 10 hp increase. The 535i stays at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque but is revamped with a single twin-scroll turbo, replacing the twin-turbo in the old 535i. This should make for greater efficiency and smoother power delivery. The top-line engine is the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 found in the 550i, the 5-series GT (the 5-series sedan’s ugly big brother). The engine produces 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. All three engines will be available with rear or all-wheel drive. Soon, look for news of the next M5, which no doubt will have enough turbo-driven V8 power to make you hold on to your grapes for dear life.

Buy Now: $44,500