2012 BMW 5-Series Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jan 4, 2011

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2012 BMW 5-Series Buying Advice

The 2012 BMW 5-Series is the car for you if you can afford a premium midsize sedan that rewards enthusiastic drivers with responsive handling and offers a trove of high-tech gadgetry.

The 2012 BMW 5-Series lineup is expected to expand with addition of a gas-electric hybrid model, a diesel-powered variant, and the return of the high-performance M5. The hybrid will likely be called the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 and will shoot for V-8 performance with six-cylinder fuel economy. It should deliver both, though at a price premium. The turbodiesel model probably will be tabbed the 2012 BMW 535d. Aimed at the relatively thin pool of U.S. premium car buyers who can appreciate the merits of a diesel engine, the 535d will promise torquey acceleration and more than 500 miles between fillips. The 2012 BMW M5 looks like it’ll shelve a 500-horsepower V-10 in favor of a 600-horse twin-turbo V-8. You’ll pay for all those ponies: $90,000 sounds about right. These would be the noteworthy changes for the 2012 5-Series, which was all-new for model-year 2011. That redesign resulted in a sedan a bit larger than the 2004-2010 5-Series, with less polarizing styling, increased fuel efficiency, and improved overall performance. Addition of the ActiveHybrid 5 and 535d will strengthen a 2012 5-Series line already positioned well a crowded field of midsize sporty premium sedans that include the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Infiniti M, and Jaguar XF.

Should you wait for the 2012 BMW 5-Series or buy the 2011 BMW 5-Series? Buy the 2011 BMW 5-Series unless you’re a diesel or hybrid aficionado and want to see how the new variants stack up. Forced to choose, we think the 2012 535d would offer more benefits than the ActiveHybrid 5; today’s diesels run cleanly and generate impressive amounts of smooth power. The additional expense and complexity of a hybrid powertrain doesn’t seem justified in cars costing $50,000 or more, as the 2012 ActiveHybrid 5 is likely to be priced. Beyond that, any modifications to the 2012 BMW 5-Series over the 2011 model will be minor, and the 2012 versions will probably increase in price by at least a few hundred dollars.

2012 BMW 5-Series Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 BMW 5-Series will continue the visual changes that came on line with the model-year 2011 redesign. These purged the previous generation’s styling excesses, which included severe “flame surfaced” body creases, sour-looking beetle-browed headlamps, and a curiously bulbous tail.

The 2012 5-Series look will continue to borrow strongly from BMW’s larger 7-Series and smaller 3-Series sedans. It’ll again be characterized by a bold and broad interpretation of BMW’s trademark kidney-shaped grille, headlamps that are adeptly integrated into the front fenders, a long hood, and short front and rear sheetmetal overhangs. There’s also a finely chiseled character-line that runs the length of the car at door-handle height, flared wheel arches, and a smoothly cast rear-end treatment that features L-shaped LED taillights.

Having grown in bit in most dimensions with the model-year 2011 makeover, the 2012 BMW 5-Series will again ride on a 116.9-inch wheelbase, which should again be among the longest of any premium midsize sedan. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles, and it’s a determining factor in the length of a vehicle’s passenger compartment. (By comparison, the 2011 Audi A6 had a 111.9-inch wheelbase, with the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class at 113.1 inches and the 2011 Infiniti M and 2011 Jaguar  XF at 114.2 and 114.5 inches, respectively; only the A6 is in line for any big model-year 2012 changes.)

Unfortunately, the 5 Series’ longer wheelbase doesn’t carry over into significant advantages in cabin space. With 36.1 inches of rear legroom it’s about mid-pack, slightly ahead of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class’s 35.8 inches, but trailing the Infiniti M and Audi A6, which have 36.2 and 36.9 inches, respectively.

Still, the 2012 5-Series will continue to boast comfortable seating that’s particularly supportive with the optional front multi-contour buckets that feature an articulated seatback for additional shoulder bolstering. The driver’s seat has plenty of travel to accommodate taller motorists, but the rear-leg-room issue arises when its adjusted fully rearward, leaving virtually no room for a back-seat rider’s legs.

Overall, the 2012 BMW 5-Series interior will continue with a clean, uncluttered look featuring a sweeping dashboard, legible gauges, and high-quality materials throughout. An instrument-panel screen embedded atop the center of the dashboard acts as the navigation-system display and the forum for various audio, climate, communications, and vehicle-setting functions. It should continue in standard 7-inch monitor size with a wide-screen 10.2-inch display available.

In place of the previous-generation’s 5-Series station wagon, BMW will again offer the 2012 5-Series Gran Turismo, essentially a longer, taller version of the 5-Series sedan with a sloping hatchback roofline that incorporates a small trunk lid access.

Expect the 2012 BMW 5-Series lineup to return gas-engine sedans called the 528i, 535i, and 550i, while adding the diesel 535d and gas-electric ActiveHybrid 5 sedans. 

Mechanical: The 2012 BMW 5-Series lineup is expected to gain the diesel-powered 535d. This model is expected to share a 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder turbodiesel engine with the 335d from the 2012 BMW 3-Series line. This engine applies the latest “clean diesel” technology designed to deliver strong performance while saving gas and producing relatively low emissions. In the 2011 335d, the engine produces 265 horsepower with a stirring 425 pound-feet of torque, which ensures quick off-the-line launches and strong highway passing power. Downsides include relatively high diesel prices relative to gasoline, and limited diesel-fuel availability in some areas. Plus, BMW’s diesel engines rely upon a sophisticated urea-based exhaust system treatment to flush out pollutants and the urea fluid must be replenished periodically. BMW intends for it to be done as part of regularly scheduled servicing.

Also anticipated for model-year 2012 is the 5-Series’ first hybrid model. Likely badged the ActiveHybrid 5, it should team a 3.0-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor/generator. BMW hints at net output of around 350 horsepower and a 10-15 percent advantage in fuel economy over a six-cylinder model of similar power.

The 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 will likely use technology distinct from that employed by BMW 7-Series ActiveHybrid 7 model. The ActiveHybrid 7 has a so-called “mild” hybrid system that uses the electric motor to assist the gas V-8 engine and saves fuel mostly by shutting down the engine at idle. The ActiveHybrid 5, by contrast, should be a “full” hybrid, meaning it’s capable of running solely on electric power for short periods, as well as on gasoline-only or a combination of the two power sources. Neither system is a plug-in hybrid, however.

Otherwise the 2012 BMW 5-Series engine lineup should stand pat after its model-year 2011 overhaul. This means the 528i will continue with 3.0-liter inline-six cylinder engine that should return with an adequate 240 horsepower and 238 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the force that propels a car forward and horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum).

The 2012 BMW 535i should quicken your pulse by returning with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six rated a peppier 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Incidentally, the term “inline-six” describes BMW’s practice of using six-cylinder engines that arrange the cylinders in a single vertical line along the crankcase instead of using the more-typical V-6 configuration. BMW maintains the in-line design reduces vibration and harshness and indeed, its sixes are noteworthy for their smooth power delivery.

The 2012 BMW 5-Series 550i model should again pack a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 likely to repeat at a healthy 400 horsepower and a strong  450-pound-feet of torque.

All 2012 5-Series models will again be based on a rear-wheel-drive design. This helps ensure a near-ideal 50/50 front/rear weight balance by spreading the drivetrain along the vehicle’s length instead of packing it all under the hood, as in a front-wheel-drive design. Indeed, rear-drive cars typically have better road manners, though they can suffer poorer traction on wet or snowy roads than front-drive cars, which place more weight directly over the wheels that propel the vehicle. To that end the 2012 BMW 5-Series line will again offered all-wheel drive (AWD) versions of the three gas-engine models and these are badged the 528i xDrive, 535i xDrive, and 550i xDrive.

Expect BMW to maintain well-earned credibility with the enthusiast crowd by making the 2012 5-Series among the rare premium sedans to offer a manual transmission, though for model-year 2012 it’ll likely remain limited to the rear-drive 335i and 550i models. A responsive and fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission is available on those models at no extra cost and should remain standard elsewhere in the line, including on the 535d and ActiveHybrid 5. Depending on model, the automatic can optionally be fitted with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for quasi-manual operation.

After receiving a number of suspension upgrades for model-year 2011, the 2012 BMW 5-Series should remain among the highest echelon of luxury sedans in terms of well-mannered yet sporty ride and handling characteristics. What’s more, the 2012 BMW 5-Series should again be available with systems that can accentuate and/or fine-tune the car’s road manners to suit one’s preferences.

Among these will be the optional Integral Active Steering system that turns the rear wheels counter to the fronts at speeds under 37 mph to increase around-town maneuverability. It also steers them in sync with the fronts at higher speeds for quicker and more-precise cornering. Also expected to remain available is BMW’s Adaptive Drive system that utilizes active stabilizers at the front and rear axles to promote a level ride and minimize body lean in fast cornering. Also returning will be an available Dynamic Damping Control that adjusts shock-absorber firmness on a real-time basis in reaction to both road conditions and handling demands.

The separate high-performance variant of the 5-Series, the BMW M5, will be reintroduced for model-year 2012. Along with myriad suspension, tire, brake, and transmission upgrades it’s likely to come powered by a version of the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 used in the hot-rodded X5 M and X6 M crossover SUVs. Look for around 600 horsepower. The 2012 M5 will be rear-drive only and though transmission choices aren’t yet nailed down, we expect the sole choice to be a seven- or eight-speed dual-clutch manual that can be set to shift like an automatic.  

Features: The 2012 BMW 5-Series will continue to cater to affluent technology mavens with a wealth of advanced gadgetry. This will include BMW’s iDrive control system as standard equipment.

For better or worse, BMW was the first automaker to offer an integrated multimedia system that eschews rows of buttons and dials for a knob-shaped joystick-like input and a menu-based interface displayed on an LCD monitor to control various systems, including audio, navigation, and climate. BMW calls it iDrive, and after several years’ of incremental improvements it’s finally refined to the point where its operation is relatively intuitive --albeit after a steep learning curve. It’s still a few steps more complicated than it needs to be, however, for executing what should be simple commands, like changing a radio station.

Expect the 2012 5-Series to continue with cutting-edge amenities such as a rearview camera capable of displaying an “overhead” perspective for safer and easier parking. Also returning will be a lane-departure warning system that vibrates the steering wheel to alert the driver if the vehicle inadvertently veers across highway lane markers, and an infrared Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection \ that uses an infrared camera to display the reflected (and ghost-like) image of the road ahead on the instrument panel’s monitor.

Returning will be an available Parking Assistant feature that not only automatically steers the 5-Series into a parallel parking spot, like similar systems in Ford, Lexus, and Lincoln models, but determines if an available parking spot is large enough while driving down the street at speeds up to 22 mph. An optional jet fighter-like head-up display projects pertinent information like the vehicle’s speed onto the inside of the windshield in the driver’s field of vision.

2012 BMW 5-Series Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 BMW 5-Series models weren’t available for this review, but they’re expected to only rise modestly above their model-year 2011 levels for returning models.
Anticipate a base-price range of roughly $46,000-$63,000 for the mainstream gas models, with the diesel-powered 2012 BMW 535d starting at an estimated $54,000,the 2012 ActiveHybrid 5 priced in the $80,000 range, and the 2012 BMW M5 priced from about $90,000. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; BMW’s fee for the 2011 5-Series was $875.)

For returning models, figure the 2012 BMW 528i to start around $46,000 with rear-wheel drive and around $50,500 with xDrive.

Estimated base price for the 2012 BMW 535i is $51,000 with rear-wheel drive and a choice of the manual or automatic transmission at no additional charge. Expect a $53,000 base price for the 20102 535i xDrive, which comes standard with the automatic transmission.

Estimated base price for the 2012 BMW 550i is $61,000 with rear-drive and either transmission and $63,000 for the 550i xDrive with its standard automatic transmission.

As for options, expect to pay around $500 for the paddle-shift version of the eight-speed automatic transmission, $400 for a rearview camera, and $800 to add side- and top-view cameras. A Convenience Package that bundles keyless pushbutton entry/start, soft-close doors, and a power trunklid, should return at around $1,700, while a Driver Assistance Package including the lane departure warning system, blind-spot detection, automatic high-beam headlamps, and the self-steering Parking Assistant should again be priced around $1,750.

Performance-minded buyers will likely again be offered the M Sport Package at around $6,500, while those suffering frigid winters will want to consider the Cold Weather Package with heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and headlamp washers for about $1,050. Integral Active Steering should again be priced near $1,750.

2012 BMW 5-Series Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage estimates for the 2012 BMW 5-Series weren’t available in time for this review, but carryover models they aren’t likely to change much from their 2011 counterparts.

This suggest the 2012 BMW 528i should again be rated at 22/32 mpg city/highway; that rating  was at the top of the competitive set for model-year 2011.

The rear-drive 2012 BMW 535i will likely return rated 19/28 mpg with the manual transmission and 20/30 with automatic, with the AWD 535i xDrive at 19/29. Expect the rear-drive 2011 BMW 550i to again rate 15/22 with manual transmission and 17/25 with automatic, and the 550i xDrive to repeat at 16/24 mpg.

We estimate the diesel-powered 2012 BMW 335d will be rated at or near 23/36 mpg, with the ActiveHybrid 5 coming in around 24/34. BMW’s aim for the 2012 M5 will be to exceed the sobering 11/17-mpg rating of the retired V-10 version, though it may not be able to escape a gas-guzzler tax.

BMW will again require premium-octane gas for all 5-Series engines, with the obvious exception of the diesel-fuel 335d.

2012 BMW 5-Series Release Date back to top

The 2012 BMW 5-Series should be on sale by fall, 2011, though the diesel, hybrid, and M5 versions could come at different periods in the model year.

What's next for the 2012 BMW 5-Series back to top

Following the model-year 2011 redesign and the introduction of the 535d, ActiveHybrid 5, and M5 variants for 2012, this fifth-generation BMW 5-Series line should continue with only basic modifications through at least model-year 2015, and at that it will probably see only a moderate refresh and not a full-blown redesign. The next all-new 5-Series won’t appear in the U.S. before model-year 2017. 

During the current generation’s life span expect new features to be incrementally added, especially around the time of that model-year 2015 refresh. The concentration will be on connectivity.  For example, in Europe the 5-Series is already offered with an adapter that turns the car into a rolling Wi-Fi hot spot for connecting laptop computers and other devices to the Internet.

We’ll likely also see new features that further bond owners to the car via smartphones. This will probably include the ability to stream Internet content from the phone to the car’s audio system and check email and other messaging sources (Twitter, Facebook, et. al.). It could also include the ability to perform certain functions remotely, like change the radio station presets, and monitor fuel economy, tire pressure, and other systems via a phone app.

The BMW 5 Series will likely see powertrain revisions down the road, with perhaps the twin-turbo V-8 eventually becoming a victim of stricter fuel economy and emissions rules being enacted in the U.S. and in Europe. Expect future models to include a fuel-saving “stop-start” function in which a car’s engine shuts down under deceleration and while at idle.

While stop-start has become widespread among cars in Europe, automakers have thus far been reluctant to include it on U.S. models other than hybrids because the test cycle the EPA uses to evaluate cars for their fuel economy (unlike the system used in Europe) doesn't fully reflect its benefits. However, realizing even modest improvements in measurable fuel economy under the EPA’s current system will help automakers like BMW meet the aforementioned stricter federal fuel economy regulations.

2012 BMW 5-Series Competition back to top

Audi A6: Redesigned for model-year 2012 with changes more evolutionary than revolutionary but sufficient to help the A6 remain at the forefront of this class for style and sophistication. Overall size and shape won’t change drastically, though the front-end styling will be bolder and the tail will borrow lines from Audi’s flagship A8 sedan. The amount of weight-saving aluminum used in the car’s construction increases and the chassis is adjusted for a more muscular stance. Audi’s cabins are pacesetting, and classy shapes and rich materials will again distinguish the 2012 A6’s interior. Front-wheel drive and Audi quattro all-wheel-drive will return. Expect a 300-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 to be the mainstay engine for U.S. models. Also due for model-year 2012 but potentially for 2013 is a hybrid that teams a four-cylinder engine with an electric motor for a net 250 horsepower or so. Look for the latest multimedia features to carry over from Audi’s sleek new A7 hatchback and A8 sedan, including handwriting recognition to program the navigation system. A high-performance turbo-V-8 S6 model is also likely in the future. Expect a 2012 A6 base-price range of roughly $45,000-$55.000.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Not expected to change much from its model-year 2010 redesign, the 2012 E-Class will continue to balance classic elements of luxury with a measured degree of sportiness. Continuing in rear- and all-wheel-drive sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible renditions, the E-Class will remain on the conservative side, but there’s no denying its excellent engineering and slavish attention to build quality. A wide range of engines will again include V-6 and V-8 gasoline powerplants, and a V-6 diesel; the E63 tops the range with more than 500 horsepower. Expect base prices to start around $51,000, with the E63 sedan and wagon hovering around $100,000.   

Infiniti M: Redesigned for 2011, this sporty sedan comes in quick V-6 M37 guise and faster V-8 M56 form. Both offer rear- or all-wheel drive. Added to the line will be the 2012 M35h, a gas/electric hybrid model that’ll pair a 3.5-liter V-6 with an electric motor to boost power (expect at least 300 horsepower) and fuel economy of roughly 24/32 mpg. Unlike many hybrids, which use a gearless CVT automatic, the M35h drives the rear wheels via a conventional seven-speed automatic transmission, the intent being more spirited performance. The M sedans from Nissan’s premium division are high-style Asian alternatives to the European competition and very competitive on price, features, and quality. The driving experience may not be quite so communicative, however. Base-prices range for the 2012 M line should range from around $47,500-$62,000.

2012 BMW 5-Series Next Steps