BMW 5 Series

The 2015 BMW 5-Series is available with 4-cylinder 528i, 6-cylinder 535i or V8 550i models, as well as with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. 528i models include a 2.0L 4-cylinder making 241 hp and 258 ft-lb of torque, with that peak torque achieved at just 1,250 rpm. The 3.0L 6-cylinder in 535i models makes 300 hp and 300 ft-lb, while a diesel option in the new 535d produces 256 hp and 413 ft-lb. The 4.4L V8 in the 550i generates 445 hp and 480 ft-lb.

Each of these engines is twin-turbocharged, with direct injection and BMW's Valvetronic system, which can vary intake valve lift to both save fuel and aid responsiveness, and each is paired with an 8-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission. Engine Auto Start/Stop also helps save fuel in stop-and-go driving by stopping the engine momentarily, then starting it smartly when you begin to ease off the brake pedal. An "Eco Pro" mode allows for more mindful driving, while a single Driving Dynamics Control selector lets the driver click between Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes that coordinate throttle and transmission response, steering boost, stability-control intervention and in equipped cars, the Dynamic Damping Control suspension (which helps combine a soft ride with crisp response when you need it) and Active Roll Stabilization (which reduces lean in cornering). Additionally, a system called Integral Active Steering is available and gives the 5-Series sedan a more nimble feel by steering -- slightly -- with the rear wheels.

While BMW claims 36 mpg from the new 535d, those looking for even greener performance will want to look at the ActiveHybrid5, which pairs the 300-hp turbocharged 6-cylinder engine with a 54-hp electric-motor system and 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery pack; the hybrid system delivers its power through the 8-speed automatic and it accelerates to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. In other words, it's just as quick as the 535i, only more fuel-efficient.

The 5-Series lineup includes great seats in all variants; in front they're widely adjustable and especially good for taller drivers. BMW's iDrive screen-driven interface comes in all 5-Series models and it's been improved in recent years with more intuitive, streamlined menus and controls.

BMW's 5-Series models have traditionally touted some of the most advanced safety-technology features in the business, and in this respect the latest models don't at all disappoint. Options on the lineup include active cruise control, a night vision system, a head-up display, a parking assistant and Driver Assistance packages bring lane departure warning with collision mitigation plus active blind-spot detection and multiple camera views.

Either through the Sport Package or through the M Sport Package, sport suspension is available as well as larger wheels, an M Sport steering wheel and an aero kit. A 15-speaker sound system is available as an a-la-carte option, but those willing to splurge will appreciate the awesome sound of the 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium system.

All 5-Series models include dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, power heated mirrors, xenon adaptive headlamps, dynamic cruise control, navigation and other extras. All but the base 528i get a few additional upgrades, to Dakota leather plus power multi-contour front seats, a rear-view camera and park distance control. A 10.25-inch multifunction instrument display allows multiple gauge layouts depending on which Driving Dynamics mode is engaged.

There's no 5-Series wagon for 2015, but there is a 5-Series Gran Turismo (GT), which is a unique body style that is part wagon and part hatchback, with a somewhat taller seating position more like that of a utility vehicle. Back-seat space in the Gran Turismo is superior to that in the 5-Series sedan, with a better view outward and a unique 2-piece tailgate and folding rear seats add more cargo versatility and convenience.

Available packages on the 5-Series include a Cold Weather option that includes a heated steering wheel and seats, a Dynamic Handling Package and an Executive Package and Luxury Package, which both add ultra-premium touches like exclusive leather surfaces, ceramic controls, a power tailgate, upgraded wood trim and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

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Editors' First Take

Of the four new BMW plug-in hybrids I drove in Munich in January, the X5 xDrive45e was by far my favorite. With a bigger battery pack than the plug-in 7 Series, 3 Series and X3, as well as the well-mannered driving dynamics of the newest X5, the xDrive45e makes a strong case for optioning BMW's luxury hybrid SUV with a plug.

Lots of power and a big battery

The BMW X5 xDrive45e was announced last September and shares most of its powertrain with the 745e plug-in hybrid. A turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine is rated for 286 horsepower and works alongside a 112-hp electric motor, which is integrated into the car's eight-speed automatic transmission. Total system output is 394 hp and 443 pound-feet of torque.

Those are all European specifications, of course. US ratings should be largely the same, though BMW cautions there's still plenty of tweaking to be done as engineers make sure the SUV meets our emissions rules. (For instance, it'll have a different exhaust design than the Euro-market model.)

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