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2021 BMW 5 Series embraces hybrid power, keeps its stately looks

Mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants are the big new additions to the luxury sedan, and the price only inches upward by a couple hundred bucks.

2021 BMW 5 Series
More hybrid this time.
BMW

As expected, BMW gave the 2021 5 Series sedan a digital debut on Tuesday, and now we know all about the new hybrid technology and other tweaks the German automaker packed into the refreshed model.

Seriously, this refresh banks on a lot of hybrid technology because the design doesn't change a whole lot. Sharp-eyed enthusiasts will note it's just over an inch longer now, but dimensions don't actually change. BMW designers lengthened the car to create more of a "sweeping profile" for the sedan. That's certainly on display with a new take on the kidney grille design and sharpened headlights. They help the front clip come off as far sleeker than the outgoing 5 Series. In the rear, the taillights take cues from the 3 Series and look far more cohesive than the big red shapes onboard the current car.

But let's dive into the powertrains now because there's a lot to talk about. Things kick off the same with the 530i and 530i xDrive (that's BMW speak for all-wheel drive). The entry level models feature a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. However, the 530e plug-in hybrid returns and mixes things up a bit. It still packs a turbo-four engine with 108 hp, but an electric motor 12 kilowatt-hour battery report for duty. With both the electric motor and engine working together, there's 288 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque available.

Maybe the turbo-four isn't your roll when it comes to a BMW. That's all good because the inline-six is still here, only this time, it's beefed up with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system for the 540i models. The starter generator and a second battery help make the drive more efficient and supply a little more power. When decelerating, what would normally be lost energy heads to the battery, which the hybrid system deploys later as needed. The system can also totally shut down the engine when coasting. Speaking of the extra power, it'll toss in another 11 hp to create 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque from the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine.

Right at the top of the 5 Series hierarchy remains the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 that cranks out 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. That's only for the sportiest M550i xDrive models. We'll have to wait and see what an upgraded M5 sedan brings to the party. Regardless of the powertrain, an eight-speed automatic transmission is onboard to handle shifting duties, even in the hybrid variants. Opt for the M Sport package to outfit the sedan with the M Sport Suspension, which will also drop the ride height while making the car more of a corner carver.

Drivers have a larger infotainment screen at their disposal.

BMW

Stepping inside the refreshed 5 Series reveals a few notable changes. iDrive 7 is present and it comes with an even larger infotainment screen that now measures 12.3 inches, up from 10.25 inches. Each variant receives an identically sized digital gauge cluster, too. Navigation is standard, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. No, you don't have to pay to use the smartphone mirroring tech any longer, either. Thank god. BMW's "SensaTec" leatherette upholstery is standard on all models, save for the M550i, which gets real leather, but those who need the real stuff no matter what can opt for Nappa leather on any model -- at an extra cost, of course.

As for active safety gear and driver-assist features, the 2021 5 Series shows up with automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot detection and automatic high beams, among other systems. Adaptive cruise control is, disappointingly, an extra-cost option, though it's bundled with BMW's partially automated highway driving assistant.

As you read this, BMW will have opened order books for the 2021 5 Series with a starting price of $55,195 after a $995 destination charge for a base 530i model. The first cars will ship out to dealers this July.