Updated 2021 BMW 5-Series luxury sedan pushes deeper into tech-heavy tomorrow

The BMW 5-Series sedan has been a showcase for performance and technology since it was released in 1972. Now in its seventh generation after a 2017 redesign, the 2021 model gets more of both.

BMW released details of the revised 2021 5-Series on Tuesday, and the car features an updated look for the exterior, aerodynamic tweaks, new infotainment technology, a more-powerful plug-in hybrid system, and a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system for the 540i models. 

The 2021 BMW 5-Series is offered in a variety of models based on what’s under the hood. The lineup starts with the rear-drive 530i and all-wheel-drive 530i xDrive, both powered by a 248-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4. The plug-in hybrid 530e and 530e xDrive wring 288 hp out of a turbo-4 and an electric motor. The 540i and 540i xDrive sedans add a 48-volt mild hybrid but its output is unchanged at 335 hp. And returning at the top of the standard lineup is the M550i with its 523-hp twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8. BMW has not yet announced any updates for the high-performance M5.

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

BMW adds power to the plug-in hybrid models for 2021. They are motivated by a 181-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 paired with a 107-hp electric motor for a total of 288 hp, an increase of 40 hp. Drivers can access an additional 40 hp in bursts up to 10 seconds thanks to a new XtraBoost feature. BMW isn’t quoting electric driving range or fuel economy ratings, but the 2020 530e had 21 miles of electric range and an EPA rating of 27 mpg combined. The additional power and boost feature cut the 0-60 mph time slightly to 5.7 seconds.

The 540i models’ 48-volt mild-hybrid system consists of a starter-generator and a second battery. The starter-generator provides smooth start/stop operation, allows for coasting between 16 and 99 mph, recovers energy during coasting and braking, and adds 11 hp to help the engine operate more efficiently and add a bit extra during acceleration.

Every 2021 5-Series gets a facelift. The signature BMW twin-kidney grille is taller and wider to match other recent BMWs, with more pronounced vertical grille bars. Adaptive LED headlights are standard and feature a slimmer profile with two L-shaped daytime driving light elements on each side. That signature is echoed at the rear in the new taillights.

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

While no structural changes are made to the platform, the car grows by 1.2 inches due to aerodynamic considerations. The new coefficient of drag is a  slippery 0.27. Cars with the M Sport Package receive new front and rear bumpers, a revised rear diffuser, and larger front air intakes with mesh inserts.

Inside, the infotainment touchscreen grows from 10.3 to 12.3 inches to pair with a standard 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The buttons on the center console are now gloss black, and 4- and 6-cylinder cars come standard with a new perforated synthetic leather upholstery with contrast stitching. The M550i gets standard Dakota leather-trimmed sport seats, and nappa leather is optional for all models. The synthetic upholstery and contrast stitching trim the dash of the M550i, and can be ordered for the other models.

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

2021 BMW 5-Series

Navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard. The navigation system has new cloud-based maps that can create faster routes and recalculate routes based on real-time traffic data. The infotainment system has the latest version of BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant, which is activated by the phrase “Hey BMW.” This system can be used to adjust climate settings or even to open the windows, and it learns the driver’s preferences to make some settings automatic over time.

Standard driver-assist features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. An option package adds adaptive cruise control, front cross-traffic alerts, blind-spot crash prevention, and a system that handles the steering, brakes, and acceleration at speeds slower than 40 mph.

The 2021 BMW 5-Series is available for order now and will hit dealerships in July. BMW has already released prices, which start at $ 55,195 for the 530i. The 530i xDrive runs $ 58,495, the 530e costs $ 58,190 and $ 60,495 with all-wheel drive, the 540i starts at $ 60,445 with rear drive and $ 62,745 with all-wheel drive, and the M550i xDrive costs $ 77,795. All prices include a $ 995 destination fee.

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