autoevolution

BMW 5 Series Through the Years, Up to the 2017 BMW G30 5 Series

As Mercedes-Benz incorrectly touts the W213 E-Class as being “a self-driving car from a very self-driven company,” BMW and Audi now find themselves at the short end of the stick. More than ever, the mid-size luxury sedan segment is a battlefield of innovation.
BMW 5 Series (E12, E28, E34, E39, E60, F10, G30) 228 photos
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The much-anticipated 2017 BMW G30 5 Series, which is the seventh generation of the model, is confirmed to debut on October 13. For all intents and purposes, the 5 Series has to reinvent itself if BMW really wants to challenge the highly technologized W213 E-Class.

And oh boy, you won’t be disappointed by what’s on the horizon. Before the veil comes off, however, it should be noted that the 2017 BMW G30 5 Series is the product of constant evolution, not a revolution on its own.

Before the first-ever 5 Series - the E12, came to play in 1972, BMW’s weapon of choice in this segment was the Neue Klasse line of sedans and coupes. Manufactured between 1962 and 1977, the BMW New Class came at a time when the automaker was close to financial ruin.

As fate would have it, not only did the New Class line of vehicles got BMW back in the black, but it established the Bavarian automaker as the go-to brand for sporty sedans. Ultimately, the Neue Klasse paved the way for the 5 Series, all generations of the model. In chronological order, here is how the BMW 5 Series evolved from the E12 to the G30:

BMW E12 5 Series (1972 to 1984)

BMW E12 5 Series
Previewed in 1970 by the 2200ti Garmisch show car by Bertone, the E12 5 Series launched in 1972. Beautified by the unmistakable visual artistry of Paul Bracq, the first generation of the BMW 5 Series had the weight of BMW’s future on its slender shoulders. That’s because, by the time the E12 came out in 1972, the Neue Klasse had become the most successful model series in BMW history. Happily, however, the E12 surpassed its foregoer, selling almost 700,000 units through 1984.

One of the quirks introduced by the E12 is the turn signal stalk. Before the E12, BMW had it on the right-hand side of the steering wheel. Yet another reason why the E12 5 Series is a turning point for the German brand is the M20 straight-six powerplant. Manufactured from 1977 to 1993, the M20 family enabled everyone who could afford a 5 Series to experience Bavarian-style performance and a thrilling exhaust note.

Still in its infancy at the time, computer technology was used to design the E12 5 Series’ front and rear crumple zones. Passive safety is further improved by increased body stiffness, achieved by integrating roll-over bars in the roof construction. By the end of production, the best-selling model in the E12 5 Series roster turned out to be the 520. In its most powerful form, the M 535i prided itself with a 3.5-liter engine that had 218 horsepower on tap. Only 1,410 units were ever produced.

BMW E28 5 Series (1981 to 1988)

BMW E28 5 Series
For the second generation of the 5 Series, BMW’s word of the day was “dieting.” Due to this priority, the E28 isn’t that dramatic of a departure from the E12 as far as styling is concerned. But under the skin, BMW’s so-called “qualitative lightweight construction” brought the curb weight down as much as 200 pounds (90 kilograms) compared to the E12. Hence, the E28-generation BMW 520i was the lightest car in its segment.

Newities brought by the E28 5 Series also include fuel injection (for the 520i, 525i, and 528i’s six-cylinder engines), as well as a double pivot universal joint strut suspension system, complemented by angled coil springs offset to the shock absorber. The transverse link rear axle was also updated for better ride comfort and greater stability on curvy roads. When it comes down to optional extras, the BMW E28 5 Series prides itself on two of those: anti-lock brakes, as well as an on-board computer.

1983 saw the debut of the 524td, the first diesel-powered production vehicle manufactured by BMW. Based on the gasoline-fed M20, the M21 straight-six turbo diesel engine made the E28 524td the fastest series production diesel vehicle in the world, all while drinking as little fuel as 7.1 liters/100 kilometers (33 U.S. mpg). The E28 5 Series also spawned the first-ever M5, powered by the S38 engine in the United States and the M88 straight-six in European markets and South Africa.

BMW E34 5 Series (1988 to 1996)

BMW E34 5 Series
In the music industry, there’s a concept colloquially referred to as “the difficult third album.” The same concept applied to BMW when the time came to go back to the drawing board and reinvent the 5 Series for the third time. In 1988, work on the E34 5 Series was finished. Compared to BMWs of old, this generation of the 5 Series was adorned with a wedge-shaped body designed to one-up aerodynamics and interior roominess.

The BMW 7 Series-derived underpinnings were enhanced by greater passive safety than what the E28 had to offer, including a front vehicle structure designed to exceed the safety norms from that era. Hence, a 35 mph (55 km/h) frontal crash saw the passenger cell of the E28 5er largely retain its shape. What’s more, the E28 5 Series was available with no less than nine engine families, including the M60 V8, BMW’s second-ever V8 since the OHV V8 produced from 1954 through 1965.

In 1990, the E34 5 Series range was expanded to include a station wagon, referred by BMW as “Touring.” While on the subject of what goodies the E34 5 Series introduced, the BMW 525iX is the first-ever 5 Series equipped with all-wheel-drive. Adjustable damping (EDC), stability control (ASC), and traction control (ASC+T) are other E34 5er strong points worthy of mention, as is the addition of a six-speed stick shift.

BMW E39 5 Series (1995 to 2003)

BMW E39 5 Series
James May said in an episode of Top Gear that the E39 5 Series “had more computing power than the Apollo spacecraft.” If I may add to this, it should be known that even the Commodore 64 had superior computing power compared to the Apollo Guidance Computer from the late 1960s. Be that as it may, the Multi-Information System on-board computer in the E39 5 Series broke new grounds for the auto industry.

Presented at the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, the BMW E39 5 Series holds the title of world’s first large-scale production vehicle to have its suspension made from light alloy. This was done to enhance driving dynamics and reduce weight. For the integral rear axle of the E39 5 Series, the manufacturer offered pneumatic suspension as an option.

In 1998, the BMW E39 M5 amazed the world with its 5.0-liter V8. Not only was the S62 V8 the most powerful serial production BMW engine at the time, but it was an engineering masterpiece. The thing that does it for me about the S62 V8 is that it’s equipped with eight throttle bodies, one for each cylinder. Because they’re drive-by-wire, BMW offered M5 owners with a choice: “normal” or “sport.” The S62 V8 also introduced something BMW couldn’t do without in this day and age: variable valve timing for the intake and exhaust camshafts.

BMW E60 5 Series (2004 to 2010)

BMW E60 5 Series
The E60 5 Series is a bit of an oddball for many car enthusiasts, partly due to the exterior design. Boasting the controversial cues associated with Chris Bangle’s tenure at BMW, the fifth-gen 5 Series also introduced much rounder shapes and a cabin designed with comfort in mind. “Progressive” is the word that best describes the E60 5 Series.

To achieve a particularly good balance of weight front-to-rear, the front structure of the car is made from aluminum. In similar fashion, the rear axle is also made from the lightweight yet rigid material. On the driving dynamics front, BMW pushed the envelope with goodies such as Active Steering, Adaptive Drive with electronic damper adjustment, as well as Dynamic Stability Control. BMW Night Vision is yet another high point.

In 2008, four years after the E60 5 Series started production, the BMW Dingolfing plant celebrated the fifth million 5 Series to roll off the line in Dingolfing since 5er production commenced in 1973. The E60 5 Series also marks the last hurrah for naturally aspirated M5s. Thanks to an odd-firing 90-degree V10 with Formula 1 roots, the E60 M5 and its S85 V10 were nothing short of awesome. Let down only by the optional SMG transmission, the V10 mill can rev all the way up to a thundering 8,250 rpm.

BMW F10 5 Series (2010 to 2016)

BMW F10 5 Series
The F10 5 Series will soon be retired to the annals of automotive history, but it won’t be forgotten. From a visual standpoint, BMW exchanged the so-called "Bangle butt" for more conventional styling. Be that as it may, the F10 5er also pays tribute to old BMWs. Case in point: the creases located right underneath the doors are directly inspired by the E39 5 Series. Looking good, however, isn’t all there is to this generation of the German sedan.

When it came out, the F10 5 Series had the longest wheelbase in the segment. Comfort is at home in this car, but so are go-faster bits and bobs such as the optional Integral Active Steering system. What BMW calls Adaptive Drive encompasses driving aids that include Active Roll Stabilization, Electronic Damper Control, and Driving Dynamics Control.

Something that’s not so great about the F10 5 Series is the M5. Due to twin-turbocharging and the downsize to eight cylinder and 4.4 liters, the S63 V8 lacks the aural awesomeness of preceding M5 engines. On the upside, it’s a seriously powerful and seriously torquey motor. ’Tis a bit of a shame, however, that only the North American market got the F10 M5 (and closely related F13 M6) with a slick-shifting manual transmission.

BMW G30 5 Series (2016 and beyond)

BMW G30 5 Series
All we have on the G30 5 Series is hearsay, teasers from BMW, and a handful of spy photos from the shutterbugs. To be revealed on October 13, 2016, in sedan (G30) form, the seventh-generation 5 Series will also spawn a station wagon (G31) and GT (G32). Underpinned by the CLAR modular platform that debuted on the G11 7 Series, this generation is expected to be lighter and more rigid than its predecessor.

Beyond CFRP, magnesium, aluminum, and high-strength steel, the G30 5 Series’ technical base is enhanced by air springs for both the front and rear axles. The upcoming 5er is also expected to debut an M550i model, which will slot right under the F90 M5. On the tech-savvy front, prepare yourself for laser headlights, OLED taillights inspired by those of the M4 GTS, semi-autonomous driving technology, and remote control parking.

In the case of the F90 M5, the rumor mill and spy videos suggest that all-wheel-drive will make the cut. Thanks to a rear-biased setup similar to that in the X5 M and X6 M, the xDrive-enhanced M5 will handle the twisties much better, both in and out the corner. The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 tower-of-power from the F10 M5 will carry over, albeit with that little bit more punch, as will the M DCT Drivelogic dual-clutch transmission.

We’ll update this story with official details of the 2017 BMW 5 Series as soon as the G30 makes its official debut on Thursday.

Update: The 2017 BMW G30 5 Series leaked on an enthusiast forum in all its glory.

2017 BMW G30 5 Series leaked official photo of the exterior design
Later Edit: The wait has come to an end. Here is the 2017 BMW G30 5 Series!

2017 BMW G30 5 Series
2017 BMW G30 5 Series
2017 BMW G30 5 Series


 
 
 
 
 

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