BMW 530i  3The BMW 530i.Hollis Johnson

  • The BMW 5-Series is now in its seventh generation.
  • The carmaker can’t make a bad car — but has it lost something in the thrills department?
  • We spent a few day with a 530i to find out.
  • BMW has had decades to set the bar, and it has gotten very good at that responsibility to the legacy of the 5-Series. It cannot disappoint, and it doesn’t. Nor does it thrill.

Reviewing the heart of the BMW lineup has suddenly and unexpectedly become tricky. We’re talking about the 3 Series and 5 Series sedans, vehicles that have established the bar for luxury, performance passenger cars since the 1980s.

It was BMW vs. everybody else back then — and everybody else was losing — but over the decades, the competition has come on and come on strong. The Ultimate Driving Machine is now challenged by German rivals Mercedes and Audi, as well as Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, Cadillac and even Alfa Romeo with the new Giulia. Passenger cars have also seen their markets fade as consumers have shifted to crossover SUVs.

The seventh generation of the 5-Series arrived for the 2017 model year, and I was pretty excited to check out the new sedan. My relationship with BMW four-doors has always been that I enjoy the compact 3-Series, don’t entirely get the full-size 7-Series, and truly adore the just-right, mid-size 5-Series, which has been around in one form or another since the early 1970s.

BMW flipped us the keys to a supremely well-optioned 2017 530i (base price: $51,200; as tested: $72,135), a rear-wheel-drive version with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. And we spent a weekend grappling with its charms.

Photos by Hollis Johnson.