Exterior & Styling

The 2011 5 Series is further proof that BMW is pulling itself out of an awkward design era. Recently, the only element that had seemed to tie one model to another was an ill-conceived Ч and poorly received Ч rear-end design nicknamed the "Bangle butt," after former chief designer Chris Bangle. Though the previous-generation 5 Series' trunklid was better integrated than the one on the earlier 7 Series, its too-small grille and raised-eyebrow headlights were an aesthetic failure. With a design inspired by the headlights, the taillights looked like they were trying to escape the car altogether. Blech.

Refreshes weren't enough to cure the 5's ills, so 2011's complete redesign is a godsend. The grille is stronger than ever, the taillights look like they want to be there and the headlights are more aggressive than fey. They aren't perfect, though: There's a translucent white stripe along the top of the headlight clusters, also seen on other BMWs. It looks like something that was supposed to be removed after shipping.

The hood is sculpted in the fashion of other recent BMW redesigns, including the Z4 and 7 Series. In lieu of faux vents on the front fenders, chrome surrounds the side marker lights Ч relatively subtle by today's standards. The 528i has 17-inch alloy wheels, and the 535i and 550i have 18-inchers. Larger wheels are optional.

Compared with the 2010 model, the 2011 is 2 inches longer and a half-inch wider, with 3.2 more inches of wheelbase. The car is easily mistaken for the redesigned 7 Series, though the flagship is almost 7 inches longer and nearly 2 inches wider.

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