What is the best sedan in the world?
This is a loaded question, because there is not one definitive answer. Consider how many vehicles I now drive in a year. To choose that is the "oh my God, this is the bestest sedan evar" is to do a disservice to you, dear reader. Impartiality in this professional arena is an absolute. It makes one…ehem…relevant.
But, what if there was a vehicle I drove that knocked my socks off? We already had those moments already at Road America and in a few reviews this year. Amongst these is a contender or two to answer the original question. Which ones? That would be your homework assignment after you read this piece.
Still, in the context of argument, my opinion might not matter much. The question remains unanswered – "what is the best sedan in the world?"
If there were one strong contender for the title – it would be the BMW 5-Series.
The Bavarian mid-sized luxury sedan offers plenty of arguments to state its case for this lofty title. Are they convincing enough to simply hand over the crown?
One look outside shows how much the 5-Series has grown in size and stature. This current generation – the F10 – is now around 193 inches long and weighs in at 4,233 pounds for this 535i xDrive tester. It is not exactly the lithest car around, but there are plenty of reasons for the 5-Series being such a substantial vehicle.
For its size, it certainly looks the part. Styling-wise, BMW cleaned up a lot of Chris Bangle’s design elements and crafted a visually pleasing package. Some might say "bland," but perhaps nondescript it is not. It has a distinctive silhouette consider its size and stature – the twin kidney grille giving away its prime identity. Yet it is handsomely proportioned to fit the scale of it mission.
An opening of any of the doors reveals a spacious and comfortable cabin. The driver is treated to a well-proportioned command center behind the wheel. With seats that balance position, comfort and bolstering, the steering wheel provides an entry onto an easy to read instrument panel with a TFT center screen for trip information and the right dials for easy gauging. A huge TFT screen housing the navigation, audio and iDrive readouts crown the center stack. Beneath it is the iDrive knob, its associated buttons and the gearlever. Those familiar with the ways of BMW will have no problem mastering these controls.
If the driver has a great position behind the wheel, all other passengers will also feel very special. Rear seat passengers, in particular, will feel they are in a limousine. There is more than enough leg and headroom for adults to relax in the back. The 5-Series is the kind of luxury mid-sized sedan you want for a long journey, since each seating position is designed to reward its occupant – driver and passenger alike.
There are plenty of performance options for the 5-Series. The more balanced choice is the 3.0litre TwinPower turbocharged in-line six-cylinder with 300 horsepower on tap. There is no lag to speak of with immediate power off the line. Power is transferred onto BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system through a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. Gear changes are quick and unobtrusive. As part of the EfficientDynamics package, BMW installed a stop/start system that is undetectable and smooth.
The biggest argument for the "best sedan in the world" title can be felt on the road. In comparison to its main rivals – the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Lexus GS – the 5-Series offers a perfect mix of ride and handling in its driving dynamics package. Throw it into a curve and it will never waiver. It runs flat through the turns. The suspension does a magnificent job in absorbing all road surfaces giving it a balanced ride.
Part of the trick to achieving such a driving dynamics mix is in a bank of buttons by the shifter. Driving Dynamics Control lets you choose from four modes: ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport and Sport +. Each one has a great balance between ride, handling, steering feel/action and brake actuation. No matter the setting expect solid steering feel and feedback, sharp response and a great braking system.
When taking it all in, you forget this is a big car. The 5-Series does feels big, but it moves like something a 500 pounds less than its specification. However, there is another piece of the puzzle that one may be concerned about – fuel economy. On the average, BMW stated that the 535i xDrive would get 24MPG. There are other, more efficient models in the 5-Series line, such as the ActiveHybrid 5, the turbocharged four-cylinder 528i and the new 535d turbocharged diesel.
A "basic" 528i starts off at $50,000. This particular 535i xDrive model ran the sticker to almost $63,000. If you want to the ultimate 5-Series experience, there is the 560 horsepower M5 – starting at around $91,000.
Is the BMW 5-Series truly the "best sedan in the world?" The arguments are in and the jury is still debating. However, if you said that the 5-Series is indeed the “best sedan in the world,” then you would have no problem with some agreement towards that conclusion.
My opinion? It is at least one of the "best sedans in the world." My reason? The 5-Series would certainly be my definitive long distance driver, if money is truly no object.
There is your answer.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by BMW of Minnetonka, Minnetonka, MN
All photos by Randy Stern