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2021 BMW 5 Series Preview

Christian Wardlaw | May 26, 2020
  • Subtle yet effective styling updates
  • New plug-in hybrid powertrain for 530e
  • New mild-hybrid powertrain tech for 540i
  • Next-generation xDrive system
  • Numerous technology improvements
  • On sale in July 2020


A mid-life refresh brings new powertrains and technologies to the 2021 BMW 5 Series lineup. Highlights include next-generation electrification for the 530e plug-in hybrid and 540i models, enhanced instrumentation and infotainment systems, and revised exterior styling and interior detailing.

2021 BMW 540i White Front View

Continuing from before, the 2021 5 Series family includes the 530i, 530e, 540i, and M550i. BMW hasn’t divulged any changes for the high-performance M5 variant. The updated 2021 5 Series goes on sale in the summer of 2020, priced from less than $55,000.

Exterior Features

As BMW updates and redesigns its vehicles, the traditional twin-kidney grille is getting bigger, and that’s true of the 2021 5 Series. However, the execution on the updated 5 Series is more subdued that what you’ll see on other members of the BMW family. New standard adaptive LED headlights flank the grille, and a defining character line ties the car’s face together, sweeping up from below the lower air intake and through the headlights to define the edge of the hood. Overall, this is an appealing update.

2021 BMW 530e Phytonic Blue Rear View

The 2021 BMW 5 Series is 1.2 inches longer than before, and thanks to improved aerodynamics the coefficient of drag drops to 0.27. Around back, new L-shaped LED taillights with 3D lenses and bumper-integrated trapezoidal exhaust outlet finishers present a revised appearance, and new wheel designs ranging in size from 18 inches to 20 inches in diameter complete the car’s updated looks.

As was true before, the M Sport Package installs revised front and rear bumpers, larger front air intakes, and a rear diffuser panel. The racy M550i includes M Sport styling as standard equipment, along with an Aerodynamic Kit with a new rear spoiler. Gloss black and gray exterior trim helps to further separate the M550i from other 5 Series models.

Interior Features

Except for the M550i, all 2021 5 Series variants have new perforated SensaTec simulated leather with contrast stitching as standard equipment. Real leather is standard in the M550i, and optional for others. Premium Nappa leather is also available.

2021 BMW 5 Series Dashboard and Cognac Leather Seats

Aside from technology upgrades, there are few other changes to the cabin. The buttons on the center console adopt a new high-gloss black finish, and black SensaTec dashboard material with brown contrast is an extra-cost upgrade for most models.

Optional Features

BMW groups most 5 Series options into packages, and offers individual paint color, wheel design, interior upholstery and color, and cabin trim choices. Selected stand-alone options include a high-end Bowers & Wilkins audio system, ventilated front seats, massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel, and sunshades for the rear windows.

Under the Hood

For 2021, the 530i and M550i see no engine changes. As is true of all 5 Series models, however, they get a recalibrated 8-speed automatic transmission and a new xDrive all-wheel-drive system (optional for all but the M550i, where xDrive is standard).

The 2021 BMW 530e receives the latest version of the company’s eDrive plug-in hybrid powertrain. Using a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, a 107-horsepower electric drive motor, and a 9.1 kWh lithium-ion battery, it makes a combined 288 horsepower. That represents a 40-hp increase over the previous 530e.

In the BMW 330e and X3 xDrive30e, the ePower drivetrain supplies 18-20 miles of pure electric driving and easily recharges overnight using a standard household electrical outlet. In the 530e, BMW claims the car accelerates to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and has a top speed of 146 mph. In the Sport driving mode, a new XtraBoost function provides an extra 40 hp for up to 10 seconds when the driver has the accelerator pedal mashed to the floor.

The BMW 540i gets a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system for its 335-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine. Equipped with the same brake energy regeneration system used in the 530e plug-in, the 540i recharges its battery as you slow down, either by coasting or braking. Additionally, when cruising on the highway, the integrated starter-generator recharges the battery.

BMW uses the 48-volt mild-hybrid system to power the car’s 12-volt electrical system, to facilitate more frequent gas-engine shut-off periods to conserve fuel, and to provide up to an 11-hp electric boost during off-the-line acceleration and passing situations. BMW says the 540i accelerates to 60 mph in as few as 4.6 seconds and can hit a top speed of 155 mph.

A new version of xDrive is optional on all models except the M550i, in which it comes standard. With a rear-biased but fully variable power distribution strategy, and lighter than before in terms of weight, xDrive solely powers the car’s rear wheels when AWD isn’t necessary.

M Sport Brakes remain an option for all models, but for 2021 are now offered with red-painted calipers in addition to blue.


BMW provides all of the expected safety technologies as standard equipment on the 2021 5 Series. They include forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping assistance, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning, and automatic high-beam headlights.

A Driving Assistance Plus option package adds active cruise control with stop-and-go capability, and a high-tech traffic jam assistance system for use on limited access highways. This technology provides hands-free vehicle operation at speeds below 37 mph, helping to make clogged commutes easier to bear.

Additional features of this package include Evasion Aid (helps promote vehicle stability during sudden steering maneuvers), a front cross-traffic warning system, side-collision avoidance for the blind-spot warning system, and emergency stop assistance.

That latter feature activates when the adaptive cruise control is in use and the driver stops holding the steering wheel or responding to alerts to retake control. The presumption is that in such situations the driver has most likely fallen asleep or is suffering a medical emergency, and the technology can bring the 5 Series to a safe stop.


Every 2021 BMW 5 Series includes Live Cockpit Professional, the automaker’s term for its 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display and separate iDrive infotainment display. This year, the iDrive 7 infotainment system’s screen grows from 10.25 inches to 12.3 inches. It includes standard navigation, Apple CarPlay, and new for the 2021 model year, Android Auto.

Data from the navigation system informs the car’s powertrain and adaptive cruise control to help maximize performance and efficiency along a programmed driving route. The navigation system also benefits from a new BMW Maps feature, a cloud-based, real-time traffic data and route calculation system that provides more accurate destination arrival times.

The infotainment system has the latest BMW voice recognition technology, and in the 2021 5 Series you can operate the windows and adjust the air conditioning using voice commands, in addition to myriad other functions.

Live Cockpit Professional also provides a driver with a 3D visualization system that shows all of the vehicles immediately surrounding the car within the instrumentation display. A new Drive Recorder feature captures video footage from the cameras all around the vehicle, and owners can review the footage in the car or export the video to a memory device via the USB port.

BMW is the source of the information in this article. It was accurate as of May 26, 2020 but may have changed since that date.

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