BMWs all new 5 Series sedan impressive, agile

I have really enjoyed my test drive this week in the all-new BMW 528i sedan the base trim level of the famed 5 Series lineup that has come to define the mid-size luxury-performance segment.

Without question, BMW is synonymous with performance.

Not to knock other manufacturers, but BMW wrote the book on how to engineer vehicles that deliver an exhilarating driving experience while also adding a high degree of luxury.

The new generation is no exception.

For the 2011 model year, the 5 Series is available in five trim levels designated by engine 528i, 535i, 550i, as well as all-wheel drive versions of the 535i and 550i, which adds the xDrive badge.

The rear-wheel drive 528i (this weeks test vehicle) is powered by a 3.0-liter I-6 engine delivering 240 horsepower and 230 lbs.-ft. torque. Mated to an 8-speed shiftable automatic transmission, this baby is made to get up and go.

With a base price starting at $45,050, the five-passenger sedan not only provides an outstanding driving experience, I was equally impressed with its EPA numbers.

Requiring premium unleaded fuel, the 528i is rated at 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway impressive, especially after you experience how quickly this car accelerates.

As expected, the suspension hugs the 528is 17-inch wheels to the road.

I had a chance this week to put it to the test on my favorite stretch of country road with lots of S curves and I cant begin to tell you how much fun it was to slice through the curves.

This car just stays glued to the road, even during aggressive maneuvers.

The styling of the new model is a little more conservative than its predecessor, but I like it.

Inside, the cabin is very elegant and clean, and BMW has done a nice job of simplifying its iDrive technology to the point that I can change the radio station without having to pull off the road and pull out the owners manual.

Seating is spacious and comfortable for all five positions and the cabin is elegant, with a high degree of craftsmanship evident in every detail of the interior.

The only thing I dont like about the new 5 Series are the cupholders, which are limited to two small slots located in front of the gear shifter, each holding a 12-ounce can.

If you like having a Big Slam or a 16-ounce bottle of your favorite beverage, you better bring a friend along to hold it for you or balance it between your knees because it wont fit in the cupholder.

I know its petty, especially in an otherwise stellar vehicle but I do like my Big Slam Coca-Cola.

Other models in the 5 Series lineup include the RWD 335i (base price starting at $50,100) and the AWD 535i xDrive (base price starting at 52,400) powered by a 300 horsepower version of the 3.0-liter I-6 engine.

Mated to a 6-speed automatic, it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway.

Consumers also have option of the RWD 550i (base price starting at $60,200) and AWD 550i xDrive (base price starting at $62,500), powered by a 4.4-liter V-8 engine delivering 400 horsepower and 450 lbs.-ft. torque.

Cupholders aside, Im very impressed with the new BMW 5 Series.

For those in the market for a performance-luxury mid-size sedan, I highly recommend the 5 Series for a long, long test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 yeaMODEL:

2011 BMW 5 Series

5-seat luxury sedan

Rear- or all-wheel drive

Trim packages:

528i, 535i, 535i xDrive, 550i, 550i xDrive

PRICE RANGE:

$46,000-$69,000

ENGINE:

3.0-L I6 (240 hp/230 torque)

3.0-L I6 (300 hp/300 torque)

4.4-L V8 (400 hp/450 torque)

TRANSMISSION:

8-speed automatic

6-speed manual

EPA: 22/19/15 mpg city, 32/28/22 mpg highway (528i/535i/550i)

FUEL: Premium unleaded

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 193.1 inches

WHEELBASE: 116.9 inches

HEIGHT: 57.6 inches

WEIGHT: 3814-4519 lbs.

TRACK: 63/64.1 (528i)

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 18.5 gallons

TIRES: 17-, or 18-inch

CARGO: 14 cubic feetrs and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.