2008 BMW 5-Series Wagon Performance

$6,511 - $6,511

2008 BMW 5-Series Wagon Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 BMW 5-Series Wagon was new.


Performance: 9.3

The 2008 BMW 5-Series Wagon has excellent handling and a powerful new engine. "Load haulers seldom handle this well or are this much fun to drive," says Car and Driver.

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 BMW 5-Series Wagon is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine that generates 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. One of two new engines for BMW 5-Series vehicles this year, the 3.0-liter is well-liked. Edmunds calls this engine "smooth and vigorous." CNET says that the 5-Series "drives like a dream, getting power from its brilliantly engineered, twin-turbo, 6-cylinder engine." New Car Test Drive says that this engine "might be the finest yet," further noting from a stop or high speed roll the 5-Series "delivers as much torque or more than some thirstier V8-powered sedans." The Environmental Protection Agency rates this engine at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission and 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission.

The BMW 5-Series Wagon comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. New Car Test Drive says: "For those who don't mind a little work, we heartily recommend the six-speed manual gearbox …The shifter is tight and reasonably quick, and shifting is smooth, precise and easy. Particularly with the six-cylinder models, the manual transmission maximizes performance potential, as well as the driver's involvement." Consumer Guide adds that the manual "provides smooth action." Car and Driver feels that a small amount of transmission performance may have been sacrificed in the name of efficiency: "Once engaged, the six-speed shifts smoothly but prematurely in the name of fuel economy."

A six-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission is also available at no extra cost. Some reviews find this a more appropriate option for the 3-Series Wagon. "I like manual transmissions," says the reviewer for the Orlando Sentinel, "but I'm not a fan of most BMW manuals, so I was happy with the automatic." New Car Test Drive finds that the automatic "reacts to the gas pedal in fine style. Full-throttle upshifts are quick and smooth, and downshifts, in most cases, come quickly." The Auto Channel finds the automatic's STEPTRONIC manual mode unnecessary, saying that "in a wagon where performance isn't a priority, manual shifting also isn't." And a few reviews suggest that BMW got the manual mode backward. AutoWeek says, "BMW insists on doing something that's counterintuitive (and it needn't be): In most cars, pulling the shifter toward you shifts the tranny down a gear, while pushing it forward shifts up; here it is reversed, and more than once we found ourselves upshifting when we wanted to downshift."

Handling and Braking

Handling on the 2008 BMW 5-Series Wagon is first-rate and reviews praise its stable, comfortable ride. "No manufacturer has nailed the happy medium between a smooth ride and handling like a sports car the way BMW has," says the Orlando Sentinel, adding that the 5-Series Wagon "is perfectly happy cruising down the highway, but it seems even happier on winding backroads." Consumer Guide says the wagon's handling is well balanced, "agile, always composed, the kind sport sedan rivals strive to match."

The 5-Series Wagon has an aluminum double-pivot-type front suspension, which the New York Times says "did feel harsh on rough pavement, and those willing to sacrifice a little surefootedness for a plusher ride would probably be wise to stick with the standard tires and 17-inch wheels." The Auto Channel, however, didn't find the ride quite so harsh, commenting, "Overall, this was a very comfortable car to drive."

The 5-Series Wagon uses variable-assist, variable-ratio Active Steering, which changes the steering ratio depending on the car's speed. Kelley Blue Book thinks it works smoothly: "At highway speeds, the system is almost undetectable, and our test car tracked straight and true in the best BMW tradition. By the completion of our test, we were fans of the Active Steering technology." The Orlando Sentinel says, "Steering feel is just right, and despite the nearly 2-ton weight -- some of that because of the all-wheel-drive system -- it feels light on its feet." Consumer Guide, however, believes, "Active Steering is a love/hate affair … a boon to low-speed maneuverability, but its activation point feels inconsistent to some testers." They also like the four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, finding them to be "strong, stable, straight." The 5-Series Wagon takes advantage of a technology called Brake Energy Regeneration, which uses excess brake energy as a power source for the car's electronic systems. This technology is more commonly found in fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. The BMW 3-Series comes with a standard Dynamic Brake Control system that consists of brake fade compensation, brake drying, and dynamic traction control.

All-Wheel Drive

All-wheel drive (AWD) is standard on the 2008 BMW 5-Series Wagon and uses BMW's xDrive system to control how much torque goes to each axle. The Auto Channel feels that xDrive "proved to be an asset over unusually rain-sotted dirt roads that were muddy and tended to be slippery at times." And while they found that AWD generally wasn't needed on their test drives, their reviewer adds that "if there had been snow or a thin layer of ice on the road, I'm sure AWD with the addition of ABS, antiskid control, active steering and active roll control would have been just the ticket."

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