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2012 BMW 5-Series Interior Review

Note: This interior review was created when the 2012 BMW 5-Series was new.


Interior: 8.1

Although critics say that the 2012 BMW 5-Series sedan doesn’t offer the space of rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, nearly all agree that the 5-Series features an attractive interior that’s constructed with high-quality materials. Leatherette upholstery and dark wood trim come standard on the base 528i, and a number of options packages allow buyers to customize the 5-Series’ interior with upgraded leather seats and numerous comfort and convenience features. Even the electronics are well-liked inside the 5-Series, as reviewers note that BMW’s iDrive system is now much more intuitive.

Still, the 5-Series isn’t without its quirks. A few test drivers say that the back seat doesn’t offer enough legroom to be truly comfortable for adults, and most agree that its 14 cubic-foot trunk is small compared with other luxury large cars' trunks. However, Gran Turismo models offer more cargo space, as well as a comfortable back seat.

  • "The interior and the body remain mostly unchanged. It's a quiet ride with premium materials and a comfortable setting." -- AutoWeek 
  • "High-grade leather, ample soft-touch surfaces, and classy wood trim highlight the GT's interior." -- Consumer Guide (BMW 550i Gran Turismo)
  • "Inside, the car is just about perfect. I'd have to say BMW currently offers the best interior design of any German car company." -- Los Angeles Times 
  • "Inside, the cabin has been updated but is still a model of sober craftsmanship with precise surface changes and beautiful proportions." -- Popular Mechanics 
  • "The passenger compartment is beautifully trimmed, both inviting and functional." -- Autoblog 


Reviewers generally agree that the BMW 5-Series’ front seats are extremely comfortable and supportive, but not all are convinced that the sedan’s rear row offers enough legroom. If you need a more spacious back seat, consider the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or a 5-Series Gran Tursimo.

  • "Tall body proportions make for a spacious, airy-feeling cabin. Headroom and legroom are ample for folks of all sizes." -- Consumer Guide (BMW 550i Gran Turismo)
  • "Rear occupants sit on a standard bench seat set at a reclined angle. Rear legroom is in short supply." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The seats are comfy but with a surprising amount of side support, and there's more than enough room for four adults and their luggage." -- Popular Mechanics 
  • "The rear seats are acceptable for adults, but the space would never be considered generous, as the backs of the front seats are not sculpted for rear passenger knees." -- Autoblog 

Interior Features

The 5-Series’ redesign brought the cabin in a decidedly more upscale direction, with a layout that has much in common with the BMW 7-Series. Reviewers are generally pleased with the design and materials used, and most agree that BMW’s iDrive multimedia interface is now much more user-friendly than it was in previous models.

The 5-Series’ navigation system has garnered both positive and negative comments. On the upside, test drivers love the large display, but one reviewer comments that the system was unable to re-route the 5-Series around construction.

  • "The navigation system got us lost near the Austrian border when it couldn't maneuver around construction, but that could happen anywhere." -- AutoWeek 
  • "BMW's ‘virtual-analog’ instrument cluster is very slick. Though it still takes acclimation, the car's iDrive interface works quite well. Some testers dislike the number of shortcut buttons around the console control knob, but others find they make for quicker access to the audio and navigation systems." -- Consumer Guide (BMW 550i Gran Turismo) 
  • "The optional navigation system includes a massive 10.2-inch center display with high-resolution." -- Cars.com 
  • "My test car had the brilliant 10-inch navigation display in the center console, which is spectacular." -- Los Angeles Times 
  • "The standard iDrive telematics system continues to add complexity to what were once simple tasks." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The navigation system, including iDrive, is intuitive and useful (finally!). The maps are displayed in traditional manner, or overlaid on geographic satellite imagery that impresses everyone." -- Autoblog 


With 14 cubic feet of trunk space, the 2012 BMW 5-Series’ cargo space is on the low side compared with that of other luxury large cars. Rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan provide 15.9 cubic feet of trunk space, and while Gran Turismo models offer an additional 1.5 cubic feet of trunk space, they can’t hold a candle to the Audi A7, which has a cavernous 24.5 cubic feet for cargo. The 5-Series also has less in-cabin storage than many of its rivals.

  • "Using the console cupholders blocks access to some of the secondary climate controls." -- Consumer Guide (BMW 550i Gran Turismo)
  • "The trunk, at 14 cubic feet of luggage capacity, is smaller than average for this segment." -- Edmunds 
  • "Behold, there are real cupholders! Not the sturdiest ones, but worlds better than the flip-out dashboard cupholders employed elsewhere in BMW’s lineup." -- Cars.com

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