BMW 3-Series vs. BMW 5-Series

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Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - October 15, 2018

When considering a luxury sedan, buyers have to keep their options wide open. And when considering a BMW sedan, there are two great options in the 3-Series and 5-Series. Both models offer tons of luxury and value, but can the smaller, cheaper 3-Series actually give the mid-size 5-Series a run for its money? Continue reading to find out.

See a side-by-side comparison of the 3-Series & 5-Series »

What the 3-Series Gets Right

Being the smaller and lower-positioned of the BMW sedans, the 3-Series has a big-time price advantage over the 5-Series. The base 2018 BMW 320i starts from $35,895 (destination fees included), giving it an $18,500 advantage over the base 2019 BMW 530i. In fact, buyers can stretch all the way to the range-topping 340i xDrive without overtaking the 5-Series’ entry fee. This allows buyers to get a better-equipped sedan and still save cash.

The 3-Series also offers various body styles for the needs of all buyers. Just need a luxury sedan? Get the standard 3-Series. Need a huge cargo area? The 3-Series Sports Wagon can handle that. Want the added space without the wagon look? Opt for the 3-Series Gran Turismo.

While the base BMW 320i cannot hang with the 5-Series in a straight line, physics takes hold once you enter the 330i and 340i. The 330i and 340i stuff the same four- and six-cylinder engines that power the 530i and 540i into the lighter 3-Series body. This translates into a few tenths of a second shaved off the 0-to-60 mph sprint time when compared to their 5-Series siblings.

The redesigned 2019 BMW 3-Series is around the corner with a larger body, roomier interior, a massive 17-cubic-foot trunk, and more powerful engines. All these updates will make it more competitive against the 5-Series, however, the all-new 3-Series will get a price increase.

What the 5-Series Gets Right

Being the larger of the two, the 5-Series boasts more room on the inside when compared to the 3-Series sedan. This larger cabin gives rear-seat passengers an extra 1.5 inches of leg room, plus the 5-Series’ seats are more comfortable on longer hauls. The 5-Series also has the larger trunk at 14.5 cubic feet.

As expected in a pricier sedan, the BMW 5-Series has more-premium standard equipment. This includes 17-inch wheels, a moonroof, power front seats, an 8.8-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.2-inch touchscreen, and more. Plus, the 5-Series has a higher luxury ceiling for the buyer who wants a fully loaded sedan.

In the powertrain department, the 5-Series shares its four- and six-cylinder engines with the 3-Series, but the 5-Series pulls away in its range-topping performance trim: the M550i. This range-topping sedan boasts a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 powerplant that injects 456 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque that pushes it to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. Plus, all the M-tuned chassis bits this sedan boasts help get it through the corners with minimal drama.

Need Cargo Room? Check Out the Wagon and Gran Turismo

It’s clear the BMW 3-Series cannot hang with the 5-Series, but it does one thing significantly better thanks to its Sport Wagon and Gran Turismo models: haul cargo. If you do a lot of cargo moving, and the 5-Series' 14.5-cubic-foot trunk just isn’t enough, the 3-Series has a few solutions for you.

Verdict: BMW 5-Series

The BMW 3-Series puts up a good fight, but the BMW 5-Series is the superior sedan in this battle. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise considering it's larger and more expensive. It offers additional interior room, more standard features, a performance-oriented model, and a higher luxury ceiling than the 3-Series.

Take a closer look at the BMW 3-Series »

Take a closer look at the BMW 5-Series »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

Follow On: Twitter | Website

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