BMW 5 Series review

Our Rating 
5
5.0/5.0
2017 model
By jumbo-bg Test TeamComments

The BMW 5 Series combines cutting edge kit, great driving dynamics and top-notch refinement with low running costs

For 
Sharp driving dynamics, strong refinement, excellent infotainment, low running costs
Against 
Expensive options, conservative styling, most models over £40k

The BMW 5 Series executive saloon has been a mainstay of the German brand’s line-up for more than 40 years. The seventh generation is underpinned by the same platform as the larger 7 Series luxury limousine (albeit without that car's carbon core), so it's larger than its predecessor and now matches the biggest rivals for interior space. Yet extensive use of lightweight aluminium for the car’s structure and body panels means it actually tips the scales at around 100kg less the old model.

As you’d expect from a BMW, the 5 Series offers engaging handling, while the drop in weight makes it feel more nimble than its bulky external dimensions would suggest. BMW has also made strides when it comes to refinement. There’s very little wind or engine noise, while tyre roar is only a problem on coarse surfaces. On its standard suspension the 5 Series does a fine job of soaking up bumps, although racier M Sport models are a little firm at low speeds.

The car’s top-notch refinement is backed up by one of the classiest cabins in the business. The quality of the materials and finish are first rate, while there’s plenty of standard kit, including sat-nav, online services and leather seat trim. There’s bags of space too, with occupants in the back getting nearly as much legroom as the larger 7 Series.

Business users are likely to be impressed by the car’s low running costs, with the 530e plug-in hybrid model emitting as little as 46g/km of CO2. With regular access to a plug socket and a short commute, you can run the car almost entirely on electricity, too.

Overall, the 5 Series is a hugely capable, beautifully built and spacious premium saloon that’s also great to drive. Arguably, it is one of the most complete models on sale today.

Our Choice 
BMW 520d SE

Few cars are as accomplished as the BMW 5 Series. BMW's mid-sized saloon is considered one of the best all-round cars you can buy, and the latest seventh-generation model delivers the talents of its predecessors with a healthy dose of hi-tech kit and construction in the mix.

The 5 Series has been a mainstay of the BMW line-up since 1972, when the original E12 model first arrived. Since then, there have been six more generations, and the current G30 incarnation is bigger yet lighter and more efficient than past models. It uses technology borrowed form the 7 Series limousine, so has lightweight aluminium and carbon fibre in its construction, while some of that car's suite of hi-tech convenience features are also carried over.

BMW 5 Series long-term test review

The styling of the 5 Series is conservative, and is an evolution of the last model, combined with cues taken from the larger 7 Series. But there's no doubt about who builds it, thanks to the synonymous kidney grilles, four-ring headlights and distinctive BMW window line.

The 5 Series line-up is simple, with only SE and M Sport trims on offer. The engine range is more extensive, however, with a selection of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid variants available. The diesel models are expected to make up the bulk of sales, with the excellent 187bhp 2.0-litre 520d accounting for the majority of sales. As well as the standard trims, the 520d is also offered in company car tax-busting EfficientDynamics trim to cut costs even further. The 530d features a traditional BMW straight-six diesel with 261bhp, and is designed more for performance than efficiency. A mid-range 525d is also available.

Petrol power comes in the form of the 520i, 530i and 540i models. The 520i and 530i use 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines with either 183bhp or 249bhp, but the latter has a 335bhp 3.0-litre straight-six. The only other model at the moment is the 530e plug-in hybrid. This uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor to make 252bhp, which delivers performance similar to the 530i but with far lower running costs and a potential 31-mile electric driving range. Buyers after something racier will have to wait a little longer for the new M5 to arrive, although from our first taste it'll be well worth the wait.

All cars feature an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while xDrive four-wheel drive is available as an option on 520d and 530d models - it's standard on the 540i.

The 5 Series is one of the mainstays of the executive saloon class, and is a direct rival for the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. It can also rival the Jaguar XF, while alternative choices come in the form of the Volvo S90 and Lexus GS. The only other option is the 5 Series Touring estate, while the 5 Series GT is due to be rebranded as the 6 Series GT when it arrives later in the year.

Engines, performance and drive

4.6
Overall weight reduction means the BMW 5 Series is faster and better to drive than ever.

While the structure, bodyshell and interior are all-new, the BMW’s engine line-up features tried and tested petrol and diesel units. An appealing plug-in variant is also on offer, with a 31-mile electric range.

Whichever version you opt for, you’ll benefit from the same fine ride and handling balance. The 5 Series’s weight reduction has delivered improvements across the board, and despite exterior dimensions that are larger than the old car’s, the new version actually feels more agile on the move.

BMW 530e iPerformance hybrid 2017 review

The steering isn’t as quick as the Jaguar XF’s, but it’s naturally weighted and delivers just the right amount of feedback. There’s also bags of grip, while even on the standard springs and dampers fitted to SE models the BMW delivers strong body control, coping very well over the bigger bumps.

Four-wheel drive is standard on the 540i and an option on 520d and 530d. The benefits in traction are obvious on the more powerful versions, but the 520d is best suited to the traditional rear-wheel drive layout, which feels a little lighter and more agile than the xDrive set-up.

Agility can be further enhanced with the optional £995 Integral Active Steering set-up, which is available here with xDrive four-wheel drive for the first time. This electronically controlled system that turns the rear wheels in opposite direction to the fronts significantly boost manoeuvrability. At higher speeds the rears point the same way, sharpening turn-in and boosting stability.

However, if you select one option, then we’d recommend forking out £985 for the adaptive dampers. In its sportiest setting, this set-up gives sharper responses and even greater composure, while selecting Comfort serves-up a soft ride that rivals luxurious limousines.

The impression of luxury is enhanced by the low levels of noise in the cabin. Even the 520d’s four-cylinder diesel is hushed, while wind and road roar are barely perceptible.

For the first time ever in the UK, the 5 Series isn’t available with a manual gearbox – so if you want to shift ratios yourself you’ll need to look at an Audi A6 or Jaguar XF. However, the BMW’s standard eight-speed auto is so good that’d we’d have recommended spending extra on it if it was an option. 

Engines

Forming the bulk of 5 Series sales in Britain will be the 520d, with its familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel. Producing 187bhp and 400Nm of torque, you might think it’d struggle in a car as big as the 5 Series. However, the new car is 100kg lighter than before, while the slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission means the 520d delivers as much performance as you’ll need.

BMW claims 0-62mph in just 7.5 seconds, which rivals warm hatchbacks for outright pace. Yet with a healthy 400Nm of torque you don’t need to work the 520d’s engine hard to make decent progress. The automatic gearbox delivers smooth changes when left to its own devices and crisp shifts when using the manual mode. The 2.0-litre unit is also smooth and refined, although this is partly down to excellent soundproofing.

In fact, for most of the time this engine is as unobtrusive as the bigger six-cylinder in the 530d. And while the 261bhp unit knocks nearly two seconds off the 520d’s 0-62mph claim with a time of 5.7 seconds, in the real world the differences aren’t as obvious as you’d think.

There’s more low-down muscle with the larger engine, while the deep growl under hard acceleration adds to the sporty appeal. Yet unless you want to have bragging rights when it comes to the Top Trumps performance statistics, the 520d’s more balanced mix of performance and efficiency makes it the more rounded choice.

The excellence of the diesels leaves the petrol models firmly in the shade; particularly the 530i, which offers no real performance or refinement advantage over the 520d and 530d. The 530e is an impressive alternative, though, driving very nearly as well as the petrol and diesel cars, with the added boon of its 31-mile zero emissions range. 

The final model in the 5 Series range (before the flagship M5 arrives) is the 540i. It delivers near super saloon pace: with four-wheel drive traction and a healthy 335bhp, the big saloon will crack the benchmark 0-62mph in a claimed 4.8 seconds.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4.2
Low emissions and strong residuals make the 5 Series a top choice for business users and private buyers

Ever since launching its Efficient Dynamics efficiency technology a decade or so ago, BMW has been leading the way for low running costs – and the new 5 Series is no exception.

If you're after a diesel model, it’s the 520d Efficient Dynamics that makes the most financial sense. CO2 emissions of 102g/km match those of the Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar XF, and place the BMW in the 22 percent tax bracket for the 2017/18 financial year. On top of that, the brand claims an impressive fuel return of 72.4mpg. Adding the xDrive four-wheel drive system increases emissions to 119g/km.

However, even the 530d delivers impressive low running costs, with claimed fuel efficiency of 60.1mpg and a CO2 figure of 124g/km. These figures change to 53.2mpg and 138g/km respectively on all-wheel drive machines.

As you’d expect, the petrol versions aren’t quite as efficient, but the 530i’s promises of 48.7mpg at the pumps and 132g/km of CO2 are good for such a big car powered by a four-cylinder engine. The 540i is the thirstiest model in the line-up, but even this is claimed to return just under 40mpg with emissions of 164g/km.

For company car users who do as much commuting as long trips, the 530e could be worth considering. The plug-in hybrid machine falls into the nine percent benefit in kind tax bracket thanks to its ultra low CO2 output of just 46g/km. Obviously, to get anywhere near the claimed 141.2mpg you’ll have to plug the car into charge frequently and make plenty of short journeys in the electric-only mode.

If you want to pay just £140 per year in road tax then the only choice is the 520d. Even the 520d xDrive in M Sport costs more than £40,000 – meaning it'll cost private buyers £450 each year for the first five years. All other models face this same surcharge, although the 530e is £10 a year less.

Insurance groups

The 5 Series is a premium saloon that’s packed with technology, so it’s no surprise to find it falls into high insurance groupings. Lowest rating is the 520d, which fits into group 31, while at the other end of the scale is the 540i that attracts a grouping of 40. 

All the cars are fitted with a full suite of security measures, including a Thatcham category 1 rated alarm and immobiliser. BMW also offers its Trakstar service, which can locate your car in the event it is stolen.

Depreciation

Given the lure of the BMW’s premium appeal, it’s no surprise to find it retains its value well. What’s more impressive is that 5 Series resists depreciation almost as well as more fashionable upmarket SUV models.

Best of the bunch is the eco-friendly 530e plug-in hybrid, which our experts calculate will retain just over 50 per cent of its new value after three years.

The rest of the line-up performs almost as well, delivering a return on your investment of between 47 and 49 per cent. The exceptions are the 540i versions, which will hold onto just 43 per cent of their new price after 36 months.

Interior, design and technology

4.2
Top quality materials, slick design and cutting edge tech combine to create a cabin that oozes premium appeal.

Apart from a brief spell of daring design in the early 2000s, BMW has always taken a cautionary and conservative approach to styling. And given the loyal customer base of the 5 Series, it’s no surprise the brand has played it safe with the latest model.

Its proportions are very similar to the old car, while the detailing around the headlamps and at the rear is pure 7 Series. The BMW isn’t as sleek as the Jaguar XF or quite as imposing as the Mercedes E-Class, but it’s handsome design that oozes understated class.

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If you opt for the M Sport trim level, then a subtle bodykit, bespoke front and rear bumpers and larger 18-inch alloys give the car some racy kerb appeal.

The interior of the old 5 Series was starting to feel a little dated compared to rivals such as the Mercedes E-Class. There was nothing wrong with the quality of the materials or construction, but the design and infotainment were staring to look old hat.

As a result, BMW has pulled out all the stops with this latest car, which takes its cues from the 7 Series flagship. In fact, from behind the wheel you could easily mistake the 5 Series for its larger brother.

The wrap-around dashboard is logically laid out, while the metal finished switchgear for the climate control is taken from the 7 Series. Also taken from the larger car is the large TFT display that replaces the traditional analogue dials.

As you’d expect, the fit and finish are first rate. Top-notch materials are used throughout, while the build quality is flawless. Few cars feel as thoroughly engineered from behind the wheel.

Like other models in the BMW range, it’s possible to customize the interior to suit you tastes. There are various leather trim options and different trim inserts, plus there’s the brand’s Individual programme, which provides a bespoke tailoring service – although you’ll need deep pockets for some of the options.

Technology plays a big part in the new BMW 5 Series, with features from the larger 7 Series trickling down to its smaller brother. For instance, the £965 Adaptive cruise control can be upgraded to include semi-autonomous driving with the £2,250 Driving Assistant Plus pack. This system allows the car to accelerate, brake and steer itself at speeds of up to 130mph. It will even change lanes to overtake on a motorway; simply flick the indicator on and sensors will identify a gap in the traffic, then pull smoothly out to pass the slower car.

You can also access the latest parking aids, with the usual parking sensors and camera joined by a remote set-up. It’s a £395 extra –although you have to order the £1,095 Parking Assistant Plus at the same time – it allows you to slot the car automatically into a tight space while you stand outside.

Other highlights include the £225 full colour head-up display, which features speed and sat-nav information, and the £1,595 night vision system – although apart from its pedestrian detection feature, this is a bit of a gimmick.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

While BMW has been fairly restrained when it comes to styling updates, it has taken some big steps with the 5 Series’ infotainment. A larger screen, increased connectivity and gesture control all feature on the new system, while the familiar and intuitive iDrive controller is carried over.

Plenty of tech in the 10.25-inch Professional M sat-nav is carried over from the 7 Series, just as it has been with the new 5 Series’ chassis. But more of it is optional on the exec than it is on the luxury saloon.

BMW is the first manufacturer to integrate wirelessly connected Apple CarPlay, although this costs £235, while the Connected app allows integration with Android smartphones. This will also send images from the car’s 3D view cameras to your mobile device if fitted. BMW Connected can even link with Amazon’s Alexa service for those using this tech. Online services are standard.

Other interesting features include Proactive Driving Assistant, which is linked to the sat-nav, allowing the car to select the right gear for the upcoming road layout.

Another feature is the £1,495 Technology Pack. This adds gesture control – which lets you perform tasks such as change the volume with the swish of a finger in front of the screen – plus wireless charging.

All versions of the 5 Series get BMW’s ConnectedDrive Services, which adds a host of online services. Emergency Call will help in the event of an accident, while the Online Services give you access to various apps and information. Also included in this package is the Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI), which uses up-to-the-minute data to display traffic flow.

Wireless charging of a smartphone can be added for £425, plus there are three separate hi-fi upgrades – £395 BMW Advanced, an £895 Harman Kardon and an eye-wateringly expensive £3,750 Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround sound system.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

4.4
The 5 Series is bigger all round and is now a match for rivals on practicality.

Given that the BMW 5 Series has grown in nearly every external dimension, it’s no surprise to find its bigger inside. In fact, it now comfortably matches the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class for space, and edges ahead of the Jaguar XF.

Boot capacity has increased, too – although close class benchmarking means it offers no real advantage over its immediate rivals in this regard. Yet if buyers want more luggage space, then there’s always the 5 Series Touring estate version.

Access to the cabin is straightforward thanks to wide-opening doors, and once inside there’s bags of head and legroom for rear seat passengers. It’s a similar story up front, where the driver gets a wide range of seat and wheel adjustment.

Like all BMW models, the driver’s seat can be set low, placing you at the heart of the action. The standard seats also offer plenty of support, particularly over long distances. M Sport models get more heavily bolstered sports items, which can be added to SE versions for an extra £475. Heated seats are standard for the front chairs and added to the rear bench for £325, while a ventilation function can be added for £510. 

Legroom, headroom and passenger space

You’d expect an executive saloon to be roomy and comfortable – and the 5 Series doesn’t disappoint.

By stretching the whole car by 36mm, BMW engineers have liberated extra legroom, particularly for those sitting in the back. Here’s there’s enough space for even tall passengers to stretch out in comfort, while the rear bench is wide enough for three adults – although the large transmission tunnel means those sitting the middle don’t have much room for their feet.

Up front, the amount of space is equally generous. There’s also a wide range of seat adjustment, particularly for the driver. The chairs are also very comfortable, although adjustable lumbar support is a £225 extra. Powered operation is £895, while a massage function is available for £795

Boot

BMW has boosted the carrying capacity of the 5 Series, but the 10-litre increase to 530 litres isn’t much to write home about. What’s more, it trails the 540-litre figures claimed by the Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar XF.

Go for the 530e plug-in hybrid however, and you'll sacrifice 120 litres of space. That's a fair chunk, although the Mercedes E 350e suffers to a larger extent, losing 140 litres over its conventionally-powered petrol and diesel siblings. 

Still, the load bay is reasonably well shaped in all versions, while the opening is wide. There is a pair of handy cubbies behind each wheel arch, plus some storage beneath the boot floor. The split/fold rear seat further aids versatility – although a load-through system will cost an extra £335.

Reliability and Safety

4.6
Cutting edge safety kit is available on all models, while tried and tested mechanicals should prove reliable

While the structure, interior and infotainment of the 5 Series are all new, the mechanicals have been thoroughly developed over the last decade or so.

Both the four and six-cylinder diesels featured in various forms in the old model, while the four-cylinder turbocharged petrol units debuted in the smaller 3 Series. Also familiar to other BMW owners will be the eight-speed automatic.

Like all BMW models, the 5 Series has been engineered to be entertaining and engaging to drive. However, the car’s agile handling is backed up by a suite of safety systems, including stability control, autonomous emergency braking and adaptive LED brake lights that flash during an emergency stop. All versions also get powerful LED headlamps and six airbags.

Also included as standard is BMW’s ConnectedDrive Services, which can alert emergency services in the event of an accident.

If you want even more piece of mind, then the £895 Driving Assistant adds lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and traffic sign recognition, while the £2,250 Plus pack includes all this kit, but adds adaptive cruise control with steering and lane control. It also adds a function that stops the car if it senses you’re about to drive into oncoming traffic.

Warranty

As with all BMW models, the 5 Series is backed by a three-year and unlimited mileage warranty. This guarantee also comes with breakdown recovery for the same period.

The 530e is covered under the same terms, apart from its battery pack that comes with a separate six-year warranty – although this has a mileage limit of 100,000.

Paintwork on the car is guaranteed for three years, while any corrosion issues will be covered for 12 years.

Servicing

BMW was one of the pioneers of the pre-paid servicing package, so it’s no surprise to find the 5 Series is available with a similar scheme.

Called Service Inclusive, it covers the first three scheduled trips to the dealer for just £399. This price covers the basic maintenance items, including oil changes and the air and ventilation filters. Petrol models are also treated to fresh spark plugs, while diesel machines are fitted with a new fuel filter.

As with all BMWs, the servicing schedule is variable based on the car’s use and mileage. However, the brand still recommends and annual check-up.

Last updated: 16 Mar, 2018
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