BMW 5 Series review
The BMW 5 Series is still the executive car to go for thanks to outstanding build quality and superb handling dynamics
It’s got badge prestige in spades, has an interior made from the best materials and delivers best-in-class drying dynamics – those are the reasons for its supremacy.
The current generation of 5 Series received a few criticisms at launch as it followed on from a car that divided opinions in the looks department. But those criticisms quickly disappeared and it has continued to be a top choice for those looking for some executive wheels.
It debuted in 2010 and a subtle facelift to the looks an updated interior technology in 2013 has helped to keep the 5 Series looking fresh. And while a 5 Series may only have come in saloon and Touring estate forms a decade ago, there is now the 5 Series GT - a quirky-looking five-door hatchback variant.
The latest 5 Series was launched in 2010, so in order to keep it fresh, BMW gave it a facelift in 2013. These changes included tweaks to the front and rear lights, plus an improved interior and a more intuitive iDrive cabin control system.
There’s a choice of engines under the bonnet as well. For petrol, there’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder powering the 520i and 528i models, a 3.0-litre six-cylinder for the 535i and the eco ActiveHybrid 5 model and for the 550i, there’s a 5.0-litre V8.
Naturally, the M5 super-saloon uses the latter engine but with the addition of two extra turbos for some serious performance while a special M5 celebrating 30 years of the high-performance model upped things even further
On the diesel front, there is a choice of two diesel engines. A 3.0-litre diesel powers the 530d and 535d models, while a 2.0-litre unit powers the 518d, 520d and 525d cars.
In order to keep the 5 Series at the top of the executive car tree, BMW has added two new trim levels, Modern and Luxury, which were inspired by the smaller yet equally as brilliant 3 Series.
Specification-wise, the 5 Series comes in the choice of four trims: SE, Modern, Luxury and M Sport.
For buyers who want supercar performance and executive car practicality, there is the flagship M5, as well as limited edition M5 '30 Jahre' edition which was created to celebrate 30 years of the BMW M5.
Our choice: BMW 520d SE
It would take a keen-eyed observer to notice the tweaks BMW made to the 5 Series in 2013 given how subtle they were. The indicator repeaters were moved from the front wings to the door mirrors, and the bumpers received some revisions.
Either way, there was hardly anything wrong with the looks of the pre-facelift car, so the changes have done it no harm at all. However, some BMW detractors may say it looks too conservative, and it can't match the sleek looking Jaguar XF for outright style.
BMW fits every model of 5 Series with alloy wheels and Xenon headlamps as standard kit, but only M Sport spec cars benefit from a muscular aerodynamic bodykit and a smart looking darkened chrome finish for the front grille and exhaust pipes. These cars also feature a pair of striking LED front fog lamps.
In addition to the subtle facelifted exterior, BMW has also made slight changes to the cabin of the 5 Series in the form of new dashboard fascia and colour options.
Arguably, the biggest change BMW made to the 5 Series' interior were the revisions to its iDrive cabin control; if the buyer opts for the Professional Media sat-nav package, the iDrive system gets a larger rotary controller with a touch pad that lets the driver 'write' addresses.
Otherwise, little else has changed since 2010. From the entry-level SE model to the range-topping M5, each 5 Series' cabin is slick, impeccably built and BMW has made good use of high-quality materials.
The 5 Series sweeping dash looks more modern than any of its executive car rivals from Audi or Mercedes. Its intuitive layout and low-slung driving position mean you'll feel comfortable behind the wheel in no time.
In the M Sport cars, BMW further improves the 5 Series experience with a gorgeous, three-spoke M Sport branded steering wheel. All models with a manual gearbox benefit from a stubby, short throw shifter.
Despite best efforts from Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar, the BMW 5 Series still remains the best executive car to drive and this is where a large proportion of its appeal lies thanks to rear-wheel drive handling, great refinement and strong pace.
It's the outstanding handling of the BMW 5 Series which grabs the driver - its steering is naturally weighted and delivers a decent amount of feedback through the wheel.
BMW has ensured that body roll is well controlled, so there is buckets of grip. The 5 Series is also the only executive car that feels right when fitted with a manual gearbox - the slick and precise action of the six-speed box adds to the fun.
Buyers will also be happy to know that the fun factor of the BMW 5 Series doesn't come at the expense of comfort, as the Bavarian manufacturer has ensured road and wind noise are virtually absent.
A small criticism would be that the M Sport spec cars can be slightly too firm at low speeds - the SE models ride much more smoothly. However, the suspension settings from the SE models can be set-up on the M Sport cars at no extra cost.
The diesel engines in the 5 Seriesa are truly impressive and the most relevant in today's automotive climate of efficiency and downsizing are the diesels.
Our choice of engine from the entire BMW 5 Series range then, is the 181bhp 520d. This particular unit is capable of 0-62mph in just 8.1 seconds and has a top speed of 144mph. The economy figures are equally as impressive, as the 520d manages 62.8mpg and emits 134g/km of CO2.
It is worth noting though that the 552bhp BMW is truly astonishing and will have most things this side of a Ferrari worried. The '30 Jahre' commemorative M5 gets even more power. There’s 591bhp under the bonnet!
The BMW 5 Series feels built to last both inside and out and it the overall feeling is that it's a top-quality product.
In our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the 5 series finished an impressive fourth out of 150 cars, while BMW finished 10th out of 32 manufacturers.
Furthermore, the 5 Series' safety credentials make it one of the safest executive cars on the market. BMW fits six airbags and stability control as standard. Unsurprisingly, the 5 Series comfortably achieved a maximum five-star score in Euro NCAP crash tests.
BMW offers further safety options, which include adaptive cruise control for around £1,500, a heads-up display for around £1,000 and a lane departure warning system for around £500.
A night-vision package is also available, with headlamps that can automatically identify pedestrians and highlight them with a separate beam of light. This feature, however, comes at a premium of almost £1,800.
The BMW 5 Series is a big car, so it's no surprise that it features a supremely roomy interior.
Rear occupants in the BMW 5 Series will get plenty of head and legroom. It's worth noting, however, that the middle occupant may find their comfort compromised by the 5 Series' bulky transmission tunnel.
BMW has made intelligent use of the 5 Series' spacious interior, and dotted around the cabin is plenty of storage space - this includes large door bins, a decent-sized cubby hole hidden beneath the armrest that's located between the front seats.
Despite these solutions, the 520-litre boot in the BMW 5 Series cannot match the 540-litres of boot space on offer in the Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar XF. A rear-bench seat also comes at a premium of around £400, which seems a little excessive.
Therefore, if it's extra practicality you're after, then the excellent 5 Series Touring estate would be a better bet as it offers a greater range of storage options and 560-litres of boot space.
The 5 Series GT fastback is also very practical, and features 500-litres of boot space, as well as a sliding rear bench seat.
All of the engines in the BMW 5 Series range are impressive, but overall, the diesels outshine the petrol units thanks to their excellent blend of performance and efficiency.
Our pick of the engine range is the 2.0-litre 520d, which is brisk and returns 62.8mpg with CO2 emissions of just 114g/km. Fitted to the 148bhp 518d model, the 2.0-litre maintains the same mpg.
The petrol powered 550i and M5 provide blistering performance, but return a combined economy of 32.8mpg and 28.5mpg respectively. The blistering 591bhp M5 '30 Jahre' manages 28.5mpg and 231g/km of CO2.
In terms of petrol engines, the 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine with the eight-speed automatic gearbox is the most economical thanks to a fuel economy of 47.1mpg 139g/km of CO2.
The 2.0-litre engine also powers the 528i, which sees fuel economy decrease to 46.3mpg (with 142g/km of CO2) on the SE model.
BMW also offers financial incentives to its buyers, which include a top-value service pack that provides five years/50,000 miles of maintenance. There's also the strong predicted residuals of 47 per cent.