BMW 5 Series review
The BMW 5 Series sets the executive standard, although it lacks its predecessor's daring looks
It's always been the best car in its class ‚ and the latest BMW 5 Series is just as brilliant. It manages to offer a more enjoyable driving experience than the Audi A6 and the Mercedes E-Class, but it's also very good at covering long distances in comfort. Factor in a well equipped and plush cabin, plus an engine range including economical diesels and punchy petrol motors, and you've got a superb all-rounder.
Our choice: BMW 520d EfficientDynamics
BMW can't win. The old car split opinion with its challenging looks; the new one doesn't really stand out. However, it's still a handsome machine and you can spice it up with the M Sport trim, which adds a mild bodykit and some larger alloy wheels, as well as sports suspension and other M branded details. Inside, the cabin is brilliant - full of wonderfully made switches, with a proper logic to the way it all works. Even the iDrive system makes sense these days and it is child's play to navigate between its various functions and menus. A recent software update also means the iDrive now looks incredibly smart with 3D mapping and internet connectivity available as optional extras.
There's something for everyone in the engine range. We love the six-cylinder turbo petrols, while the twin-turbo V8 M5 has enough pace to keep up with most Ferraris - but it's the diesels that are the most relevant and impressive. Pick of the bunch is the 520d EfficientDynamics, which has a gutsy and smooth 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel capable of doing 0-62mph in just 8.2 seconds with a top speed of 144mph, yet it is incredibly efficient. Further up the range the 525d and 530d also win praise, as does the mighty 535d. Providing you choose the adaptive damping option, the 5 Series will go round corners like a sports car, and ride as comfortably as a luxury saloon. Of the gearboxes, the eight-speed auto is the best, but all are smooth and help to make the 5 Series a brilliant motorway mile-muncher.
The BMW 5 Series is one of the safest cars on the road with a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. Standard equipment also includes six airbags plus traction and stability control, while options include a head-up display, which keeps the driver's eyes on the road ahead. Unlike the Audi A6, there is no four-wheel drive version, so if you live for extra peace of mind you might want to fit a set of winter tyres when it gets chilly. As for reliability we would expect the 5 Series to be pretty much faultless - it placed a worthy 11th in our 2012 Driver Power survey.
It's not MPV-clever when it comes to using space, but the 5 Series is great for a large saloon, with a driving position that will suit any driver. The rear seats are fine for tall adults (although the centre seat is compromised by the transmission tunnel, which robs legspace) while the boot is a healthy 520 itres. This can be extended by folding down the rear seats - there's a ski hatch too. If you really want extra practicality, go for the excellent Touring estate version which offers a much greater range of flexibilty and different storage options.
You really can have your cake and eat it with the 5 Series. The 520d EfficientDynamics is fast but claims 62.8mpg and just 119g/km of CO2 thanks to stop-start, eco-tyres, brake energy recovery and clever aerodynamics. The superb petrol engines are efficent, too, but are simply outshone by the punchy diesels - even the 525d manages nearly 60mpg. You'll need deep pockets for the 550i and M5, but servicing should be lower than or on a par with its Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class rivals, while residuals are absolutely superb.