BMW 5 Series review
The BMW 5 is still the standard bearer in the executive car class, thanks to great looks, an outstanding drive and superb practicality
Despite BMW launching the latest incarnation of its 5 Series back in 2010, the car still heads the executive class - eclipsing the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. BMW also offers the 5 Series as a more practical Touring estate, a raised 5 Series GT fastback and its high performance M5 flagship model.
The latest generation 5 Series was given a facelift in 2013, but the changes it received were minimal. Tweaks were made to the front and rear lights, and BMW also improved the interior and introduced a more intuitive iDrive cabin control.
BMW offers the 5 Series with a choice of three mainstream petrol engines - a 2.0 unit in the 520i and 528i models, a 3.0 unit found in the 535i and the ActiveHybrid 5 plus a V8 in the 550i. Beyond that you have the awesome twin-turbo V8 in the M5. On the diesel side there's a 3.0 diesel that serves with different power outputs in the 530d and the 535d plus a 2.0-litre diesel that powers the 518d, 520d and 525d models.
BMW has also added two new trim levels to the 5 Series range to keep it ahead of its executive car rivals. The new Modern and Luxury trims have undoubtedly been inspired by the smaller 3 Series. This brings the number of 5 Series variants to five: the entry level SE, mid-range Modern and Luxury models, the sportier M Sport and M5.
Our choice: BMW 520d SE
The facelift BMW gave the 5 Series in 2013 included subtly re-profiled head and taillights, the indicator repeaters were moved from the front wings to the door mirrors and the bumpers were revised.
Still, there was not much wrong with the handsome, well proportioned 2010 - 2013 car, so the changes have done it no harm. While it can't quite match the sleek Jaguar XF for outright style, the 5 Series looks more up-to-date than the slightly conservative Mercedes E Class.
All 5 Series models get alloys and xenon headlamps as standard, while the M Sport spec cars get an aggressive aerodynamic bodykit, dark chrome finish for the front grille and exhaust pipes, as well as striking LED front fog lamps.
The subtle changes made by BMW carry over into the interior, and are limited to a variety of new trim and colour options.
BMW has made its biggest change to the iDrive cabin control; when the optional Professional Media sat-nav is specified, it gets a larger rotary controller with a touch pad that lets you 'write' addresses with your finger.
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, and its intuitive layout and low-slung driving position mean you'll feel comfortable behind the wheel in no time.
In the M Sport and M5 cars, BMW further improves your 5 Series driving experience thanks to a gorgeous, three-spoke M Sport branded steering wheel, and all specs with a manual gearbox benefit from a stubby, short throw shifter.
With its poised, rear-wheel drive handling, great refinement and strong pace, the 5 Series continues to set the standard for driving fun in the executive car class.
The 5 Series' outstanding handling is what grabs your attention. The steering is naturally weighted and delivers accurate feedback. Body roll is well controlled so the car sticks to the road well, and is truly the only executive car that feels right with a manual gearbox as the six-speed unit's slick and precise action adds to the fun.
Better still, the enjoyment of driving the 5 Series does not come at the expense of comfort as BMW had made road and wind noise virtually absent. The M Sport spec cars, however, can be a bit firm at low speeds, while the SE models ride more smoothly. The SE suspension settings can be set-up on the M Sport cars at no extra cost.
BMW's range of diesels are the most relevant and impressive engine in the 5, despite the twin-turbo V8 powered M5 being easily able keep pace with most Ferraris.
Our choice then, is the 520d which is a 181bhp, 2.0-litre diesel that is capable of 0-62mph in just 8.1 seconds and has a top speed of 144 mph. The economy figures are equally as impressive, with the 520d returning a combined cycle of 62.8mpg, and CO2 emissions of 134g/km.
The tight panel gaps on the outside of the BMW 5 Series, as well as its robust interior inspire confidence amongst its owners, and the car looks and feels as though it will last for years.
The feeling is reflected by the 5 Series finishing in an impressive 11th place in our 2013 Driver Power survey, with drivers reserving high praise for BMW's reliability and build quality.
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 £1,330 adaptive cruise control, a £995 head-up display and £500 lane departure warning.
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 £1,750
The BMW 5 Series' vast exterior dimensions make for - unsurprisingly - an extremely roomy interior.
Adults sitting on the 5 Series' wide rear seat will get plenty of head and legroom, but the middle occupant may find that the car's bulky transmission tunnel slightly compromises their comfort.
BMW has made clever use of the 5 Series' ample interior, and around the cabin, you'll find plenty of useful storage space that includes large door bins, and a decent-sized cubby hidden beneath the armrest that's located between the front seats.
The 5 Series, however, cannot match its rivals when it comes to luggage capacity, and the BMW 's 520-litre boot trails its rivals, the Jaguar XF and Mercedes E-Class by 20-litres.
Furthermore, BMW only offers folding rear bench seat is a £420 option, so if you really want the extra room, you're better off with the outstanding 5 Series Touring estate model as it offers a greater range of flexibility and various storage options.
The revised 5 Series GT has had its dimensions extended, and now boasts even more space than the Touring, plus a sliding rear bench.
BMW has dropped the frugal EfficientDynamics model from the 5 Series range, but has tweaked its SE model to emit exactly the same 119/km of C02 as the EfficientDynamics car.
The diesels outshine the petrol engines which return a good mix of performance and efficiency. The 520d is rapid, but claims a combined cycle of 62.8mpg and just 119g/km of C02 thanks to stop-start technology, eco tyres, a Formula 1 style brake energy recovery system, and clever aerodynamics.
The petrol powered 550i and M5 provide blistering performance, but return a combined economy of 32.8mpg and 199g/km of CO2, and 28.5mpg and 232g/km of CO2 respectively.
Similarly, the ActiveHybrid is rather thirsty compared to the diesels, with a combined cycle of 44.1mpg and 149g/km of CO2.
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.
The options on the 5 Series are expensive. but the entry-level SE gets all the kit you're likely to want and need, including climate control, leather seats and Sat-Nav.