BMW 5 Series review
Terrific to drive and packed with the latest tech, the recently updated 5 Series is better than ever
The BMW 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 cars on sale today.
Few vehicles are as accomplished as the 5 Series. BMW's executive saloon has long been 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.
About the BMW 5 Series
There’s been a 5 Series in BMW’s line-up for more than four decades now, and we’re well into the seventh generation which received a mild mid-life facelift in 2020. As for each of its predecessors, the big executive saloon is an exemplar of fine engineering and a superbly driver-focused approach. As you’d expect, the current model is packed with BMW’s most up-to-date technology and safety features, but it also offers more interior space than its predecessor thanks to the adoption of the larger platform from the bigger 7 Series. It’s lighter than previously too, thanks to extensive use of aluminium for the body panels and internal structures, while efficiency improvements including plug-in hybrid (PHEV) tech have extended the model’s appeal.
As such, the BMW 5 Series is a compelling choice in a sector that includes some very attractive rivals. The list includes the Audi A6, Jaguar XF, Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S90, while buyers may also be tempted by the 5 Series Touring estate version.
While the 5 Series is luxurious and beautifully built, it has always been one of the most engaging cars to drive in its segment, and the current model doesn’t disappoint. It may be bigger, but as it’s 100kgs lighter than its predecessor it feels just as nimble. The current car is also extremely refined, with barely a hint of wind or engine nose, except on coarse tarmac when its big tyres can transmit a fair amount of rumble into the cabin. The standard 5 Series suspension is compliant and comfortable too, although the sportier M Sport set-up feels firm at lower speeds - a trade-off for its improved agility.
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 31g/km of CO2. With regular access to a plug socket and a short commute, you can run the car almost entirely on electricity, too.
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 - mildly facelifted in 2020 - is bigger yet lighter and more efficient than past models. It uses technology borrowed from 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.
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 predictably most popular, with the excellent 187bhp 2.0-litre 520d accounting for the majority of sales. The 530d features a traditional BMW straight-six diesel with 282bhp, and is designed more for performance than efficiency.
Petrol power comes in the form of the 520i, which uses a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine with 181bhp. There’s the M550i as well, which harnesses 523bhp from a 4.4-litre, turbocharged V8 petrol, reaching 62mph from a standstill in a frightening 3.8 seconds - still half a second less than the 5 Series-based M5 super-saloon which we’ve reviewed separately.
Other than that, there are a pair of plug-in hybrids to consider in the form of the 530e and 545e. The former uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor to make 288bhp, which delivers performance similar to the 530i but with far lower running costs and a potential 37-mile electric driving range. Meanwhile, the 545e develops 388bhp from a 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine and electric motor, with an 11.6kWh battery contributing to an electric range of up to 37 miles depending on spec.
All cars feature an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while xDrive four-wheel drive is available as an option on 520d and 530e models - it's standard on the 530d and 545e.
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In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingTerrific to drive and packed with the latest tech, the recently updated 5 Series is better than ever
- 2Engines, performance and driveOverall weight reduction means the BMW 5 Series is faster and better to drive than ever
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsLow emissions and strong residuals make the 5 Series a top choice for business users and private buyers
- 4Interior, design and technologyTop quality materials, slick design and cutting edge tech combine to create a cabin that oozes premium appeal
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe 5 Series is a match for rivals on practicality, although the boot space isn't the biggest in class
- 6Reliability and SafetyCutting edge safety kit is available on all models, while tried and tested mechanicals should prove reliable