In-depth reviews

BMW 5 Series review

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

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Price
£36,525 to £68,610
  • Sharp driving dynamics
  • Strong refinement
  • Excellent infotainment
  • Expensive options
  • Conservative styling
  • Most models over £40k

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

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 than 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 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 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 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 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.

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.

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. You could also consider the 5 Series Touring estate.

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