New BMW 5 Series 2020 review

Have updates made the BMW 5 Series even better? We try out the new M550i xDrive to find out…

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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That the M550i is the least sensible variant of the updated 5 Series line-up, yet still achieves a 4.5-star rating, shows what a brilliant all-rounder this continues to be. We’d recommend the more modestly priced yet equally polished options further down the range, but every version benefits from impeccable build quality, superb engines, strong refinement and tech, and tidy handling.

The BMW 5 Series has been nipped and tucked for 2020, with a new look and updated powertrains to rival the Audi A6 and recently facelifted Mercedes E-Class.

By the standards of recent BMWs, the changes to the seventh generation of Munich’s longest running model line are fairly subtle. Of course, looks are subjective, but anyone still recovering from the shock of the latest 4 Series grille will be pleasantly surprised to discover that the 5 Series design team has chosen to keep a more restrained look here.

It’s also hard to fault the cabin, where the main update is a refreshed infotainment system. The 12.3-inch touchscreen (up from the previous 10.25-inch unit) is lifted from the X5 SUV and, thanks to clear graphics, quick loading times and good connectivity, it cements itself as the best in the business.

The rest of the cabin looks much the same as in the 5 Series family that was launched in 2016. Build quality is flawless; even alongside the beautifully finished A6 and E-Class, the 5 Series feels solid in a way that its rivals just can’t quite manage.

That sturdy feel carries over to the way it drives, too. The 5 Series keeps its uncanny ability to be smooth and stable in a straight line, yet have an agility through turns that will have you doubting whether it really weighs almost two tonnes. The steering isn’t loaded with feel, but the weighting and sensitivity perfectly suit the chassis.

BMW has also added a new M550i xDrive variant to the line-up. Had you never driven the full-fat M5, it would leave you convinced that it’s all the performance you’d ever need.

The M5 comparisons are well founded too; the pair share M division’s twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, but here it’s pegged back to 523bhp and 750Nm. In reality, it feels as fast as anyone could conceivably want.

The 0-62mph time of just 3.8 seconds is only one part of the story. Peak torque is produced from 1,800 to 4,600rpm, so a relentless forward shove – and a distant V8 roar – is only ever a tiny flex of the right foot away. With four-wheel drive, traction is almost impossible to break if you’re not on a track.

The way the car gathers pace is staggering, especially given that for the most part it’s as refined and relaxing as anything else in the range. The ride is subtly beefed up over the rest of the family, but only enough to remind you of the huge performance on tap.

Of course, the line-up offers many more sensible options. The most popular will be the 520d; the 187bhp four-cylinder diesel mixes great performance with a refined engine, and introduces 48-volt mild-hybrid tech. Officially it manages up to 57.6mpg.

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The tech is also applied to the revised 530d. The 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel is the best match for the laid-back character of the 5 Series; it’ll outsprint many hot hatches, yet returns 51.4mpg. It even sounds great when all of its 282bhp is being used, and is smooth and quiet when it isn’t.

There are also more plug-in hybrids in the range. Thanks to low Benefit-in-Kind ratings, the 530e and 545e will no doubt prove popular with company car users. The former has a four-cylinder petrol engine and up to 37 miles of electric-only range (33 miles for the all-wheel-drive version), while the latter gets a six-cylinder petrol for a total output of 389bhp and up to 34 miles on a charge.

The M550i is priced from £71,365. That’s £30,000 less than the M5 for most of the performance, but also nearly £20,000 more than the base 530d, which in reality is all the 5 Series that most buyers will ever need.

Model: BMW M550i xDrive
Price: £71,365
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol
Power/torque: 523bhp/750Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, 
0-62mph: 3.8 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 26.2mpg
CO2: 247g/km
On sale Now
Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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