In-depth reviews

BMW 5 Series review - Interior, design and technology

Top quality materials, slick design and cutting edge tech combine to create a cabin that oozes premium appeal

Apart from a brief spell of daring design in the early 2000s, BMW has always taken a cautionary and conservative approach to styling. And given the loyal customer base of the 5 Series, it’s no surprise the brand has played it safe with the latest model.

Its proportions are very similar to the old car, while the detailing around the headlamps and at the rear is pure 7 Series. The BMW isn’t as sleek as the Jaguar XF or quite as imposing as the Mercedes E-Class, but its handsome design oozes understated class.

If you opt for the M Sport trim level, then a subtle bodykit, bespoke front and rear bumpers and larger 19-inch alloys (18-inch alloys on the 530e) give the car some racy kerb appeal.

The interior of the old 5 Series was starting to feel a little dated compared to rivals such as the Mercedes E-Class. There was nothing wrong with the quality of the materials or construction, but the design and infotainment were starting to look old hat.

As a result, BMW has pulled out all the stops with this latest car, which takes its cues from the 7 Series flagship. In fact, from behind the wheel you could easily mistake the 5 Series for its larger brother.

The wrap-around dashboard is logically laid out, while the metal finished switchgear for the climate control is taken from the 7 Series. Also taken from the larger car is the large TFT display that replaces the traditional analogue dials.

As you’d expect, the fit and finish are first rate. Top-notch materials are used throughout, while the build quality is flawless. Few cars feel as thoroughly engineered from behind the wheel.

Like other models in the BMW range, it’s possible to customize the interior to suit you tastes. There are various leather trim options and different trim inserts, plus there’s the brand’s Individual programme, which provides a bespoke tailoring service – although you’ll need deep pockets for some of the options.

Technology plays a big part in the new BMW 5 Series, with features from the larger 7 Series trickling down to its smaller brother. For instance, the adaptive cruise control can be upgraded to include semi-autonomous driving with the Driving Assistant Professional option, part of the £4,995 Technology Plus Pack. This system allows the car to accelerate, brake and steer itself at speeds of up to 130mph. It will even change lanes to overtake on a motorway; simply flick the indicator on and sensors will identify a gap in the traffic, then pull smoothly out to pass the slower car.

This heavily priced upgrade also includes the latest parking aids, with the usual parking sensors and camera joined by a remote set-up. Parking Assistant Plus allows you to slot the car automatically into a tight space while you stand outside: you can get this feature for a standalone £650 if you prefer to do without the autonomous driving aids.

Other highlights include the full colour head-up display, which features speed and sat-nav information. This comes as part of the Technology Pack and costs £1,695, with gesture control and wireless charging also thrown in.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

While BMW has been fairly restrained when it comes to styling updates, it has taken some big steps with the 5 Series’ infotainment. A larger screen, increased connectivity and gesture control all feature on the new system, while the familiar and intuitive iDrive controller is carried over.

Plenty of the tech operated by the 12.3-inch infotainment screen is carried over from the 7 Series, just as it has been with the new 5 Series’ chassis. But more of it is optional on the exec than it is on the luxury saloon.

BMW was the first manufacturer to integrate Apple CarPlay wirelessly, with Android Auto also supported. Meanwhile, the BMW Connected app can send images from the car’s 3D view cameras (if fitted) to your mobile device, and will link to Amazon’s Alexa service for those using this tech. Online services are standard.

All versions of the 5 Series get BMW’s ConnectedDrive Services, which adds a host of online services. Emergency Call will contact help in the event of an accident, while the Online Services give you access to various apps and information. Also included in this package is the Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI), which uses up-to-the-minute data to display traffic flow.

If you want to upgrade the sound system, you can select the Harman Kardon option for £820. There’s a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround sound system, although this costs an eye-watering £4,220.

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    520i MHT SE 4dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £39,010

Most Economical

  • Name
    530e SE 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £48,965

Fastest

  • Name
    M550i xDrive 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £70,000

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