In-depth reviews

BMW 5 Series saloon review

"The BMW 5 Series has reclaimed its place at the top of the executive saloon class"

Carbuyer Rating

4.6 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Impressively low running costs
  • Very well equipped
  • Fantastic to drive

Cons

  • Design plays it safe
  • No manual gearbox available
  • More expensive than predecessor

The BMW 5 Series is a large executive saloon that’s aimed squarely at the Mercedes E-Class, Audi, Jaguar XF and Lexus ES. It offers all the luxury and build quality you’d expect from a premium German manufacturer, with a distinctly sporty character that BMW prides itself on.

It’s not just comfortable and fun to drive, though; the 5 Series is offered with a range of engines that strike a great balance between performance and economy. There’s no manual gearbox, but the two available automatics are among the best around. Most models can be specified with four-wheel drive, too.

The 5 Series was thoroughly updated in autumn of 2020, ushering in a new nose, an improved interior and updated engines, most of which now get mild-hybrid technology.

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The 5 Series is a deeply impressive car, especially from the driver’s seat. It's hushed inside at speed, its suspension provides a plush yet controlled ride and if you fancy a spirited drive on your favourite B-road, the big saloon manages to feel nimble, composed and rewarding despite its size and weight. Few cars on sale offer quite as convincing a breadth of ability.

There are petrol and diesel engines to choose from – not to mention plug-in electric hybrid and high-performance M models. Diesels remain a popular choice and with good reason: the rear-wheel drive 520d can return up to 57.6mpg in M Sport trim and still boasts a 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds, making it a tempting choice for high-mileage drivers. Choose the 530d xDrive M Sport and average economy drops to around 50mpg, with a 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds.

The range of petrol options kicks off with the 520i, featuring a 181bhp 2.0-litre that returns up to 44.8mpg and a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds. The top spec M550i xDrive produces 523bhp thanks to its twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine, enough for 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds - it's hard to believe there'll be a faster M5 model too. The M550i will barely do above 30mpg, however, so you'll need to bear its higher running costs in mind if you're interested in this version.

A BMW 530e plug-in hybrid is also offered, with CO2 emissions of between 31-41g/km depending on specification – a key purchase incentive for business users. It offers impressive performance and an all-electric range of up to 37 miles. A faster 545e xDrive plug-in is also offered, with CO2 from 39-43g/km and a few miles shaved off its EV range.

Inside, the 5 Series is modern and beautifully made. As with the exterior looks, the dashboard is evolutionary rather than revolutionary in its design, but build quality is great. You get the latest infotainment and connectivity systems, operated by BMW’s touchscreen-enabled iDrive setup. Front and back-seat passengers can all relax in spacious comfort and the 530-litre boot is competitive for this kind of car.

Keeping things simple, you get a choice of just three trim levels. SE cars come with leather upholstery, heated front seats, connected services, Live Cockpit Professional instruments and folding door mirrors. 

M Sport models have a redesigned front bumper, a sporty bodykit, upgraded interior trim details and sports seats, while M Sport Edition adds 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive headlights, black exterior trim and red brake calipers.. We’d stick with SE trim unless the M Sport’s aesthetic tweaks hold significant appeal, and go for the powerful yet economical 2.0-litre diesel engine in the 520d.

The 5 Series was awarded the full five stars after being put through its paces by the crash safety experts Euro NCAP and there’s a host of sophisticated safety equipment available optionally. It’s a shame that autonomous emergency braking isn’t standard in such a costly car, but the 5 Series range looks reasonable value in other respects. There’s a model to appeal to most executive needs, and whether the frugal yet frisky 520d or the rapid M550i xDrive catches your eye, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

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