"The 5 Series saloon is more sophisticated and desirable than ever. It offers class-leading space, comfort and drivability, and is an effortless motorway cruiser."
Despite a sharper focus on comfort, BMW's latest 5 Series saloon is still a sporty choice - and winner of our 2013 CarBuyer Best Large Executive Car award. And although it looks plainer, the car is more desirable than ever. All cars get EfficientDynamics equipment – on the 520d this includes stop-start that cuts the engine in queuing traffic to save fuel. All this ensures the 5 is green as well as fun to drive. Top seller is the 181bhp 520d, with 56.5mpg or 62.8mpg in recently introduced EfficientDynamics (ED) trim. There are SE or M Sport trims; the latter has more racy looks and firmer suspension.
Blending effortless comfort with excellent handling, the 5 Series is hard to fault. But if you want the best handling, you’ll need to pay for the optional Adaptive Drive system, which offers Normal, Sport and Sport+ driving modes, and adds a softer Comfort setting to the suspension. Even the entry-level four-cylinder engines are strong, while the diesels are impressive, with the 520d a hit. The turbo six-cylinder diesels add pace, but the smaller engines mix fine performance and wallet-friendly economy and emissions.
More than any BMW before it, the 5 Series majors on comfort. The suspension balances refinement and sporting ability very well, while double-glazed front windows smother engine and road noise. Some wind noise is apparent, but that's only because the BMW is so quiet elsewhere. A long wheelbase means there's decent rear legroom and back seat passengers will be as comfortable as those in the front. With climate control fitted as standard in all models, comfort is assured.
The 5 Series’ cabin is superbly put together, with high-class materials and a great finish throughout. As you would expect of a car of this price, safety promises to be class leading, with a Euro NCAP crash test score of five stars. Active safety systems include traction control, while drivers can also choose lane departure warning systems and head-up displays, which mean you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to check your speed and the satellite navigation functions.
The big 5 Series not only provides comfort for passengers, but there's plenty of boot space, too. In fact, the saloon's boot is big enough to make us wonder why BMW makes the GT version – and those with the need to carry bulky items would be far better off choosing the Touring estate anyway...
Value for money
Equipment levels across all models include leather seats, a Bluetooth phone connection, plus climate and cruise control. You can spend plenty more on chassis systems that improve the driving experience even further – like the optional Adaptive Drive – while hi-tech toys like a head-up display are also on the options list. We say choose an SE or M Sport model with an entry-level engine for best value or if you are a company car buyer the 520d ED is very tempting. Go for a larger engine, and the competitively priced Jaguar XF looks like a cheaper and faster proposition.
Resale values have traditionally been high for the 5 Series, and the current car is set to continue that trend. Running costs should be comparable to rivals’, although the 5's impressively low emissions should help out with company car drivers’ tax bills. Good economy, thanks to stop-start and other energy- saving technologies, will keep fuel costs in check.