BMW 5 Series saloon
Price: £30,265 - £57,895
- Great to drive
- Very economical
- Large boot
- Plain looks
- Common sight on the road
- Adaptive Drive is optional extra
"The BMW 5 Series is brilliant to drive, economical, comfortable and practical, and one of the best executive cars around."
The BMW 5 Series is a large executive car that takes on rivals like the Jaguar XF, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6. It was given a facelift recently to freshen up its looks, which introduced a revised front end and new lights, and while it may not have the most exciting design – nor look as stylish as the Jaguar XF – it's still a smart-looking car.
Class-leading handling makes it the most fun-to-drive executive car around but it's also comfortable; and the interior is well-equipped, stylish and superbly put together. There's a broad range of excellent engines, ranging from super-frugal to seriously fast, so there's something for every buyer, too. There are four specifications to choose from: SE, Modern, Luxury and M Sport, with the latter getting a sporty bodykit and firmer suspension for better performance. Whichever model you opt for, though, you’ll be getting one of the finest car money can buy – which is why we made the BMW 5 Series our Best Large Executive Car at the 2014 CarBuyer Awards.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Superbly efficient diesel engines make the 5 Series one of the most efficient cars in class
The majority of large executive models are bought as company cars and therefore need to have low running costs to keep the tax bill down – and the BMW 5 Series doesn’t disappoint in this area.
The entry-level diesel is the 518d and it does 62.8mpg and 119g/km CO2 – staggeringly good figures for a car of this size and with as much performance as the 5 Series offers. The 520d offers the same economy and emissions but has more power. While the 525d will do 60.1mpg and 123g/km CO2. To put that in perspective, the most efficient versions of the Jaguar XF and Audi A6 both emit 129g/km CO2. Mercedes offers a hybrid version of the E-Class that's capable of 68.9mpg and 109g/km CO2, but it costs extra. The entry-level diesel E-Class does 61.4mpg and 120g/km CO2, so on a like-for-like basis, the 5 Series is the most efficient car in its class. Petrol versions are less economical but still offer excellent figures compared to what's on offer from rival cars.
Interior & comfort
More comfortable than ever before
Traditionally, BMW has focused more on providing the 5 Series with a sporty drive than on making it comfortable. But the current version strikes a much better balance between these two aspects of the car's character. It still drives as well as it always has but the suspension now soaks up imperfections in the road to a much greater degree, which means you glide over bumps rather than crash over them. The front windows are double-glazed, too, which means engine and tyre noise are kept to an absolute minimum and the cabin feels quiet even at higher speeds. It's spacious inside, too, so there's plenty of room for back seat passengers to get comfortable. The interior quality is also excellent, and it feels modern and stylish. Some neat optional extras were added to the gadget list in 2013, too, including digital dials that change colour, a trackpad that lets you trace numbers and letters with your finger into the computer system and an auto-drive function that helps you drive in traffic jams.
Practicality & boot space
Interior and boot are both very spacious
The 5 Series is a big car, so there's no shortage of space on the inside. There is plenty of leg and headroom in the back, and the rear seats are wide, ensuring even larger adults will be able to get comfortable – although a bump along the floor running through the middle of the car affects legroom for occupants of the middle seat. There are also plenty of storage cubbyholes dotted around the cabin, including spacious door bins and an air-conditioned glovebox. The boot is a decent 520 litres, which is big enough to fit plenty of luggage, but it's 20 litres smaller than the boots on both the Jaguar XF and the Mercedes E-Class. The rear seats don’t fold on standard models, either – you’ll have to pay £420 extra for that.
Reliability & safety
Both reliability and safety should prove to be first class
The build quality of the 5 Series is first rate and features high-class materials and is well-finished. But BMW hasn’t performed superbly well in recent customer satisfaction surveys. The brand came 15th out of 32 in the 2013 Driver Power manufacturer chart, behind Audi (10th), Mercedes (5th) and Jaguar (3rd). The 5 Series performed fairly well, finishing 11th in the top 100 cars league table, but, again, this was behind key rivals like the E-Class (10th) and XF (3rd).
There is no doubting the car's safety levels, though – it scored the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. A range of airbags, electronic stability control and traction control all come as standard, while systems like lane departure warning and a head-up display are optional extras.
Engines, drive & performance
The 5 Series is the best car to drive in its class
Handling and performance is what BMW is all about, so it's no surprise that the 5 Series excels in this category. Steering, grip and body control are all flawless. However, to get the most out of the 5 Series you need to pay for the Adaptive Drive system, which is an optional extra. It offers a choice of four driving modes: Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ and tweaks the suspension setup according to which mode you select. The engine range is superb, with the 4.4-litre V8 in the range-topping 550i model offering sports car-rivalling performance and even the entry level four-cylinder diesel engines delivering excellent pace.
Price, value for money & options
Standard equipment is decent and entry-level engines offer best value
The 5 Series holds on to its value well, so you can be sure you won’t take too much of a hit when it comes time to sell it on. BMW also offers a superb value-for-money servicing pack that will cover your maintenance bills for five years/50,000 miles. There are four specification levels on the 5 Series: entry-level SE, Modern, Luxury and top-spec M Sport. SE models equipped with entry-level engines offer the best value for money, in our opinion, as they come with leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, alloy wheels, DAB radio, sat-nav and cruise control. Once you start selecting higher spec models or bigger engines, the price shoots up and it becomes harder to justify picking the 5 Series over the excellent Jaguar XF.
What the others say
"Elegant, grown up and supremely efficient, the 5-series is a major stepping stone in man's climb from primeval soup to intelligent master race."
"While BMWs have always been renowed for handling they have often been criticised for having an uncomfortable ride. But this 5 Series has no such issues."
"BMW's most profitable model is now also its most well rounded. The firm has addressed key criticisms without ruining the strengths of the old car, and wrapped it up in a successful new body with subtle detailing that grows on you."
"Drives brilliantly, economical diesels and well made, but optional dampers needed, it's common sight and has bland looks."
Last updated: 19 Feb 2014