"The BMW 5 Series is a practical, comfortable and effortless motorway cruiser."
Despite a sharper focus on comfort, the latest BMW 5 Series saloon is still a sporty choice - and winner of our 2013 CarBuyer Best Large Executive Car award. It's had a minor update to keep up with the revised Mercedes E-Class, with new lights and a diferent shaped grille. Although it still looks plain, 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, which gets an impressiver 63mpg. There are four specifications to choose from: SE, Modern, Luxury and M Sport. The latter has more racy looks and firmer suspension, and is aimed at keen drivers after a sportier car.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
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. The 518d model gets 119g/km emissions, keeping tax bills low, while the 520d is just as efficient despite having more power. Automatic models come with a feature that saves fuel when cruising once you come off the throttle, to further improve economy.
Interior & comfort
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. Options added in the 2013 update include 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 for easy traffic jam navigation.
Practicality & boot space
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...
Reliability & safety
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.
Engines, drive & performance
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. The range-topping model is the 550i, which uses a 4.4-litre V8 engine for huge power and speed. 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.
Price, value for money & options
Equipment across all models includes 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 SE is very tempting. Go for a larger engine, and the competitively priced Jaguar XF looks like a cheaper and faster proposition. Two new specifications were introduced in 2013, called ‘Modern’ and ‘Luxury’, which offer a high-spec alternative to the sportier M Sport versions and cost roughly the same premium over the SE. Standard equipment across the range was increased too, with DAB radio, alloy wheels, sat-nav and xenon lights all standard.