Since it first appeared in the seventies, the BMW 5 Series has become a byword for excellence in the mid-size executive saloon car class and the latest version carries on the tradition very capably. It handles superbly while also being very comfortable and luxurious, while the appeal of the badge on the nose is still very strong.
The 5 Series’ engine line-up contributes greatly to its appeal, with the diesels in particular offering a compelling blend of fuel economy, tax-friendly emissions and lively performance. The aforementioned sporty handling makes every journey one to look forward to – as does the very stylish and well finished cabin.
Not that the 5 Series is without rivals, though. Its two biggest competitors are also German: the efficient and stylish Audi A6 and the comfortable and prestigious Mercedes E-Class. Buyers also need to consider the latest Jaguar XF, which is a stronger competitor than ever for the Germans, and the very well equipped Lexus GS.
Speaking of equipment, the 5 Series has plenty – gone are the days when BMW even charged customers extra for a radio! Even the entry-level SE (the sensible choice for most buyers) packs in leather trim, DAB digital radio and sat nav (which is in fact standard on every BMW these days).
The Luxury model has a more sumptuous interior, while the well known M Sport trim firms up the suspension and sharpens up the looks to make a very enticing package. Whichever specification you choose, we’d always recommend the 520d diesel engine, which will top 65mpg fuel economy but also accelerate from 0-62mph in under eight seconds.
Other engines are available, of course, including an entry-level 520i petrol and more powerful 530d diesel. The 535i petrol provides superb performance, but you pay a bit of penalty in running costs and company fleet managers won’t like it. If you truly want to push the boat out, there's also the mighty V8-powered 550i and the legendary BMW M5 high-performance saloon, which we’ve reviewed separately.