BMW 5 Series saloon review
"The BMW 5 Series has reclaimed its place at the top of the executive saloon class"
- Impressively low running costs
- Very well equipped
- Fantastic to drive
- 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 A6, 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 the brand’s xDrive four-wheel-drive system too.
The 5 Series was thoroughly updated a couple of years ago, ushering in a new nose, an improved interior and updated engines, most of which now get mild-hybrid technology.
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 over 57mpg 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 only drops to around 50mpg, impressive given its rapid 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 over 44mpg 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’s also a faster M5 Competition model and a limited-run M5 CS model above this. The M550i is not for those wanting low running costs, however, barely managing above 25mpg. 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 starting from around 32g/km for the rear-wheel-drive version, with the xDrive four-wheel drive model emitting 38g/km - making both attractive to business users thanks to a low BiK tax liability. Both offer impressive performance and an all-electric range of between 29 to 37 miles, depending on specification. A faster 545e xDrive plug-in is also offered, with CO2 emissions from around 41g/km and an electric range of up to 33 miles.
Inside, the 5 Series is modern and beautifully made. As with the exterior, 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 infotainment 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 two trim levels, besides the M550i and M5 versions. 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 the previously available 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, although we're glad that autonomous emergency braking is now standard. There’s a model to appeal to most executive needs, and whether the frugal yet fun 520d or the rapid M550i xDrive catches your eye, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
As a brand, BMW finished 21st out of 29 manufacturers in our 2021 Driver Power survey. An improved result from the 27th place last year, but one that still leaves the brand behind upmarket rivals like Jaguar and Lexus.
Overall, 19.2% of BMW owners reported a fault with their cars in the first year. The 5 Series finished 49th out of the top 75 cars in our survey, with owners praising the ride quality, technology and infotainment systems. However, they were less impressed by the fuel economy, which was rated as reasonable, and the expensive cost of tax, insurance and servicing.