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BMW 5 Series review - Engines, drive & performance

“The BMW 5 Series may not be the most comfortable in its class, but it’s arguably the best all-rounder, with a good driving experience”

Carbuyer Rating

4.3 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.5 out of 5

We’ve now driven the BMW 5 Series in mid-range plug-in hybrid form, having already separately tested the fully-electric BMW i5 model. Even the entry-level 5 Series gets some form of electrification, with mild-hybrid assistance present on the 520i.

Excellent handling is a key BMW 5 Series ingredient, and the current model certainly delivers in this area. It’s now a heavy car, but the suspension setup feels very capable and keeps the 5 Series in check at all times. We were particularly impressed with the 5 Series’ brakes, which were very powerful, and the transition between mechanical braking and the plug-in hybrid model’s regenerative braking feature is almost seamless, making for a natural feel absent in quite a few rivals.

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The downside, of course, is that competitors such as the Mercedes E-Class offer better comfort levels, but the 5 Series is by no means rough riding. The BMW can transmit a few bumps inside at slower speeds, but as a general rule, it feels settled and comfortable with a well-judged balance between refinement and driving feel.

Is the BMW 5 Series good to drive in town?

Go for the BMW 5 Series in 530e or 550e guise and you get a plug-in hybrid system that means you can complete shorter trips around town on electricity alone. This makes the 5 Series near silent and provides a mostly relaxing experience. The only downside is that the 5 Series’ chassis setup isn’t the best at ironing out potholes and bumps at lower speeds, but we wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s uncomfortable.

Is the BMW 5 Series good to drive on long journeys?

The 5 Series has been well-engineered for a civilised driving experience at cruising speeds. It’s well insulated from engine noise, and all that can be heard – at least in the 530e PHEV – is the distant hum of its four-cylinder engine. Otherwise, there’s very little wind or road noise and refinement is exceptional, so the 5 Series should be a good car for long journeys.

Is the BMW 5 Series good to drive on B-roads?

We were impressed with how well the 5 Series handles, even despite the plug-in hybrid 530e’s significant weight. The 5 Series feels much lighter and nimbler than its on-paper figures might suggest, and body lean is well controlled. The steering is responsive and quick, which inspires confidence, allowing you to dive in and out of corners effectively.

Petrol models

There’s just one petrol model in the 5 Series lineup, badged 520i, which uses a mild-hybrid assisted 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. Its power figure is adequate, rather than rapid, but its performance should be enough for most buyers.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

BMW 520i 2.0-litre mild-hybrid

205bhp

7.5 seconds

143mph

Plug-in hybrid models

The majority of the BMW 5 Series range now consists of plug-in hybrids. There are two versions; one is badged 530e and consists of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and another badged 550e which uses a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine and electric motor. 

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They’re much more powerful than the entry-level petrol model, but feature power delivery more gradual than you might expect, despite the instant shove electric motors are capable of. The transition to the combustion engine is mostly smooth, and the 530e’s four-cylinder engine – while not as sonorous and elegant as the 550e’s six-cylinder – hums away quietly in the background.
 

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

BMW 530e

295bhp

6.8 seconds

143mph

BMW 550e

482bhp

4.3 seconds

155mph

Electric models 

The BMW i5 is the electric version of the BMW 5 Series and comes in a choice of a single rear-mounted motor variant badged eDrive40 and a performance-oriented dual-motor four-wheel drive version badged M60 xDrive. Despite the large difference in power between the models, neither feels particularly slow, so if you’re after the electric version you’ll be well served by the eDrive40.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

BMW i5 eDrive40

335bhp

6 seconds

119mph

BMW i5 M60 xDrive

592bhp

3.8 seconds

142mph

Carbuyer notes

“With such strong body control, it’s no surprise to learn that the 5 Series doesn’t have the wafty ride of rivals like the Mercedes. But some low-speed patter aside, it’s still a very soothing place to be.” Alex Ingram, Chief reviewer

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    520i MHT SE 4dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £41,455

Most Economical

  • Name
    530e M Sport 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £58,550

Fastest

  • Name
    M550i xDrive 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £73,905

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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