In-depth reviews

BMW 5 Series saloon - Engines, drive & performance

Some things may have changed with the latest BMW 5 Series, but it remains best-in-class for driver involvement

Carbuyer Rating

4.6 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

5.0 out of 5

BMW’s historical marketing tagline ‘the ultimate driving machine’ may seem rather presumptive and arrogant, but the 5 Series validates it. No other executive car is quite so able to switch seamlessly between effortless long-distance cruising and stimulating B-road entertainment, so however you want to drive it, the 5 Series obliges. The plug-in hybrid versions aren't quite as much fun, largely because of the weight of their batteries, but they're still perfectly competent.

While passengers are insulated from the outside world, with barely a whisper of wind noise and a suspension system that absorbs all but the most vicious of road imperfections, the 5 Series driver is always in their element, too. Whichever model you choose, body control is superb, with little lean in corners and steering that provides plenty of feel and feedback to inspire confidence. In standard form, the car is lighter than its closest rival, the Audi A6, by around 100kg, which makes for sprightly handling and acceleration.

Although all models feel incredibly agile, the optional four-wheel steering and adjustable suspension takes things even further, enabling comfort or sportiness to be prioritised according to preference. The xDrive four-wheel drive system adds extra traction that you’ll feel most pronouncedly when cornering hard in slippery bends – that it reduces the 5 Series propensity to oversteer will be seen as either a virtue or a vice to enthusiastic drivers, depending on their point of view.

The lack of a manual gearbox option may seem like heresy from a brand like BMW, but in truth it’s a mark of changing consumer tastes: the extra convenience and economy offered by modern automatics makes them the default choice in this class of car and the eight-speed automatic perfectly suits the 5 Series’ character. The Sport version of this gearbox is even faster, although it remains plenty smooth enough as well.

BMW 5 Series diesel engines

The latest 2.0-litre 187bhp 520d is plenty fast enough from 0-62mph for most drivers, taking an impressive 7.2 seconds. This is roughly a second faster than the Mercedes E 200 d, on a par with the more expensive E 220 d; and such acceleration should be more than adequate for most. The engine is a bit gruff when compared directly to its rivals from Audi and Volvo, but it’s not lacking in the performance stakes.

Upgrade to the BMW 530d xDrive and you also get four-wheel drive. The 530d produces seemingly endless power, going from 0-62mph in just 5.4 seconds and accelerating with a similar ferocity when overtaking on motorways as it does when moving off from a standstill.

Petrol engines

The entry-level petrol 5 Series is the 181bhp 2.0-litre 520i, which reaches 62mph in 7.9 seconds and comes with rear-wheel drive and a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox.

A high-performance M550i xDrive model was introduced towards the end of 2020, which shares its 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbocharged engine with the BMW 8 Series. It's essentially a detuned M5 engine, but with 532bhp it's still incredibly powerful. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes just 3.8 seconds and it will reach a top speed of 155mph with ease.

Plug-in Hybrid engines

The BMW 530e can get from 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds, thanks to a 2.0-litre petrol engine paired with an electric motor for a total output of 288bhp.

The 530e was joined by a 545e xDrive plug-in hybrid for the first time in autumn of 2020. The big news here is the upgrade to a six-cylinder petrol engine, resulting in a significant power hike to 387bhp. The 0-62mph time is slashed to 4.6 seconds but it also feels more potent in everyday driving. 

The 545e can start and pull away in electric power, even accelerating up to motorway speeds without the petrol engine kicking in. But when it does, the six-cylinder is tuneful and free-revving. Enter your destination into the navigation, and clever tech will work out where in the journey to best use electric or hybrid power, smoothly juggling them in the background.

Recommended

BMW 5 Series saloon review
BMW 5 Series saloon front 3/4 tracking
BMW 5 Series
16 Sep 2021

BMW 5 Series saloon review

Mercedes C-Class: old vs new
Mercedes C-Class: old vs new
Mercedes C-Class
10 Sep 2021

Mercedes C-Class: old vs new

Skoda Superb Estate review
Skoda Superb Estate
Skoda Superb Estate
26 Aug 2021

Skoda Superb Estate review

Top 10 best motorway cars 2021
BMW 5 Series driving
Best cars
25 Aug 2021

Top 10 best motorway cars 2021

Most Popular

Best new car deals 2021
Fiat 500 electric
Deals
24 Sep 2021

Best new car deals 2021

Top 10 best small estates 2021
Skoda Octavia Estate
Skoda Octavia Estate
22 Sep 2021

Top 10 best small estates 2021

Electric Citroen Ami to launch in the UK next year
2022 Citroen Ami
Citroen Ami
21 Sep 2021

Electric Citroen Ami to launch in the UK next year

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
10 Aug 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
3 Jun 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
15 Jun 2021

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors 2021
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021
Volkswagen ID.3
Best cars
12 Aug 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Mercedes AMG A45 - rear
Hot hatches
25 Jun 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks