Road tests

BMW 5 Series M Sport review

Arresting looks and a rewarding driving experience make the 5 Series M Sport a convincing package

The 5 Series M Sport trim makes up more than half of the sales of the popular executive saloon, making it highly desirable. Its badge certainly packs plenty of kudos, because BMW has forged an enviable reputation for building cars that are the benchmark in their class for performance and handling. The M Sport trim adds styling upgrades to emphasis this, and equipment is upgraded, too.

Its alloy wheels are 18 inches in diameter, or an inch larger if you choose a more powerful engine. High-gloss exterior trim is fitted, along with chrome tailpipes, an aerodynamic body kit, LED headlights and foglights and M Sport badging. Inside, you'll find an anthracite headlining, illuminated 'M' door sills, a sports steering wheel and even different pedals and floor mats. It's also filled with technology, including a digital instrument cluster, BMW Professional navigation and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen. The M Sport trim builds on the SE version, which is already very well equipped with features like climate control, cruise control, DAB radio, front and rear parking sensors and BMW Connected Services.

How much a 5 Series M Sport costs is very much dependent on the engine fitted, because it's available across most of the range. The 518d M Sport is most affordable to buy and run, costing from just under £40,000 and returning 60.1mpg while emitting 119g/km of CO2 – putting it in the 28% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band for company-car drivers. It has 148bhp and can get from 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds.

The 520d M Sport is a very popular choice, because it offers a blend of performance and fuel-efficiency that's hard to beat. With 187bhp, it can hit 62mph from rest in just 7.3 seconds, but returns up to 62.7mpg and emits the same 119g/km. At just over £40,000, it does cost more to tax, though, because as well as the flat rate of £140, there's a surcharge of £310 in years two to six, bringing the total to £450. The 520d M Sport is also available in xDrive guise, bringing four-wheel drive, but this adds expense, so we'd only recommend it if you really think you'll benefit in the winter months.

More powerful engines are also offered in M Sport trim, including the 525d and 530d diesels and 520i and 530i petrols. There's also a range-topping 540i xDrive M Sport with 335bhp that can blast from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, but this costs over £50,000. At the opposite end of the spectrum, owners can also choose the BMW 530e M Sport plug-in hybrid, which combines a petrol engine, electric motor and battery pack. This gives it official fuel-efficiency figures of 128.4mpg and 49g/km of CO2, with a tempting 13% BiK band for business users and exemption from the London Congestion Charge.

Once you're behind the wheel, the 5 Series remains a class act. Even the diesel engines are very quiet and the standard eight-speed automatic glides through the gears. The suspension always remains composed, too, particularly when BMW's Variable Damper Control is fitted – offering comfort, sport and adaptive modes. In all three, the 5 Series is more comfortable than before, but quick steering and excellent precision still means it feels more composed than other large saloons like the Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class or Volvo V90.

The interior feels beautifully made, with modern touches, but a largely conservative design. Its length means there's plenty of space for front and rear passengers to get comfortable and relax, and the 530-litre boot should be big enough to swallow their luggage.

Verdict 5/5

The BMW 5 Series M Sport is the result of more than four decades of development, and it shows. This is an impressive executive saloon that's still great to drive, but has advanced in its luxury, comfort and technology. It's the most engaging car in its class, and could well be the best all-rounder BMW currently makes.

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