BMW 5 Series saloon (2010-2016)
“The BMW 5 Series saloon is so capable, economical and enjoyable to drive that its excellent reputation is genuinely warranted.”
- Plenty of space inside
- Great to drive
- Cheap to run
- Unadventurous design
- Long and expensive options list
- Mercedes E-Class has more technology
Over the last four decades or so, the BMW 5 Series has firmly established itself as the large executive saloon against which similar cars are judged. Strong build quality, an excellent engine range and everyday practicality count in its favour, while an involving driving experience has consistently marked it out against rivals like the Audi A6 and Lexus GS.
There’s only one thorn in the 5 Series’ side: it’s due to be replaced in the first half of 2017. That doesn’t detract from its overall capabilities, but it does mean the latest Mercedes E-Class has the edge in terms of interior design and comfort, as well as outright economy. The new Jaguar XF should also be near the top of your shopping list if you’re executive-car hunting, as its driving experience is up there with the BMW’s.
Still, until the new 5 Series arrives and is assessed accordingly, the current model is nothing but a credit to BMW. The every-popular BMW 520d diesel is our pick of the range, as its 65.7mpg fuel economy, £30-a-year road tax and 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds strike the balance between performance and running costs perfectly, whereas the entry-level BMW 518d diesel feels a little slow.
Those after more power are catered for by the BMW 525d, BMW 530d and BMW 535d diesels, while drivers who prefer a petrol engine aren’t ignored, either. The BMW 520i, BMW 528i, BMW 535i and BMW 550i are less popular and economical than their diesel counterparts, but that’s not to say they should be dismissed out of hand. The Active Hybrid model probably should, though, as it’s expensive to buy and not as economical as a diesel 5 Series.
If you need more practicality, the BMW 5 Series Touring estate is just as capable as the saloon, while the 5 Series Gran Turismo’s looks may divide opinion, but parents of older children will appreciate the extra rear space it provides. The high-performance BMW M5, meanwhile, is over twice the price of the cheapest 5 Series, but it offers supercar-like performance in a practical four-door saloon package.
Inside, the 5 Series doesn’t have the wow factor of the latest E-Class, but it’s robust, easy to use and still feels ‘premium’ enough. Front seat, back seat and boot space are all strong points, even if – like in many cars in this class – the middle rear-seat passenger is forced to straddle a pronounced transmission tunnel hump.
The 5 Series triumphs on the road. It’s relaxing, comfortable and quiet on the motorway, yet offers an involving experience on country lanes with accurate, feelsome steering and a suspension setup that insulates you well from potholes, without compromising overall handling. The six-speed manual gearbox is satisfying to use, while the automatic changes gear smoothly and at just the right moment.
Equipment is also generous, even if the E-Class’ newer status means the 5 Series isn’t quite as technologically advanced. SE cars come with leather seats, DAB radio, sat nav, a driving mode selector (with economy, performance and comfort settings) and all-round parking sensors.
Luxury trim lifts the interior and exterior for just under £3,000, while M Sport is similarly expensive, but gets you sports suspension and a lean bodykit. We’d stick with SE trim, but consider adding adjustable suspension (which BMW calls Variable Damper Control), as this makes the 5 Series even better to drive.
The 5 Series was awarded the full five stars from Euro NCAP, so it should be a very safe car. A 53rd-place finish in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey indicates that even as it approaches its autumn years, the 5 Series remains a rewarding car to own.