BMW 5 Series saloon (2010-2016) - Engines, drive & performance
Even entry-level BMW 5 Series models are rewarding to drive – it's easily the best handling car in this class
You may remember BMW's former marketing slogan, which referred to its products as 'the ultimate driving machine'. Well, that core BMW philosophy hasn't been lost with the latest BMW 5 Series. It's difficult to describe what makes a 5 Series so good to drive, but take a test drive for yourself and you’ll soon realise what everyone's been raving about. The steering is nicely weighted, so you feel in full control of where the front wheels are pointing, plus it reacts immediately to your inputs.
The brakes are strong, but require a firm push to produce their best, so there's no snatchy sensation at low speeds, while the six-speed manual gearbox requires a firm push to find the next gear, giving a sporty feel.
Spend £1,550 on the eight-speed automatic gearbox, though, and you won't be disappointed – it's super-smooth in auto mode, so you can cruise along in near-silence, and if you use the steering wheel-mounted paddles, the manual changes are almost instantaneous.
BMW 5 Series diesel engines
The popular four-cylinder diesel engines in the 518d, 520d and 525d can sound a little gruff when you first turn them on, but once warmed up and at higher speeds they become much smoother. Acceleration is stronger than you’d think, too. If you’re after blistering pace, but with reasonable fuel economy, then the 535d is probably your best bet – the way the engine revs and sounds is closer to a petrol engine than any diesel that BMW’s rivals can produce.
As you'd expect, the four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines are quieter than the diesels, and the 245bhp 528i provides strong performance, although it can never match the noise and character of the 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine in the 535i.
The previous 5 Series was renowned for its sharp handling, but the compromise was stiff suspension. Miraculously, this new model manages to retain the old car's sense of fun while being far more comfortable.
Go for an M Sport model with the M Sport suspension and things get a little bumpier, but BMW lets you order the softer SE suspension as a no-cost option, so you get the sporty looks without the compromise. To get the most out of the 5 Series, you'll need to pay for the optional Adaptive Drive system, which adds adaptive dampers – these are crucial for making the car firm and sporty when you need it to be, yet soft and comfortable the rest of the time.