The BMW 5 Series Reviewed

Refined, sporty and full of driver-aid technology.

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The BMW 5 Series has been part of the BMW line-up for over 40 years and sets the benchmark in quality, technology and refinement.

This new BMW 5 Series is no different in that respect. Before we even get behind the wheel we know it’s going to be well-built, full of technology and be an engaging drive. But how has it improved and what new technology does it bring to the table?

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A quick look at the design of the car and it’s clear to see this isn’t a simple re-shell of the older model. BMW has started again from the ground up for the new BMW 5 Series, using almost all new parts. BMW has used the floorpan and chassis of the current 7 Series as the starting point. While they haven’t used the expensive carbon fibre structural core from the 7 Series, they have incorporated more aluminium, magnesium and titanium in the bodywork, shaving 100kg off the curb weight on a model to model basis. This weight saving has helped ensure the executive saloon feel more nimble than a car of its size should.

When you stand back and look at the car, there is an undeniable touch of 7 Series but on a smaller, sportier scale. Yet the car remains true to the marks heritage of being a sleek, conservative executive saloon.

The BMW 5 Series’ smart looks outside continue on the inside. Everything you touch feels quality, solid and uncompromised. The seating position and ergonomics of the driver controls is faultless, everything is in easy reach and clearly positioned. One of the most welcomed updates to the interior is the addition of BMWs new iDrive System, now with a 10.25-inch high-res touch screen positioned on the top of the dash, which really brings the look and feel of the interior up to date. Drivers now have the option of using the wheel on the centre console, the touch screen, voice controls and new gesture controls to navigate the various menus of the latest BMW iDrive system; it really is incredibly simple to navigate.

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The overall size of the new BMW 5 Series hasn’t grown inside, so space is the same as the previous generation. But the comfort levels have stepped up with elements of the current 7 Series trickling in. The seats are comfortable, supportive and look fantastic. There is a good amount of headroom as the seats sit slightly lower and the same story continues in the rear. Passengers can expect to get decent amounts of headroom as well as plenty of knee and legroom even with the driver seat pushed back.

Before we get onto what it’s like to drive, it’s worth noting there is a range of engines available to suit each owners individual requirements and offering a different driving dynamic. Petrol options start with the 520i that uses a 2.0-litre 4 cylinder turbo engine. While this might not be the sportiest of engines, it’s more than up to the job with a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds and a combined MPG of 38.2. It’s the ideal choice for anyone who does a lot of town driving.

If you are after a bit more then there is the option of BMWs 3.0-litre 6 cylinder turbocharged engine. In the 5 Series, it has 252 hp and it's arguably a much smoother and nicer engine to drive than the smaller 2.0-litre thanks to the extra torque and power. Picking the 530i will get you a performance increase of 6.1 seconds from 0-62 but a reduction in the economy with 37.7mpg.

The most powerful option in the petrol engine line up is the 540i. This is another 3.0-litre 6 cylinder turbo but the power increases to 340 hp, meaning the 0-62 mph time is just 4.8 seconds. The diesel options offer a similar selection of performance and economy options start with the economical 518d and finish with the range-topping 530d. All these options offer fuel economy from anywhere between 43.5 mpg up to 49.6 mpg.

Finally, there is also the 530e PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle). Using the petrol 530i engine and combining it with an electric motor, a combined MPG of 122.8mpg can be achieved.

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The car featured here is the 3.0-litre 6 cylinder turbo 530d equipped with xDrive. Out on the road the engine feels right at home in this saloon. Despite popular opinion on diesel engines, throttle response is prompt and the car feels eager to rev and put the power down while also remaining refined and effortless. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is also equally well calibrated in all the selectable driving modes.

In Comfort Mode the car takes the sweeping and rutted country roads of North Wales in its stride. Steering, grip and body control in the corners is well balanced and all feel comfortable, confident and relaxed.

Switch to Sport Mode and you notice things get a bit tighter. The steering feels sharper, the engine wants to rev out a bit more and the eight-speed gearbox is less keen to change up a gear, leaving it later to switch up and constantly trying to keep you in the peak power range. There is also the option of using the flappy-paddles on the steering wheel to give you total control, although the car does a very good job of selecting the right gear for you. Suspension gets a touch stiffer in Sport Mode and this, in turn, reduces body roll nicely and inspires confidence to have a bit of fun.

This xDrive model offers a nice neutral feel when in all modes. Understeer is nearly none existent thanks to the cleaver computers sending power to the wheels that need it most and it was a welcome extra on this road test in the snow! If the option of xDrive isn’t ticked the BMW 5 Series will, in natural BMW fashion, be rear-wheel drive (sDrive). The sDrive doesn’t lack in the mechanical grip department either so it’s possible to explore all the chassis capabilities safely and with confidence in both cars.

After driving this car, it’s clear that all the changes made under the skin have improved the balance of the car and sharpened the overall handling when compared to the previous generation. The new driver assisted technology has also made the wide range of characteristics and abilities easily accessible.

In a market that is increasingly getting dominated by the demand for large SUVs, the BMW 5 Series makes a very good argument for the old-fashioned upmarket executive saloon. Offering space, convenience, efficiency and a dynamic driving experience, it upstages not only its predecessor but its competition.

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