There are some models that seem truly timeless when it comes to delivering excellence. Names that spring to mind include the Porsche 911, Ford Fiesta and also this – the BMW 5 Series.
It’s a model that has led the executive car class for the best part of 50 years, and now seven generations in, it’s time for a mid-life refresh (something BMW calls an LCI, or ‘Life Cycle Impulse’.
While the current 5 Series was still putting up a good fight, it was beginning to feel a bit dated next to more modern rivals like the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. It’s why BMW has chosen to give it a certain amount of nip-tuck.
Changes include new headlights and a wider grille, as well as a new M Sport Pro Edition trim, and a powertrain range that’s had a rejig. More on that shortly.
A choice of powertrains has always been the key to the success of the 5 Series, with a range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid models available on the outgoing model. Mild-hybrid tech is also rolled out across much of the range.
BMW is expanding this with the introduction of a powerful new six-cylinder plug-in hybrid (the 545e), which sits alongside the 530e. A host of petrol and diesel models remain, with the 520i kicking off the range with its 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine.
For high-mileage drivers the 520d diesel will be the most impressive, with its 187bhp 2.0-litre engine delivering a superb mix of performance and efficiency – returning up to 60mpg. The 530e will be the cleanest to run, though, providing the batteries are regularly charged. Do so, and it will travel for up to 31 miles on electricity, and return up to 201mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 31g/km.
We also can’t forget about the new M550i xDrive model, which is new to the UK. It aims to bridge the gap between the standard 5 Series and hot M5, and produces a monstrous 523bhp from its 4.4-litre V8. That allows it to sprint to 60mph in a remarkable 3.6 seconds, and is a seriously compelling option next to the M5.
Ride and handling
The 5 Series has always been the best car out of its class to drive, but hasn’t always been the most comfortable – something BMW has improved here.
Even with a sensible diesel engine under the bonnet, it handles brilliantly, and feels much lighter and smaller to drive than it actually is. Meanwhile it’s also a seriously accomplished cruiser, with an impressively smooth and refined driving experience.
But the flagship M550i is a revelation. Not least for its monstrous power, but also for the fact it remains so comfortable and subtle both to drive and look at, but delivering impressive pace when you really need it.
Interior and equipment
Quality is the name of the game on the 5-Series’ interior, with a superb upmarket feel throughout. It also benefits from BMW’s latest infotainment system, which along with its digital instrument cluster are the best in the business. There also remains a brilliant compromise between digital screens and physical buttons as well – with climate settings thankfully remaining as physical controls, rather than buried within menus.
It also remains just as practical as ever, both in saloon form tested here or if you choose the spacious Touring estate model. Usefully you’re also now able to get the plug-in hybrid 530e as an estate car for the first time, too, though just be aware these are not quite as roomy as standard petrol and diesel models.
Three trims are available on the new 5 Series – SE, M Sport and M Sport Pro Edition.
Standard kit is generous, including heated front seats, a 12.3-inch touchscreen and digital dials of the same size, along with LED headlights and a parking assistant. Upgrading to M Sport brings sports seats, a sportier styling kit and large 19-inch alloy wheels. The high-spec M SPort Pro meanwhile gains adaptive suspension, an M spoiler, special colour options and larger 20-inch alloy wheels.
Prices for the 5 Series kickstart from £38,590, which makes it well-priced considering its size, well-rounded driving experience and high-quality cabin. It’s certainly no bargain, but looks competitive next to key rivals from Audi and Mercedes.
As you go up the trim levels, though, it does start to get pricey – especially with the M Sport Pro Edition and flagship M550i – meanwhile optional extras are costly.
As an all-round executive car, the 5 Series remains unbeatable. Its mix of quality, sportiness and comfort are unmatched, even next to accomplished rivals such as the Mercedes E-Class.
The revisions on this new car have brought the 5 Series back up to speed in the few areas where it was behind competitors, while the range of powertrains on offer is superb. Whether you go for the sensible diesel models or the sporty M550i that’s delightfully understated, this BMW remains a truly brilliant car.Enquire on a new BMW 5 Series