BMW 5 Series Saloon full 9 point review
The diesels are most popular, and rightly so. We've yet to drive the entry-level 518d, but the 520d has 188bhp and is powerful enough. The 525d makes for even easier performance, while the six-cylinder units in the 530d and 535d turn the 5 Series into a diesel-engined performance car. Petrol choices include two 2.0-litre and two 3.0-litre units, plus there's a hybrid that combines the more powerful 3.0-litre petrol with a 54bhp electric motor. A couple of super-fast V8s complete the line-up.
Ride & Handling
On standard suspension the 5 Series doesn't ride or handle as well as it should do. However, you can add Variable Damper Control to four-cylinder models and Adaptive Drive to six-cylinder models, and these options transform the car. They aren't cheap but we think they're essential, because they make the ride more cosseting and the handling sharper. The range-topping M5 is a different matter; the bespoke suspension on this model provides sharp handling and a cosseting ride.
Engine, tyre and suspension noise are brilliantly suppressed, but you do notice a bit of wind noise coming from around the door mirrors. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is superb and has a bit of a split personality; stroke the accelerator pedal and the shifts are smooth, but jump on it hard and the shifts become clinically precise. The four-cylinder diesel engines are a bit gruff, but the six-cylinders are smooth and pretty hushed.
Buying & Owning
As a business proposition the 5 Series is a clear winner - particularly the automatic 520d, which is even more efficient than the manual and is remarkably good value as a company car. Private buyers will enjoy great re-sale values and low road tax costs, and everyone will benefit from the frugal real-world economy. Even the more powerful diesels make reasonable financial sense, although the petrol hybrid is best avoided; it's pricey and not as frugal as you might expect.
Quality & Reliability
The 5 Series is built from high-quality materials and the fit and finish throughout its cabin is exemplary. Only the Audi A6 can claim to have a classier interior, and even then only marginally. However, the 5 Series didn't fare well in the most recent JD Power survey, with owners experiencing an above-average number of mechanical problems.
Safety & Security
All models come with a minimum of six airbags and a host of electronic driver aids, including stability control and a system that primes the safety kit if a crash looks inevitable. The 5 Series is also kind to pedestrians, thanks to a spring-loaded bonnet that provides additional cushioning in the event of a collision. Deadlocks, locking wheelnuts and an alarm are on hand to ward off thieves.
Behind The Wheel
The 5 Series' dashboard is the epitome of clarity. The climate control system is easy to use, and most other functions are controlled using the iDrive infotainment system. You twist a rotary dial between the front seats to scroll through on-screen menus, and push the dial down to make a selection. Every model has electric adjustment for the seat height and backrest angle. However, the driving position is offset (particularly in manual versions), with the pedals positioned too far to the right.
Space & Practicality
In effect the 5 Series is a shortened version of the 7 Series luxury car, so there's plenty of space for all occupants. BMW's claim that this is a genuine five-seater is a little optimistic, though, because a hefty transmission tunnel running through the centre of the car means those sitting in the middle of the rear bench will certainly feel they've drawn the short straw. The 520-litre boot provides plenty of space for luggage, even if the saloon opening restricts practicality slightly.
All models come with sat-nav, xenon headlights, climate control, steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo, cruise control, and a CD player. The options list is extensive, with a head-up display that projects vital information on to the windscreen in the driver's line of sight and, of course, the suspension upgrades that transform the 5 Series into a great driver's car.