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What Car? says

5 out of 5 stars

For Seriously classy, comfortable, swift and practical

Against Costly to maintain and tight on rear sear space

Verdict A jack of all trades and master of most

Go for… 520i SE

Avoid… V8 petrols

BMW 5 Series Saloon
  • 1. The cooling system is the most likely thing to go wrong - watch the engine temperature on a test drive
  • 2. The boot is easily big enough to swallow a few sets of golf clubs
  • 3. BMWs suffer fewer axle problems than Mercedes and Audis, but still listen out for thumps and bangs on your test drive
  • 4. Check that the air-conditioning system works properly - it should blow hot and cold
  • 5. Larger passengers may find the rear seats a bit tight
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BMW 5 Series Saloon full review with expert trade views

In a word, it's brilliant. The 5 Series outshone every rival during its lifetime and continues to do better than many of today's more up-to-date options.

Whether you're looking to cruise from Cornwall to Caithness or blast down some country lanes, the BMW delivers a really stunning drive. Great weight distribution and well-weighted steering mean it's great to be behind the wheel.

The Five is smooth and quiet. It's generally very comfortable, too, although larger passengers might find it a bit of a squeeze in the back. There's no such complaint with the boot, however, which is easily big enough to swallow a good few sets of golf clubs or a family's luggage for a week away.

Equipment levels are better than you might think, and the BMW has a strong safety record, too, with a creditable four-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Customers know what good value these are and prices firm, SE and Sport best

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The silky, fast V8 petrols can be pricey, but you certainly won't be short-changed in opting for one of the excellent six-cylinder motors, which span everything from 150 to 231bhp. In fact, the entry-level 150bhp 520i, uprated to 170bhp in September 2000, is our favourite.

An awesome 400bhp M5 is on hand for those with a real thirst for thrills. And, all of the diesels are good, but the 530d is particularly peachy.

Equipment levels aren't too bad - all except the first entry-level cars come with a decent amount of airbags, air-con, alloys, remote locking and electric windows, but models with climate control, leather and an automatic gearbox are far more popular and easier to sell on. SE trim is the best place to start your hunt.

The car was updated in summer 2000 with a new grille and headlights, while two years later a smarter stability control system was fitted.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good overall reliability, but watch for suspension failure

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

Chances are you'll only need deep pockets if you fancy one of the V8 petrols, which drink fuel and cost a fair whack to run.

Otherwise, running costs are pretty much on a par with rivals from Audi and BMW. Our fancied 520i does just over 30mpg and is in insurance group 14. Diesels can return more than 40mpg, but insurance premiums jump up.

Repair costs are relatively low, certainly less than you'd expect to hand over to get a Mercedes or Audi back on the road; and that's despite BMW having some of the highest workshop rates. You may well be better off finding a decent independent garage where you could slash that in half.

Don't lose control of your budget and pay for options you don't want, but remember that leather, climate and automatic gearboxes will be popular when you come to sell on.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Customers know what good value these are and prices firm, SE and Sport best

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The thing that's most likely to go wrong is the cooling system. It's responsible for no less than a quarter of all visits to the workshop, so pay close attention to the engine temperature when you're test driving and get the work done if it's dodgy.

Give the air-con a run for its money, too, to see that it can still blow hot and cold on demand.

Electrical faults dog most modern-day cars, and this BMW is no different. Check that all the lights, locks, stereo controls, windows and mirrors operate as they should.

Axle problems dog Mercedes and Audi far more than they do the BMW, but it's still worth listening out for rumbles and knocks on your test drive.

Otherwise, the BMW is reasonably robust, performing fairly well in our reliability surveys.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good overall reliability, but watch for suspension failure

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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