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What Car? says

5 out of 5 stars

For Excellent dynamics, roomy cabin and desirable image.

Against Has a firm ride on Sport models

Verdict The 5 Series is close to perfect

Go for… 520d SE

Avoid… 530i M Sport

BMW 5 Series Saloon
  • 1. Sport-trimmed models ride much more firmly, thanks to their stiffer suspension
  • 2. The iDrive system can play up nastily, particularly in early cars
  • 3. Run-flat tyres fitted to some models wear rapidly and suffer leaks, so steer clear
  • 4. Repairs to the body panels can be expensive and slow
  • 5. Engine and transmissions on older 5 Series have proved able to withstand the miles
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BMW 5 Series Saloon full review with expert trade views

The 5 Series has always been a popular choice for company car drivers and fleet managers, so there’s plenty on the used market. It also has a reputation for reliability and reasonable running costs. It’s also great to drive and comfortable.

The 5 Series has a sporty feel, yet the ride is compliant and composed. The optional sports suspension is noticeably firmer, however, so take a thorough test drive before you buy.

The BMW’s cabin is a pleasant and stylish place to be, with excellent build quality. The wide range of steering wheel and seat positions ensure most drives can get comfortable. There’s room for three in the back, but the large transmission tunnel reduces legroom from the middle seat. At 520 litres, the boot is big, but the shape of the opening means stowing larger items can be tricky.

Trade view

Leather upholstery and metallic paint are desirable on any 5 series, but the SE is the stand-out of the range.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The 5 Series underwent a thorough overhaul in 2007, with a face-lift, more-efficient engines and the introduction of engine stop-start technology on many models. As a result, these cars are far more desirable.

The majority of used cars are diesel powered, and the 520d is the best buy of all. With 163bhp (later 177bhp) it feels quick, but still provides decent economy. The 177bhp 525d is acceptable, but the 197bhp model from 2007 is noticeably better. The 218bhp 530d (later 235bhp) is impressive and the 268bhp 535d (later 282bhp) has strong acceleration.

Of the less-popular petrol models, the 520i (available until the end of 2004) is acceptable, albeit underpowered, while the 523i with 174bhp (later 190bhp) is frisky, and the 525i with 192bhp (later 215bhp) gives decent pace.

Metallic paint and leather upholstery are desirable options on any 5 Series, but an entry-level model was available until mid-2006, that came with alloys, climate control and electronic stability control.

The SE models are better equipped, with upgraded alloys and front and rear parking sponsors.

Sport/M Sport models come with the firmer suspension, bigger alloys, tinted glass and half-leather upholstery.

From early 2009, the Business Editions upgraded SE and Sport models with full-leather upholstery, Bluetooth, sat-nav and a CD multichanger.

Trade view

A great car that's available at a great price. If you’re looking for business class on a budget, this is the car for you.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

Running a 5 Series is never going to be cheap, but the introduction of Efficient Dynamics technology (engine stop-start and regenerative braking) to cut CO2 emissions and boost fuel economy in 2007, means later models cost less to tax and fuel, and, as a result, will retain better resale value.

For example, the 520d improved from an average of 47.9mpg and 158g/km of CO2, to 55.4mpg and 136g/km of CO2 with the Efficient Dynamics tech in place.

Sticking with a franchised dealer for servicing is an expensive option once the car is past its third birthday, so using a specialist independent garage will help save money. Insurance is from group 31 for the 520d up to group 45 for the petrol 535d M Sport.

Trade view

Leather upholstery and metallic paint are desirable on any 5 series, but the SE is the stand-out of the range.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The 5 has maintained a decent reliability record over the years, but it is not fault free.

Axle, suspension and electrical problems cause over 50% of the 5’s issues. Make sure there are no clonks, bumps or strange noises from the suspension during a test drive, and that the steering is accurate and the ride is composed. Also check all controls and switches work.

The run-flat tyres fitted as standard can leak air, causing problems with the pressure monitoring system, and are expensive to replace. Some owners swap them for conventional tyres to save hassle and improve ride comfort, but it’s best to consult a dealer for advice.

Check the iDrive system, because it can malfunction, particularly in early cars, and render heating, stereo and phone controls useless. There are some reports where the system refuses to work on cold mornings until car has been driven for 20 minutes and is fully warmed. Models from 2005 onwards appear far more reliable in this area.

There has been a string of recalls on the car, covering the airbag, fuel pump, stability control system, clutch, engine and even a seat heater that can 'toast' its occupant. Check your car against a main dealer's records, which should list any work needed.

Trade view

A great car that's available at a great price. If you’re looking for business class on a budget, this is the car for you.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor
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