Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Cars at this shallower end of the luxury class need to put on a good show when it comes to front space, since that's where the majority of owners will spend most of their time. The 5 Series offers a bit more leg room than the Audi A6 and is roughly on par with the Mercedes E-Class.
There's plenty of head room in the 5 Series, too, and while adding a panoramic roof trades a bit of that, six-footers will still be fine. The 5 Series is the widest among its obvious rivals in the front, but, in truth, none of these cars are small inside. The E-Class's interior design feels more 'fitted' and less airy than the 5 Series' and A6's, but some people prefer a snugger, more wrap-around feel.
Getting in is also comparatively easy, thanks to doors that open wide. The glovebox is a good size and there’s a lidded cubby behind the gear selector that’ll take most wallets, keys or a mobile phone (and a wireless charging pad if you select the optional Technology Pack), along with two cupholders in front of it. Each door pocket will accommodate a small water bottle.
Other, larger cars such as the Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8 certainly do this bit better, but there’s enough room for two tall adults in the back of the 5 Series. There's even more leg room in the back of a Volvo S90 and a tad more in an Audi A6, but the 5 Series has noticeably more rear leg and head room than the Mercedes E-Class.
A third passenger won't have it quite as comfortable on longer journeys, though; shoulder room is tight and they'll have to straddle the raised central floor hump. If they're above average height, they'll also need to duck to avoid the overhead lighting console.
Access to the rear seats is good, because the doors swing open wide and the aperture is tall. There's also useful storage, in the shape of cupholders, door pockets and map pockets.
Seat folding and flexibility
Just like the driver’s seat in the BMW 5 Series, the front passenger seat has electric height and backrest angle adjustment as standard, making it easy to fine-tune the perfect position. It even gets electrically adjustable lumbar support as standard, allowing you to fend off lower back pain on longer journeys.
It’s disappointing that the rear seats don't fold as standard, though. Unlike the case with the Audi A6, you have to pay extra for a 'through-load system' that enables them to split 40/20/40 and fold down; with this feature added, though, the folded seats do lie usefully flat.
The BMW 5 Series has a 530-litre boot (reduced to 390 litres if you option a space saver spare wheel), which is officially quite a bit smaller than the Audi A6's. And, while on paper that's not a lot smaller than the Mercedes E-Class's boot, the E-Class also has a big underfloor storage area that you can call on.
The 5 Series' boot is also an odd shape with various ridges. The upshot is that it can't match the load-lugging abilities of its rivals; we managed to fit a respectable eight carry-on suitcases on board, but the A6 and E-Class each took nine. As with all saloons, the boot opening is far smaller than you'll find in a hatchback or an estate, making loading bulky items trickier, although, being deeper than the E-Class’s, the 5 Series' is potentially better in that regard. An electric bootlid is on the options list if you're feeling lazy.
Boot space in the 530e is reduced from the standard car’s 530 litres to 410 litres due to its battery pack. That means it'll hold only five carry-on suitcases, or, to put it another way, not much more than a decent-sized small hatchback.
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