2013 BMW 5 Series review

* Updated BMW 5 Series driven in UK * New engines, lower CO2 emissions, more tech * On sale now, priced from £29,830...

2013 BMW 5 Series review

The BMW 5 Series has been one of our favourite full-size executive cars since its launch in 2010.

The daunting news for rivals – including the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class – is that it's just got even better, after a subtle face-lift has given it lower CO2 emissions, revised suspension and some new technology.

There are also two new engines. A 141bhp 518d version joins the line-up, bringing the starting price down to £29,830. This new entry-level model emits just 119g/km of CO2, although the revised 520d (manual or auto) matches this output despite having an extra 41bhp, so is likely to remain the big seller.

What's the 2013 BMW 5 Series like to drive?

The mechanical changes are mild, so the 2013 BMW 5 Series drives much the same as the previous model.

We tried the 520d and 530d. The latter has a 254bhp six-cylinder diesel engine that's as strong and flexible as ever. This version is now more attractive to company car drivers, though, thanks to its lower CO2 output of 134g/km (down from 149g/km). 

This efficiency improvement is partly down to a new coasting function (fitted to all automatic versions), which can disconnect the gearbox from the drivetrain to prevent unwanted engine braking. Aerodynamics have also been improved.

The 181bhp, four-cylinder engine in the 520d is relatively smooth, too, and offers strong mid-range acceleration. The standard manual gearbox is best avoided (it's rather notchy), but the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox is brilliant, shifting smoothly and intelligently.

BMW says it's tweaked the 5 Series' suspension to improve ride quality. However, the differences are negligible – at least on our test cars, which were all fitted with optional adaptive dampers.

In Sport mode, the 5 Series still handles sharply enough, while choosing Comfort softens the suspension just enough to improve high-speed comfort. You’ll notice the odd sharp thump over bigger bumps – even on the smallest wheels on the 520d – but the 5 Series is the more comfortable than rivals, such as the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class.

It remains to be seen whether versions without adaptive suspension are any better than before. Previously, cars with standard suspension suffered from an unsettled ride and sloppier handling.

As ever, the 5 Series is a very refined exec. There's very little road noise at speed and wind noise is well-suppressed, too.

What’s the 2013 BMW 5 Series like inside?

Not much has changed inside, but then it didn't need to because the only rival that can claim to have a classier cabin is the Audi A6 – and even then the difference is marginal.

The driving position is slightly offset (particularly in manual versions), with the pedals positioned too far to the right. However, the seats are comfortable and supportive, and there's lots of adjustment to help the driver get comfortable.

Rear space is also impressive. There's easily enough space for two six-footers, and three will fit – although whoever draws the short straw will have to straddle a fairly chunky transmission tunnel.

A 520-litre boot means luggage space is roughly on a par with that of rivals, such as the Audi A6 and Jaguar XF.

All versions come with BMW's class-leading iDrive infotainment system, which is controlled via a rotary dial (and surrounding buttons) on the centre console.

Pay a bit more and you'll now get a touch-pad on top of the rotary dial. This can be used to input letters and numbers without having to scroll through various on-screen menus. There's also an updated voice control function that you can use to dictate text messages and emails.

Prices have risen by around £1100, but you now get more standard equipment, with sat-nav and xenon headlights fitted even to entry-level SE versions.

With that in mind, the more expensive trims – Modern, Luxury and M sport – aren't worth considering unless you really love your luxuries.

Should I buy one?

The 5 Series is still the best of its ilk if you're in the market for a full-size exec.

That's especially true if you're a company car driver, because the four-cylinder diesel models are so much cheaper to run than rivals, thanks to their exceptionally low CO2 emissions.

However, if you don't need something quite this big, BMW's own 3 Series (particularly the 320d ED) is cheaper still and even better to drive, albeit not quite as classy inside.

What Car? says...

Audi A6
Jaguar XF Estate

Read the full BMW 5 Series review >>

BMW 518d
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £29,830
Power 141bhp
Torque 266lb ft
0-62mph 9.7 seconds
Top speed 132mph
Fuel economy 62.8mpg
CO2 119g/km

BMW 520d
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £31,530
Power 181bhp
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 8.1 seconds
Top speed 145mph
Fuel economy 62.8mpg
CO2 119g/km

BMW 530d
Engine size 3.0-litre diesel
Price from £40,615
Power 254bhp
Torque 413lb ft
0-62mph 5.8 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 47.1mpg
CO2 134g/km