BMW 5 Series long-term test review

The BMW 5 Series saw off all-comers to be named the 2017 What Car? Car of the Year. We’ve added one to our long-term test fleet to see if it’s as impressive when you live with it every day

Words By Steve Huntingford

Need a valuation?

Obtain a FREE used car valuation for any vehicle.


  • The car: BMW 520d SE
  • Run by: Steve Huntingford, editor
  • Why it’s here: To see if this class-leading luxury saloon has any flaws which weren’t obvious when we group tested it against rivals
  • Needs to: Offer outstanding comfort and refinement, a sumptuous interior and low fuel consumption

Price Β£36,815 Price as tested Β£42,815 Miles 5246 Official economy 68.8mpg Test economy 44.2 Options fitted 18in multi-spoke alloy wheels (Β£995), Electronic Damper Control (Β£985), electric front seats with driver’s memory (Β£895), Glacier Silver paint (Β£675), enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging (Β£475), sports front seats (Β£475), reversing camera (Β£375), folding, anti-dazzle door mirrors (Β£335), split-folding rear seats (Β£335), Anthracite headlining (Β£265), Apple CarPlay (Β£235), Display Key (Β£235), adjustable lumbar support (Β£225), Gesture Control (Β£160), online entertainment (Β£160), High-beam Assistant (Β£95), run-flat tyres (Β£0), WiFi hotspot (Β£0)

23 November 2017 – third report

They say you don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone, and I’ve recently realised there’s more than a hint of truth to this. As I mentioned in my first report, I ran a Volvo S90 before the 5 Series, and in most respects this experience only serves to highlight how much better the BMW is in key areas. However, there is one thing I really miss about the Volvo: its head-up display.

BMW does, of course, offer one of these; it costs Β£225. But this box on the options list wasn’t ticked when our car was being ordered – a mistake that I’d urge anyone currently considering a 5 Series to avoid duplicating.

While having to look down at the instruments from time to time might not seem like that much of a hardship, in a car that’s as good at shutting out wind, road and engine noise as the latest 5 Series is, it’s actually all too easy for your speed to creep up between glances without you realising. And in the speed camera-infested world that we now live in, that’s obviously a concern.

What makes it worse is the fact that the speedo isn’t particularly boldly marked in the 5 Series when it’s being driven in Normal mode, so checking how quickly you’re covering the ground actually requires a little more than a glance. The solution is to switch to Sport mode, which not only turns the instruments red, but brings a large digital speed readout. However, you have to do this every time you start the engine, which is a pain.

More positively, the Sport setting can be customised, allowing you to have the Sports instrument display but return the suspension, steering and engine to their more comfort-oriented settings if you wish; personally, I think the 5 Series is at its best when everything but the suspension is set to Sport, feeling sharp and responsive, while gliding across poorly surfaced roads.

Unfortunately, the engine stop-start system doesn’t work when the car is in Sport, even if you return the engine itself to normal mode. I’m not sure if this is actually costing me much in fuel economy, but plan to test it in the coming weeks.

At the moment, with stop-start off most of the time, I’m averaging almost 45mpg, which I’m quite impressed with given that my daily commute usually involves plenty of congested urban roads. Meanwhile, on long motorway runs the car will top 50mpg without me really trying to drive efficiently.

Okay, these figures are no more than you’d expect from a modern diesel executive saloon. But they were put into perspective for me recently when I swapped into a plug-in hybrid SUV for a few days and averaged just 24.4mpg in similar conditions. Maybe we shouldn’t be so keen to jump out of our diesels after all, despite fears that they may be subject to additional charges in future.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read more long-term tests >

More on our long-term BMW 5 Series >