The Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series have long battled it out for buyers’ affections. Each offers a subtly different character but both sit squarely at the top of the executive car class. We compare the two to help you pick the one that’s right for you. See how the E-Class and 5 Series fare when compared to the Audi A6 in our video review with Mat Watson.
Use our Mercedes E-Class deals page to see how much money carwow could help you save, or check out our full review of the BMW 5 Series. Not sold on either choice? Check out our list of the best saloons on sale.
Mercedes E-Class vs BMW 5 Series – styling
The new E-Class bridges the gap between the luxury S-Class and more compact C-Class, and its styling reflects this. The trademark quad lights that graced previous E-Class models have gone replaced by handsome all-in-one units. Also gone is the bonnet mounted Mercedes emblem on UK models, replaced with a larger version on the grille. Overall, it’s a sleek looking luxury car, but one that could be criticised for looking a little anonymous.
The current 5 Series is one of the oldest models in the BMW range, so the car is starting to look a little dated. Like the Mercedes, it’s an exercise in subtle styling choosing to offend few rather than excite many. Larger alloy wheels and the optional M Sport package can make it look more purposeful but, to many people, the 5 Series could simply be a 3 Series – just slightly closer.
Mercedes E-Class vs BMW 5 Series – interior
Although Mercedes hasn’t necessarily made massive strides in terms of exterior styling, the German giant has vastly improved the E-Class’ interior, and it now ranks among the best cars on sale for design and technology. An updated COMAND infotainment system gets a massive central screen, next to optional digital dials that can be configured to display the information you prefer.
BMW hasn’t updated its interior design much since the 5 Series was launched, so it follows the outside in looking a little dated. It doesn’t feel as special as the E-Class, and even the excellent iDrive system won’t be enough to stop many prospective buyers from being won over by its rival’s plusher surroundings.
In terms of space, both cars are rather evenly matched – the Mercedes’ 540-litre boot is a mere 20 litres larger than in the BMW, and both will easily fit enough luggage for a family holiday. However the Mercedes’ longer wheelbase is likely to offer slightly more passenger space and, when the estate variant launches, it’ll likely far surpass the 5 Series Touring in terms of load area.
Mercedes E-Class vs BMW 5 Series – engines
The basic E 220 d has an all-new 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces 194hp and can get from 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds. The E 350 d has a 3.0-litre diesel with 254hp – it’s even faster, and completes the sprint in just 5.9 seconds. Both engines are paired with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, offering an effortless driving experience and rapid pace.
The 5 Series has four petrol engines – the 520i, 528i, 535i and 550i – which range from 184hp to 449hp but the diesels will be the big sellers. All are economical and refined – the 2.0-litre 518d, 520d and 525d have 150hp, 190hp or 218hp respectively. The 3.0-litre engines include the 258hp 530d and the 313hp 535d – the latter hits 62mph from standstill in 5.3 seconds. All the 2.0-litre diesels can be specced with a manual gearbox, but the optional eight-speed automatic is a much better buy.
Mercedes E-Class vs BMW 5 Series – driving
The E-Class focuses on comfort and refinement – the new diesel engines are very hushed and great for relaxed motorway cruising. Optional air suspension gives a pillow-soft ride, but even the standard steel springs are very supple. This does mean the E-Class isn’t quite as agile as the firmer BMW so won’t suit the keenest of drivers as well.
The BMW offers more driver involvement with more of a focus on handling and performance. Sharp steering makes the 5 Series a capable vehicle on back roads, but we’d recommend opting for adaptive dampers to get the best mix of ride and handling. It’s comfortable overall but can’t match the Mercedes’ impressively cosseting driving experience.
Mercedes E-Class vs BMW 5 Series – value for money
The Mercedes is priced from £35,595 for a basic E 220 d SE but even the entry-level trim gets sat-nav, a reversing camera and a self-parking system. Sport and AMG Line trim bring more visual upgrades plus more equipment. The E 350 d costs £9,000 more than the smaller engined variant, but comes with more standard equipment including a larger infotainment screen.
Prices for the 5 Series are a little lower on the whole – costing from £31,115 – although the basic 518d is less powerful than the E 220 d and lacks an automatic gearbox as standard. Automatic versions cost £1,150 more than their manual counterparts, and you can expect to pay around £1,500 to upgrade to the next most powerful engine.
Running costs are generally quite good – the most economical E-Class will return an impressive 72mpg, with even the least efficient diesel still able to muster 51mpg. Diesel versions of the 5 Series are generally a little thirstier, and if you choose a petrol powered car then you’ll be paying a lot more at the pump.
Mercedes E-Class vs BMW 5 Series – verdict
Both cars offer a wide mix of talents and are sure to offer you miles of hassle-free ownership. Your choice may well be influenced more by which marque you prefer.
While the 5 Series has long ruled the roost in terms of driver involvement and low running costs, many buyers are likely to prefer the more luxurious and comfortable surroundings the latest E-Class offers.
Save money on your new executive express
If you’re sold on the Mercedes, check out our Mercedes E-Class deals page to see how much carwow could help you save, or if the BMW is more your taste, check out our BMW 5 Series review. For more options, head over to our car chooser to narrow down your search or see our car deals page for our latest discounts.