The BMW 5 Series comes packed with more high-tech features than ever before but looks more conservative than the Mercedes E-Class
The BMW 5 Series is a hugely capable executive saloon that’s sportier than a Mercedes E-Class and comes with more high-tech features than an Audi A6. It’s also available as an even more practical estate, called the BMW 5 Series Touring, which is reviewed separately.
The BMW 5 Series’ smart exterior styling is mirrored in its cabin. It’s not quite as elegant as an E-Class’ swooping interior but everything you touch feels plush, solid and suitably upmarket – the only cheap plastics you’ll find are buried deep in the door bins.
From the very comfortable driver’s seat you can easily reach all the key controls and BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment system really is the best in the business. It comes with satellite-navigation as standard and now sports a second digital display for the driver instead of old-fashioned dials.
It’s quick and easy to navigate your way through its numerous menus using the knob on the centre console, and you can also use voice and gesture control features. The latter might be a bit gimmicky but overall the system itself is far easier to use than what you’ll get in either an E-Class or A6.
There’s loads of headroom in the front and enough seat adjustment for six-footers to get comfortable. Unfortunately, lumbar support for the driver and passenger will set you back £225, even on top-spec cars.
Space in the back is nearly as generous as in the front. Your passengers get a decent amount of headroom and plenty of knee and legroom – even for tall people. There’s more shoulder room for carrying three abreast than you’ll find in an E-Class but the BMW’s rather hard, raised middle seat and huge lump in the floor mean the Mercedes will still be more comfortable with three in the back.
You can fit two large and two small suitcases in the BMW 5 Series’ 530-litre boot, and the rear seats fold down in a two-way (60:40) split if you need to carry long items and a passenger at the same time. You can fit a bike in the boot with the rear seats down, so long as you remove a wheel from the bike, but the boot floor’s slightly awkward shape means it’s a little trickier to load bulky luggage than in an E-Class.
The 5 Series offers a better mix of practicality, efficiency, comfort and techy features than almost any other saloon on the market
You can get the BMW 5 Series with three diesel and two petrol engines. Pick a 530i petrol model if you spend most time pootling around town – it’ll return around 40mpg – while a 520d diesel is more suitable if you do lots of motorway miles. It’s not quite as smooth as the petrol or as perky as the 2.0-litre diesel in an E-Class but it’s fast enough and will return around 45mpg in the real world.
SE cars are relaxing to drive while M Sport versions with larger alloy wheels and lowered suspension feel a little sportier in corners but let more bumps into the cabin. Pick the optional £985 adaptive dampers to strike the best balance between comfort and engaging handling. All models do a fairly good job of muting wind noise and tyre roar at speed, too.
Unsurprisingly the BMW 5 Series is very safe too – Euro NCAP awarded it an impressive five-star safety rating in 2017. This makes it one of the safest cars on sale and well worth considering if you’re looking for a smart saloon that’s relaxing to drive and comes packed with high-tech features.