BMW 5 Series 2017

Agile mid-size saloon packs more tech than ever

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  • Creamy-smooth six-cylinder engines
  • More interior space than before
  • Looks expensive
  • Attractive tech is optional
  • Jaguar XF is better to drive
  • Homogeneous styling
 

£36,025 - £49,945 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

39 - 68 MPG

Review

So long as you order the right options, the BMW 5 Series is the benchmark in its segment for driver enjoyment but that’s just one of the strings in the car’s high-tech bow, as BMW brings the fight to the Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF.

Inside it features a scaled-down 7 Series interior, but despite the quality materials there isn’t much to get excited about, a complaint that can’t be directed at the sumptuous inners of the E-Class. On the upside, passenger space has increased compared to the outgoing car and the boot is slightly more practical than before.

Things get better once you get going, but how much better depends on the options you choose. With everything ticked, the 5 Series is a hoot to blast down twisty roads, but the standard car feels little different to the comfy, but numb E-Class. As with the Mercedes, the BMW is available with adaptive cruise control with steering assist that, on the right road, effectively drives the car for you.

There are fewer engines on offer from launch than you get currently, but what is there is highly accomplished. The pick of the range is the 520d, which is quick but also very frugal. The 530d follows the same vein, but with a lean towards performance. Petrol power comes in the form of the 530i and range-topping 540i, the latter being the only petrol model to come with the creamy straight-six engine that used to be a must-have in all BMWs. A hybrid model – perfect for town dwellers – will follow soon.

Trim levels haven’t been finalised, but expect them to follow the usual formula – the SE being the comfortable 5 Series and the M Sport serving as a halfway point between regular models and the yet-to-be-announced bonkers M5.

The 5 Series’ cabin focuses on evolution rather than revolution. It looks very similar to the interior in the old car and you can’t help but think it would have benefited from a sprinkling of imagination.

With Mercedes cabins being super plush and Audi inners specialising in minimal sophistication, the way was clear for BMW to go super sporty, something it has failed to do. The only hint to the firm’s “ultimate driving machine” moniker is the driver-focused dashboard, but it also features on every current BMW so doesn’t really carry the same feel-good factor as a back-to-the-drawing-board design could have.

BMW 5 Series infotainment

Sat atop the dash is the iDrive infotainment screen that’s among the best of its type. It features gesture controls (first seen in the 7 Series), allowing occupants to control features with a flick of the finger. You also get an iDrive rotary controller, which is easy to use on the move and, if that doesn’t suit, you can issue voice commands or simply operate the system directly via the 10.25-inch touchscreen. Onboard WiFi means your handheld devices can all share a data package.

BMW 5 Series passenger space

There are three seat styles to choose from – Standard, Sport and Comfort. The former do the job just fine, but lack the adjustable side bolsters of the Sport versions or the massage function of the Comfort seats. The 5 Series is longer and wider than the old version, so the cabin is more spacious than the outgoing model, especially in terms of rear headroom and all-round elbow and shoulder space. The door openings are also bigger to make getting in and out easier.

BMW 5 Series boot space

The 530-litre boot gains 10 litres over the old model and has a wider aperture to allow for easier loading. That capacity matches the Audi A6 but falls 10 litres short of the Mercedes E-Class. Practicality points are won back by the lowered boot sill that makes loading easier.

BMW is aiming to cement the 5 Series’ position in the market as the driver’s choice in the mid-sized executive class. As before, it features a balanced weight distribution for faster cornering but, to unleash its full potential, a visit to the options list is unavoidable. There you’ll find kit such as rear-wheel steering (for increased high-speed stability) and roll-reducing active anti-roll bars, both of which make the 5 Series feel like a small car to hustle. Out the box, though, a Jaguar XF is the better car to drive.

On the other hand, the new 5 Series boasts driver-assistance tech that makes it a better cruiser than ever before. Optional adaptive cruise control can be set to follow the car in front at a preselected distance, while the car’s Speed Limit Info system reads signs – including temporary ones – and displays the maximum legal speed on dashboard.

Like the E-Class, buyers can specify an optional steering assistant that uses the car’s sensors to help keep it in lane on the motorway at speeds up to 130mph. For those living in rural areas, optional xDrive four-wheel drive is available with much of the range and can be mated to the optional lowered M Sport suspension for all-year performance.

There’s no super-comfy air suspension and ride quality depends heavily on what options you tick. A bog standard 5 Series on 17-inch wheels rides no worse than the comfortable E-Class – though not one with air suspension. But spec up to an M Sport model – with lowered suspension, optional 20-inch wheels and run-flat tyres – and you’ll need to buy the adaptive dampers to get a ride quality that won’t shake out your fillings.

Standard on all but the basic diesel is a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox that impresses in all the other BMW models it features – it’s neck and neck with the nine-speed in the Mercedes E-Class as the best automatic gearbox currently available.

BMW 5 Series petrol engines

The downsizing trend hasn’t passed the 5 Series by, because the petrol 530i isn’t a 3.0-litre like its name suggests. It is, in fact, a 2.0-litre petrol coerced by a power-boosting turbo to produce 252hp. It gives the entry-level petrol a decent turn of speed with 0-62mph taking just 6.0 seconds. Despite the slightly raucous exhaust note the 530i is smooth, economical for a petrol and, with a combined fuel economy figure of 49mpg – 6mpg better than the 528i that preceded it.

Should you want more power and don’t mind footing the bill in terms of running costs, the 3.0-litre turbo straight six in the 540i could have your name on it. There’s no turbo lag that you can feel, it pulls with near-electric linearity and sounds magnificent too. It comes with xDrive four-wheel drive as standard meaning most oversteer heroics are off the menu, but the upside is that the 0-62mph time of the 540i is 4.8 seconds – a mere half a second slower than the current M5. The 540i should also return on average 39mpg and emits CO2 emissions of 164g/km for £185 annual road tax – figures an M5 can only dream of.

BMW 5 Series diesel engines

However, the bestselling model will likely be the 190hp 2.0-litre diesel in the 520d. It returns 68.8mpg and emits just 108g/km of CO2, yet can sprint from 0-62mph in just 7.5 seconds. It’s the only model to come fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. Joining the range later, the 520d Efficient Dynamics can return more than 70mpg on a run.

Diesel fans after more shove can pick the 3.0-litre straight-six in the 530d – with 265hp, it hits 62mph from rest in 5.7 seconds. It’s smooth, sounds nice and, for the performance available, doesn’t use too much fuel – returning 60.1mpg. If your budget allows, you should definitely consider it.

Conclusion

It’s not that the 5 Series isn’t a good mid-size executive saloon – far from it. It’s grown in interior space, boasts more tech than a small-town computer convention and, with the right options, it’s fantastic to drive. But ‘options’ is a word, and a cost, that you’ll have to embrace if you want to get the very best from your new steed. In a world where the new E-Class is brandishing a jaw-dropping interior and a new A6 is just around the corner, basic versions of BMW’s new saloon are left open to attack. If you want the ultimate driving machine then, sadly, you’ll have to pay over the odds to get it.