BMW 5 Series (2017-2020) review
The BMW 5 Series comes packed with more high-tech features than ever before but looks more conservative than the Mercedes E-Class
What's not so good
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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.
The 5 Series’ spacious cabin comes with bags of head and leg room, but annoyingly, electrically adjustable lumbar support and memory seats cost extra…
The 5 Series has a bigger boot than a 7 Series and its plush cabin comes with almost as much kit – what’s not to like?
The seating position is excellent and every BMW 5 Series comes with plenty of adjustment to help you get comfortable. You can get even more comfortable seats for £1,705 but, rather strangely, lumbar support for the driver and passenger is a £225 option on all models. A memory function for the front seats – handy if you regularly lend you car to someone else – will set you back £895.
The rear doors open nice and wide so it’s a breeze to jump in the back. There’s absolutely loads of legroom and even your tallest friends won’t be left wanting for headroom. There’s more shoulder room for carrying three abreast than you’ll find in a Mercedes E-Class but the 5 Series’ rather hard central seat and large hump in the floor means your third passenger won’t be particularly comfortable on long trips.
Even M Sport cars – with their sporty black headlining – don’t feel too dark or dingy in the back but you can always get a glass sunroof for £995 to let in a little more light.
Fitting a child seat is dead simple. The rear doors open nice and wide and the Isofix anchor points are clearly marked with folding covers that you can’t lose in the depths of the cabin. You don’t have to stoop down too low to strap in a child, either, and there’s loads of room to lift in the seat itself.
Another handy feature are the optional soft-close doors. They’ll set you back £435 across the BMW 5 Series range but they make it almost impossible to slam the doors. They’ll even automatically close for you if you don’t give them enough of a push to shut the first time.
The BMW 5 Series comes with plenty of handy cubbyholes. Both the front and rear door bins are large enough to hold a big water bottle and there’s just enough room in those up front to tuck in a second, smaller bottle, too.
There are two large cupholders in the front and two in the back that flip out of the folding rear armrest. The front armrest splits in two to reveal a large storage bin and there’s a slot under the dashboard with a wireless charging pad for the optional £195 digital key.
The glovebox will easily hold a large bottle too, and there’s a small storage tray between the front seats for passengers in the back to throw a few bits and bobs. You also get smart aeroplane-style folding pockets behind the front seats instead of the more usual net or fabric items. Overall, the BMW 5 Series runs the E-Class very close indeed for clever cabin storage but can’t quite match the Mercedes’ capacious cubbyholes.
The BMW 5 Series can carry 530 litres of luggage with the rear seats in place. That’s identical to the Audi A6 and only 10 litres less than the Mercedes E-Class. You’ll be able to fit a baby stroller, or two large suitcases and two small cases without folding the rear seats – and the small boot lip and wide opening make it easier to lift in large luggage than in the Audi or Mercedes.
You can fold the rear seats down in a two-way (60:40) split as standard using handy levers in the boot. A three-way (40:20:40) split – that’ll let you carry two rear passengers and long luggage at the same time – is offered as a £335 optional extra. Whichever option you choose, you’ll need to push the seats down from the rear doors before they’ll lie flat.
With the seats out of the way, the BMW 5 Series’ boot is big enough to carry a bike – if you remove a wheel first. Unfortunately, the boot itself isn’t quite as square as what you’ll find in a Mercedes E-Class so it’s a little tricky to squeeze in lots of bulky items.
You do get four tether points to help stop bags rolling around in the back while a netted cubby on the left and storage bin on the right will hold small items securely, too.
From frugal diesels to silky six-cylinder petrols, there isn’t a bad engine in the BMW 5 Series range. You’ll have to tick a few boxes on the options list to make it feel as sporty as the old car, however
Pick the optional adaptive dampers and the 5 Series lets you have your cake and eat it – it’s comfortable and sporty in equal measure
You can get the BMW 5 Series with three diesel and two petrol engines and even as a hybrid. All models come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard and you can get versions fitted with xDrive four-wheel drive for a little extra grip in slippery conditions.
Pick a BMW 530i model if you spend most time pootling around town. Its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is a little smoother than the most affordable diesel models and helps it sprint from 0-62mph in a fairly spritely six seconds. It’ll return around 40mpg if you go gently on the accelerator, too.
A diesel will be a better bet if you spend more time on the motorway. The entry-level BMW 520d model comes with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that’s reasonably smooth and impressively quiet when you’re cruising. It isn’t quite as perky as the 2.0-litre diesels in the E-Class but it’s certainly nippy enough. Standard models will return around 45mpg but those fitted with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel-drive system lose around 5mpg.
If you’re happy to spend a little more money and sacrifice running costs for a smoother driving experience you should consider one of the BMW 5 Series’ more powerful six-cylinder engines. The BMW 530d diesel is a hugely relaxing motorway cruiser that’ll return around 40mpg while the rapid 540i petrol model is even slicker and will accelerate from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds – that’s sports-car fast.
If you’re a die-hard petrolhead you might be disappointed to hear the BMW 5 Series doesn’t come with a manual gearbox, but the standard eight-speed automatic is so smooth and responsive you won’t miss changing gears yourself.
Although it’s a big car, the BMW 5 Series is easy to drive. You get a surprisingly good view out through its large windows and the only annoying blind spot is where the windscreen meets the front door.
All models come with front and rear parking sensors as standard but you can upgrade your BMW 5 Series with a self-parking system with a reversing camera for £695 or a high-tech 360-degree camera and 3D surround view system for £1,095. The latter displays a rendered image of your car from the outside – just like having someone jump out to guide you into tight spaces – it’s an excellent feature and well-worth having if you have to park in tight spaces.
The BMW 5 Series is impressively comfortable around town and SE models soak up large bumps with ease. M Sport cars aren’t quite as relaxing, thanks to their larger alloy wheels and lowered suspension, but you can get optional adaptive dampers for £985 that help them stay settled over even the most monstrous potholes.
Annoying tyre roar is mostly muted at motorway speeds and only a hint of wind noise makes its way into the 5 Series’ otherwise very relaxing cabin. It doesn’t quite waft along like a Mercedes E-Class fitted with air suspension but it’ll chew through hundreds of motorway miles with ease. The 5 Series feels distinctly sportier compared to the rather boat-like Mercedes, but it can’t quite match the Jaguar XF’s fun factor on a quick backroad blast.
Euro NCAP awarded the BMW 5 Series an impressive five-star safety rating in 2017, making it one of the safest cars currently on sale. For greater peace of mind, however, you can get the £895 Driving Assistant package – that’ll warn you of traffic in your blind spot and alert you if you wander out of your lane on a motorway – or the £2,250 Driving Assistant Plus pack. The latter comes with adaptive cruise control and will even steer for you on motorways – provided you keep your hands on the wheel.
There isn’t a hint of cost-cutting anywhere in the BMW 5 Series’ smart, businesslike cabin but it can’t match the E-Class’s interior for outright desirability