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BMW 5 Series Review & Prices

The BMW 5 Series is a fantastic all-rounder, offering luxury, space and great tech. A Mercedes E-Class is even comfier to drive, though

Buy or lease the BMW 5 Series at a price you’ll love
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RRP £40,160 - £77,030
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£21,770
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wowscore
8/10
Reviewed by Carwow after extensive testing of the vehicle.

What's good

  • Exceptionally high-quality interior
  • Great fun to drive on a country road
  • Superb infotainment system

What's not so good

  • Not as striking to look at as alternatives
  • Mercedes E-Class comfier over bumps
  • Thirsty V8 petrol version

Find out more about the BMW 5 Series

Is the BMW 5 Series a good car?

There’s a strong argument that the BMW 5 Series is one of the best all-rounders on sale. It has something for every occasion: it’s comfortable, practical, full of tech, good to drive and economical. The only thing stopping us from calling it a Swiss Army knife is the fact that it doesn’t have a bottle opener. Still, that didn’t prevent it picking up the Best Large Car Award in the 2021 carwow Car of the Year Awards.

The 5 Series, including the Touring estate model, was updated in 2020 with some subtle exterior styling revisions, but they didn’t change the fact that the BMW isn’t quite as handsome as an Audi A6 or a Mercedes E-Class, the two main alternatives. The high performance version, the BMW M5, was also updated around the same time.

It’s a different story on the inside, though – the interior looks fantastic. The design is elegant and very upmarket, and the quality of the materials is excellent. There are fewer cheap-looking plastics inside than in E-Class, though every car of this sort has a brilliant interior design in their own way.

This latest version of the 5 Series has a 12.3-inch infotainment set-up, using BMW’s latest operating system. Satellite navigation is standard and instead of dials you get a display screen behind the steering wheel, just like in the E-Class and A6.

BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is the easiest to use in any car of this type, and it wouldn’t be hard to argue that it’s the best infotainment system in any car, full stop. The brilliantly user-friendly rotary controller on the centre console is the reason for this, although you can use the touchscreen, or voice and gesture controls if you prefer. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included as standard too.

The V8 M550i is sensational, but most buyers will be happy with the 520i petrol or 520d diesel in M Sport trim

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
carwow expert

The 5 Series’ seats are very comfortable and there’s loads of adjustment so the driving position is great too. There’s also loads of room for passengers in the back, including more headroom than in an E-Class. The middle seat could be better as it is high up and a bit narrow, but it’s okay for short trips.

Round to the back, and the 5 Series saloon has a 530-litre boot, which is enough for a few large suitcases. It’s on par with other cars of the same size. Folding rear seats are available as an option, but it’s ultimately not as practical as the Touring estate.

There’s a wide range of engines that all use mild- or plug-in hybrid tech, so there’s something to suit most needs. The four-cylinder diesel engine in the 520d model is the bread and butter of the range, delivering north of 55mpg at a cruise along with plenty of performance. There’s also the 520i with a four-cylinder petrol engine, which is a bit smoother but not as economical.

The six-cylinder models are great for those looking for more luxury, while the 530d diesel is really powerful yet economical. Both plug-in hybrids have a petrol engine - a four-cylinder in the 530e and a six-cylinder in the 545e, and can go for about 30 miles on electric power alone.

At the top of the range, there’s the M550i, which is the most powerful model you can buy without stepping up into the BMW M5 super-saloon. All models come with a smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard and you can get versions fitted with four-wheel drive (BMW calls it xDrive).

The 5 Series pairs these great engines with an excellent driving experience. It’s fun to drive but never becomes wearing. Only a Mercedes E-Class outdoes it on the comfort front, too.

All this just underlines the point that the 5 Series is one of the best all-round saloons on the market. If that sounds like your sort of thing, head to our deals page for the very best prices. If you would prefer a used BMW 5 Series then head over to our used page.

How much is the BMW 5 Series?

The BMW 5 Series has a RRP range of £40,160 to £77,030. The price of a used BMW 5 Series on Carwow starts at £21,770.

The 5 Series is priced between the two main alternatives. The Audi A6 costs a little less and the Mercedes E-Class costs a bit more. However, the entry-level models of all these cars aren’t quite matched for standard features – spec them up with exactly the same features and the price gap closes.

If you prefer a car that’s a bit left field and costs a bit less, check out the Jaguar XF. Or the Lexus ES, which is priced within a few quid of the Audi.

There are two trim levels to choose from: SE and M Sport. They actually come with exactly the same standard equipment, even though the M Sport costs more. That’s because the M Sport has a sporty-looking bodykit, bigger wheels and lower, stiffer suspension. You can add a lot more kit from the options list. Many of them are grouped in packs that cost a lot less than if you chose the features individually.

Both trim levels are available with the same selection of engines – 520i petrol; 520d and 530d diesels; 530e and 545e plug-in hybrids. The top-of-the-range M550i is treated as a separate trim level though, again, it has broadly the same standard features as the other trims.

Performance and drive comfort

The BMW 5 Series is a fabulous car to drive, even if it’s not quite the last word in comfort

In town

The 5 Series is a long, wide car with quite a big turning circle, but it’s actually pretty easy to drive around town. The only potential issue is the large blind spot that the windscreen pillars create, which can block the view to the side at junctions (a problem on pretty much every modern car).

How much that affects you may depend on your exact driving position. Fortunately, there’s a wide range of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel so it’s easy to find a position that works for you.

SE models – which have smaller wheels and softer suspension – give a lovely, smooth ride over rough roads. M Sport models feel much firmer, but they never tip over the point of being uncomfortable, in part thanks to the fabulous seats. Adaptive suspension that can be either soft and smooth or firm and sporty at the touch of a button is available as an option.

There are no issues with any of the engines for town driving, though the diesels always have that characteristic slightly clattery sound. If you do lots of urban driving, though, the plug-in hybrids are best as they have a battery-powered range of around 30 miles that allows you to drive around in silence without burning fuel.  

On the motorway

The 5 Series is the kind of car you can drive the length of France in a single day and get out at the end feeling none the worse for it. You may not even need to stop for fuel if you get one of the diesels. While you’re probably not going to tackle that kind of journey, the point is that, however long a trip you do in the UK in a 5 Series, it’ll be comfortable and relaxing.

All the engines are more than up to the task. The more powerful ones inevitably feel stronger and will pile on more speed quicker when you need it. But the 520d has performance to spare and will be the most economical by quite a big margin, depending on how much you’d be able to charge, and how you would use, a plug-in hybrid. Every model has an eight-speed automatic gearbox that changes gear absolutely seamlessly but responds snappily if you stamp on the throttle pedal.

The only real annoyance is that adaptive cruise control is only available as part of the optional Technology Plus Pack, which costs an extra £5,000. However, it’s worth considering because BMW’s adaptive cruise is certainly one of, if not the best such systems there is. The pack also comes with a stack of other features.

On a twisty road

How the 5 Series feels on a twisty road underlines its status as a consummate all-rounder. It may be big and comfy, but you feel like it’s a smaller car than it actually is, because it feels really agile in corners. Especially in models with four-wheel-steering, which turns the back wheels in proportion to the fronts to improve agility and stability in fast corners. 

Rear-wheel-drive models have plenty of grip, but the xDrive four-wheel-drive system fitted as standard to 530d, 545e and M550i gives a reassuring feeling of security when roads are damp or slippery. It’s also available as an option on the 530e and 520d if you want it. 

The softer suspension on SE models means it leans over more in corners than M Sport models do, but the pay-off is that M Sport cars offer a noticeably harder ride quality. Not so much so that the car gets bounced around by lumps and bumps but, again, you may want to consider the optional adaptive suspension to give the best of both worlds – comfort or firmness when you want it.

You can make really rapid cross country progress in any 5 Series but the M550i is bonkers fast and a lot of fun. Enough to make you wonder if it’s really worth spending another £30,000 to get an M5, which is arguably a bit too fast and firm for the UK’s narrow, tired roads.

Space and practicality

The 5 Series has plenty of space for five adults and a boot that’s big enough for family life – it’s just a shame folding rear seats aren’t standard, and that plug-in models have much less boot space

Practicality

There’s masses of head, leg and shoulder room in the front seats of the 5 Series. Unless you’re exceptionally tall, you’re unlikely to need more space. There’s lots of adjustment in the seats, too, so you should be able to get comfortable. 

Somewhat curiously, though, there isn’t a whole lot of storage space in the front. The door bins can hold a litre bottle, but it’ll block access to the rest of the space. There’s a deepish cubby hole under the armrest and two cupholders in the centre console, plus a shallow tray in front of the gear selector which doubles as a wireless charging pad in cars fitted with the optional technology packs. The glovebox is no better than average size, but there is a useful flip-down compartment to the left of the steering column that’s ideal for keeping your change and keys.  

Space in the back seats

It’s really only extremely tall people who might find space in the back of the 5 Series lacking. Significantly, there’s more headroom than in the back of an E-Class, though an A6 does have a bit more legroom. The middle seat is best reserved for children or adults on short trips. There’s quite a big hump in the floor to straddle and the seat itself is perched quite high, so there’s a lot less headroom. And less again if you’ve chosen the optional sunroof. For family car duty, though, you’re unlikely to need more space.

Storage in the back is pretty good, too. The door bins hold a litre bottle, cupholders flip out of the armrest and there are large pockets on the back of the front seats. Back seat passengers also get USB and 12-volt charging ports, and heating and ventilation controls in cars fitted with the optional Comfort Plus Pack. 

Boot space

The 5 Series doesn’t have the biggest boot in its class, but the 530-litre capacity is still plenty big enough to cover most people’s day-to-day needs. Be aware, though, that plug-in hybrid models have much less space thanks to the batteries. There are a couple of extra storage compartments at the sides and a fold-out hook to hang bags from.

Interior style, infotainment and accessories

Finely crafted interior and user-friendly interior, although there are harder plastics to be found if you go hunting

BMW’s interior designers are among the very best in business and the 5 Series shows why. Its interior has an elegantly simple design that looks great and is really easy to use – BMW hasn’t abandoned proper knobs and buttons as some other manufacturers have. The heater fan speed and heated seats are controlled with touch-sensitive buttons, but they work better than some others we’ve used (looking at you, Volkswagen).

There are some cheap-feeling plastics if you look hard enough (practically under the dashboard), but every other material and surface in the interior has a deeply pleasing feeling of quality. Not every car that’s priced as a premium product really merits it, but the 5 Series really does.

Every 5 Series has BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional infotainment system, displayed on a 12.3-inch touchscreen. You can also use the brilliant rotary controller on the centre console, voice commands or the slightly gimmicky gesture control function included in the Tech Plus Pack.

Packed into the infotainment are sat nav, Bluetooth, DAB radio, a wifi interface, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, to mention but a very few of the features. The ‘native’ system is probably the best there is, but you still may prefer to connect your phone. You can also use BMW’s app, which offers a lot of other useful features and functions.

Other standard features include a digital driver’s display, two-zone climate control, cruise control, LED headlights, parking sensors and a reversing camera, plus a smattering of USB charging ports.

MPG, emissions and tax

Every engine available in the 5 Series has a mild-hybrid system that provides an extra boost of power when you step on the throttle and helps improve fuel economy by taking some of the load off the engine. Which is why the 5 Series is pretty efficient for a big car.

Here are the official fuel economy numbers: the 520i does 45.6mpg, the M550i does 26mpg, the 520d does 58mpg, the 530d does 51mpg, the 530e does 201mpg and the 545e does 166mpg.

As ever, we have to caution that you might not see those numbers in the real world, especially in the plug-in hybrids. However, they should still give similar economy to the diesels if you regularly recharge the batteries. Zero-emissions official range for the 530e is 37 miles and 33 miles for 545e.

Vehicle excise duty costs £165 per year at the time of writing and, because every 5 Series model costs more than £40,000 when new, there’s an extra annual charge of £520 from the car’s second to sixth birthdays.

Safety and security

Safety expert Euro NCAP gave the 5 Series a full five star rating. Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking and many airbags. Shell out for the optional Technology Plus Pack and you get Driving Assistant Professional, which is a huge suite of other safety features. There’s too many to itemise here but highlights include lane keeping aids, cross traffic alerts and traffic light recognition.

Reliability and problems

Though the 5 Series is extremely well built, it’s a complex car that can develop electrical niggles, and has landed around the middle of reliability surveys. 

BMW provides a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty on new cars and also does extended warranties for its older models, so you maintain manufacturer-backed coverage. There have been some recalls for it, but those won’t affect brand new cars.

Buy or lease the BMW 5 Series at a price you’ll love
We take the hassle and haggle out of car buying by finding you great deals from local and national dealers
RRP £40,160 - £77,030
Carwow price from
Used
£21,770
Ready to see prices tailored to you?
Compare used deals