There isn’t a hint of cost-cutting anywhere in the 5 Series’ smart, businesslike cabin but it can’t match the E-Class’s interior for outright desirability
The BMW 5 Series’ interior reeks of quality. You won’t find any cheap plastics or creaking trims – no matter how hard you look or how determinedly you prod.
Its new cabin looks slicker than the old 5 Series’ slightly drab interior but the E-Class’ elegant design will stick in your passenger’s minds for longer. The BMW’s glossy centre console (that’s angled slightly towards the driver) and aluminium trims look far more stylish than what you’ll find in the rather dated Audi A6, however.
You can turn the 5 Series’ classy materials all the way up to 11 with optional walnut and piano black trims for £250 and £560 respectively or add softer Nappa leather seats in black, ivory or mocha for £775.
The seating position is excellent and the seats themselves are both soft and supportive. You can get upgraded comfort seats that come with a massage function as part of the £3,495 Premium Package – perfect if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel.
All models come with a digital driver’s display that replaces conventional analogue dials with a slick customisable screen – just like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system. You can control certain features of the central infotainment screen using gestures as part of the optional £1,495 Technology Package. This feature is not particularly reliable, however, and it’s easier just to use the physical buttons on the steering wheel or the scroll wheel by the gear lever. The £995 optional head-up display is worth paying for – it projects a big display of your speed, the speed limit and your sat-nav directions into the windscreen, so you need never take your eyes off the road.
Its infotainment system is so high-tech you don’t even have to touch it to change the volume – just wave your hand enthusiastically and you’ll have Barry White blaring out in no time
All 5 Series come fitted with BMW’s top-spec iDrive infotainment system, and it’s one of the best in the business. It includes a 10.25-inch screen mounted above the dashboard and a second digital display that replaces old-fashioned analogue dials. Satellite navigation is fitted as standard to all models, too, and the system comes with real-time traffic updates.
You can use a slightly bewildering array of controls to navigate through the system’s various menus – from a touchscreen to gestures controls. Most intuitive, however, is the simple scroll wheel mounted behind the gearlever. It allows you to quickly sift through the menus without taking your eyes off the road for too long and it’s far more responsive than using the occasionally unhelpful voice controls.
Both screens come with bright, high-resolution graphics and are easy to read – even in bright sunlight. Entering a destination into the standard satellite navigation system is fairly easy, although writing letters using your finger on the scroll wheel-mounted touchpad takes longer than you might expect. It’ll plot a route quickly but if you want to add a waypoint it’s more difficult than in an Audi.
Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring system is a £235 optional extra on all models. It’ll let you use your iPhone’s navigation and music streaming apps directly through the car’s built-in screens instead of using BMW’s own systems. Unfortunately, Android Auto smartphone mirroring isn’t available.
The standard stereo sounds pretty good but you can get two upgraded systems, which are worth investigating if you like your music. The £895 Harmon Kardon system sounds crisper and clearer, but if you’re a die-hard audiophile you’ll want to spec the £3,750 Bowers and Wilkins unit, which can blast out tunes loud enough to host an impromptu rave.