- Executive styling is smart and sporty
- Excellent balance of comfort and driver enjoyment
- Estate offers superb practicality and good looks
- Older models are a bit dated
- Boot space of the saloon isn't as practical as rivals
- Parts can be expensive
With superb presence and upmarket looks, the 5 Series excels in combining luxury and technology with a great drive.
Inside the 5 Series, you’ll find high-quality materials and lots of space in the front and back. There’s a great choice of petrol and diesel engines and the range is topped by the awesome M5 Sport.
It’s available as a stylish saloon, elegant and sporty estate or the Gran Turismo (GT). Each provides a great drive with a comfortable ride and all the practicality a modern executive requires.
Everything feels very premium. There are thick padded materials covering the dashboard, the buttons all have a solid feel and the seats are of the highest quality. Trim surfaces, such as aluminium or carbon fibre, make the areas you touch feel luxurious.
The driving position is slightly lower than rivals, which offers a comfortable and relaxed posture for cruising but also positions you nicely if you fancy some quicker, more involved driving. The steering wheel is chunky and very responsive, while all the controls fall easily to hand and include a number of different ways to control the iDrive infotainment system.
The introduction of the latest generation in 2017 saw the interior move even closer to the super luxurious 7 Series flagship BMW in terms of luxury, comfort and design. There’s more equipment, better Bluetooth connectivity and a much larger infotainment screen with the option of features such as gesture control, which recognises the driver’s hand movements.
Rear legroom is excellent and boot space is also good at 530 litres, so you’ll easily fit in three large suitcases. If you go green with the 530e hybrid, the boot shrinks to 410 litres. The estate and 5 GT offer more space and flexibility than the saloon.
The 5 Series might be an executive car but it has a sporty side. The latest generation is packed with driver assistance systems and useful items, such as a head-up display which projects essential information onto the windscreen so it is in the driver’s line of sight.
Handling is superb and even the entry-level engines provide a good level of power whether cruising on the motorway or winding your way along B-roads. Diesel is definitely the best choice, unless you want the power that comes with the 540i or the latest M5.
The 520d has a great balance of power and economy. It rarely struggles even with five passengers and their luggage, making it the most popular choice in the range. For a bit more power consider the 530d. All versions have eight-speed automatic gearboxes.
Ride comfort is a little firm, particularly if you choose a model with the popular M Sport package. Ideally, find one with the Variable Damper Control which allows you to choose the set up you want, whether that’s comfort or sport (performance) mode. The xDrive-equipped latest generation models tend to use more fuel but are perfect if you want more control.
A used 5 Series can be a real bargain, thanks to big depreciation from new and the opportunity to buy a model that’s been fitted with loads of executive extras. Running costs aren't as high as you might expect, particularly if you go for a diesel engine such as the 520d which delivers up to 52 mpg. Hybrid models can be even more frugal but they’re expensive to buy.
Road tax and insurance can be quite high depending on the model but are on a par with BMW’s executive rivals.
The 5 Series is well built with proven engines and technology, but it can suffer from a few reliability issues, particularly with the engine and electrical components. These can prove expensive so you’d be wise to shop around for the best servicing deals.
There’s loads of safety equipment, from driver assistance systems and active cruise control. The latest generation has more technology to keep you and your passengers even safer.
Best for economy - 520d SE
Best for family - 520d SE Touring (estate)
Best for fun - M5
Prior to 2017, there were more models in the range but the Luxury version of the 520d is a fantastic choice. If you want something that looks and feels a bit more sporty, then opt for an M Sport version.
The line-up was simplified so there are now just two trims in the new generation with the SE being the best all-rounder.