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BMW 5 Series review - from 518d to 550i
If we could borrow the Bond-related words of Carly Simon for just a moment: nobody does it better. The BMW 5 Series has been top of its tree since it arrived back in 1972 and even though the sixth-generation car has been around for a while now, it’s still utterly brilliant. There’s so much to commend about the 5 Series, from its vast range of excellent drivetrains to the wonderful blend of creamy ride and impressive handling it possesses, and there are more than enough body styles to suit all tastes. In an era when BMW’s diversification into every weird niche going can sometimes leave brand fans feeling jaded and confused, it’s good to know that Munich still excels in its traditional heartland – building superior sports machines. The ultimate is the M5: still the super saloon daddy.
As with the 3 Series, our own personal advice here is to avoid the Gran Turismo model, which is an ungainly metamorphic amalgamation of 5 Series saloon, Touring and some sort of SUV. While the regular saloon is hardly a looker, the bulbous appearance of the GT is particularly hard to love. It has a more limited engine range than the saloon and Touring models, it doesn’t drive as tidily and it’s more expensive to boot, if you’ll forgive the pun.
BMW offers three versions (SE, Luxury and M Sport) of the ActiveHybrid 5, which comes as a saloon only and is based on the 535i. It teams the 302bhp/295lb ft twin-turbo, 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine with a small, supplementary electric motor housed in its eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. That ups the headline power and torque figures to 335bhp and 332lb ft, but reduces emissions and improves fuel economy to 149g/km and 44.1mpg, supposedly giving you the best of both worlds in terms of performance and parsimony.
There are penalties, though, such as a boot that drops from 520- to 375 litres to accommodate the batteries, an EV-only range of just 2.4 miles at a 37mph maximum, extra weight and the cost – the ActiveHybrid 5 begins from £47,790, which puts it above the halfway price point for the 5 Series saloon line-up; indeed, in like-for-like Luxury spec, it’s only £95 cheaper than the faster, lighter, more frugal 535d.