Ride and handling
The 5 Series is still ahead of the pack when it comes to sharp dynamics, comfortably out-performing both the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6, but if we were to put our hyper-critical BMW fanatic hats on, it’s evident that Munich has skewed the overall set-up slightly more towards comfort than outright handling excellence in the latest generation. It’s so subtle that many wouldn’t notice it, but if you’re a long-term 5 Series fan, the almost indiscernible woolly edges to the current models’ responses will be enough to grate. Chief offender is the steering, which is good by electrically assisted standards but still lacking feel against a hydraulic set-up.
What the 5 Series compensates with is a glorious ride that is little short of perfect, even on models with big alloys and sporty suspension. The GT tips this comfort-grip balance even further in the direction of the former attribute, so if you like a really cossetting ride, go for the hatchback model.
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Like so many modern cars, the level of mechanical grip the 5 Series can summon up is immense and you won’t lament the lack of an xDrive option in the UK - not in the dry anyway. It turns in keenly, can be coaxed into oversteer in a reasonably easy fashion in the higher-power versions and has top drawer body control. Options include adaptive suspension that allows you to select from a variety of drive modes on the Driving Experience Control switch, and there’s a marked difference between the Comfort and Sport+ modes if you choose this; we’d recommend adaptive over the regular passive set-up.
So there’s little chance most owners will find much to complain about, but the 5 Series’ dominance as the driver’s choice in this sector could be under threat from the new Jaguar XF; if the British car’s baby brother, the XE, is anything to go by, the XF should be a sensationally good sports saloon. That would give BMW something to think about when the current Five is replaced by the seventh-generation car in a few years’ time.
'Integral Active Steering (four-wheel steering) and Adaptive Drive (active anti-roll bars) are necessary options to bring the Five alive, but thus equipped it has precision and rides well.' John Simister, evo 164.