BMW 5-series review - is this the best saloon in the world?

BMW's most complete 5-series ever, there are almost no compromises in this exceptional executive.

Evo rating
  • Where to start? Powertrains, supremely competent handling and exceptional build quality
  • Feels big on the road, drab styling.

For decades the BMW 5 Series has ruled the executive car roost - and the latest G30 version is no exception. Almost as big and refined and a 7 Series, but with more than a dash of driver involvement, the capable four-door saloon still remains relevant, despite operating in a sea of upmarket SUVs.

Built on the same light and strong platform as the 7 Series (but without that car's expensive Carbon Core), the BMW 5-series offers a range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engine options, and will also forms the basis for the fire-breathing M5 super saloon. But the new 5-series doesn’t have the executive sector to itself, so can it fight off the best in premium business class – namely the Audi A6, Mercedes E-class and Jaguar XF?

Available in saloon and Touring estate guise, the 5-series can’t offer quite the breadth of bodystyle choice now that the controversial 5-series GT has been dropped. That curious hatcback model’s demise is only in name, though, as a new 6-series GT has been released to replace it.

BMW 5-series: in detail

  • Performance and 0-62mph time > The cooking G30 5-series could well offer the most capable engine range in the business. All of them are generally at or near the best in class performance wise.
  • Engine and gearbox > Engine ranges are limited at this stage to four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel options. These are all now exclusively connected to an 8-speed ZF sourced automatic gearbox.
  • Ride and Handling > Always a dynamic benchmark in the class, the G30 builds on the previous model’s talents, while continuing to improve on comfort and refinement.  
  • MPG and running costs > BMW is very close to having its cake and eating it too with the diesels, with impressive MPG despite the heady performance they offer. Petrol cars are thirstier, but still offer impressive MPG compared to rivals. 
  • Interior and tech > The interior may not immediately look different to other large BMW models, but step inside and you’ll soon notice the excellent built quality and impressive standard kit on all models.
  • Design > Possibly the most disappointing part of the 5-series, the saloon fails to look immediately distinguishable from its predecessor and has some surprisingly awkward angles.

Prices, specs and rivals: 

The BMW 5-series starts at a tad over £37k for an entry-level 520d with rear-wheel drive. Unlike with the previous F10 5-series though, BMW has kept the variations relatively simple, dropping the Luxury, Modern and Sport trims and now just offering SE and M Sport options. For now, the entry-level petrol option is the 530i starting at just under £41k, meanwhile the six-cylinder 530d and 540i are £45k and £48k respectively. BMW will also sell you a 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid for just under £45k. 

If you want a 5-series with sportier overtones, M Sport variants are between £3770 and £4295 on top of the SE’s price, while xDrive all-wheel drive is an option on both diesels for an extra £2k. Aside from tiddly 17-inch wheels, standard equipment is impressive with LED headlights, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control and BMW’s crisp 10.25-inch display connected to the latest iDrive infotainment system all standard.

The most efficient way of building on the equipment level is via BMW’s option packages, each bundling together a combination of features that take the 5-series from being well endowed to positively dripping with tech. Burrow further into the options list and you will find a faintly preposterous range of toys, including a £3750 Bowers and Wilkins sound system, massaging seats, remote control parking and a Driving Assistance Plus system which reaches level 2 autonomous driving - that is the ability to take over in two functions ie steering and throttle in a traffic jam.

In the executive class though, the BMW does not have the playing field to itself. Mercedes-Benz moved the goal posts further than ever with its latest E-class, presenting the class with a true luxury car in (relative) miniature. The E-class has a more spacious and technologically advanced looking interior, but lacks the BMW’s driving finesse. Jaguar’s XF is arguably a better handling option than the new 5-series, but is worlds away from the BMW and Mercedes-Benz when it comes to interior ambiance and general refinement.

The Volvo S90 is now also a rival to be taken into consideration, possibly being the best looking and most serene executive option available, but like the Mercedes is not quite as talented where dynamics are concerned. Audi’s A6 is also well outclassed by the BMW, although an all-new model is now close away and will likely challenge the 5-series for class honours when it arrives early in 2018.

Overall, the 5-series functions in much the same way as it’s predecessors did, offering a brilliant compromise between driving pleasure and overall saloon car excellence regardless of engine or spec. The Touring model shares all the good stuff with the saloon too, but does so with a bigger, pooch worthy carrying capability.

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