5-star showing from the new 5-Series.
The BMW 5-Series is a very important car indeed. It’s important to Munich, because the competition in the mid-sized luxury saloon market has really come into their own of late. There’s the über-cool Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the serene Volvo S90, and the scalpel-sharp Jaguar XF all vying for a piece of this very lucrative pie. And it’s important to corporate executives around the globe, because they’ve always relied on some iteration of the 5-Series to make their presences known in the office carpark.
Stereotypes aside, the 5-Series means a lot to BMW. The ‘5’ has been the most definitive BMW in recent years, and while some iterations have divided opinion, every model since 1972 has shared common traits like great handling, excellent comfort, and reasonable practicality, and the G30 is no different. But can the latest ‘evolution’ of the 5er cut it against the sharper, more focused competition?
“The new saloon clearly takes its influence from the latest 7 Series, adopting a much more formal - some might say more conservative - look than the previous 5 Series.” - AutoCar
Due to the sheer volume that the 5-Series brings to the brand, BMW understandably took a more conservative approach when posed with the latest generation 5-Series. Rather than rock the boat (like it did with the E60 of the early noughties), the latest 5er takes its cues from the bigger 7-Series, resulting in an appearance that is more stately and upright. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but it doesn’t have to be. So it isn’t.
Like all modern BMW’s, the new 5er sports wide headlights that meet the signature kidney grilles on either side, while the grilles themselves are now larger and more upright than before. The ‘Corona-ring’ light signatures now have a more geometric pattern, while the bumper sports a full-width lower grille designed to emphasise width. Down the flanks, the ‘hockey-stick’ side vent and corresponding swage line sits proudly, while a crease from the front wheel arches stretches all the way to the rear. As for the rump, it looks wide and purposeful, though it’s opined that it lacks the subtle aggression seen in the 3er and 7er.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The 540i has a stonking petrol engine. Civilised, responsive and lag-free in the mid ranges, it swings into the classic BMW straight-six tunes as it races for the red.” - TopGear
The new 5-Series was revealed in October 2016 along with a range of new engines, largely borrowed from the bigger 7-Series and the smaller 3-Series. Kicking off the range is the smallest diesel, the 520d that packs 140kW and 400Nm (and claims 4.1l/100km). Moving up is the base petrol, the 530i, offering 185kW/350Nm. This engine is a little difficult to justify, what with the lower diesel offering broadly similar performance with compromise in refinement.
Moving up the line is the 530d, with a turbodiesel straight out of the bigger 730d. This unit’s got 195kW of power with 620Nm of twist, which is much, much more than anyone will ever need. Further up is the 540i, with a 3.0-litre turbo straight-six from the 340i. Power is now rated at 250kW, while the torque figure sits at 450Nm. Top-dog here is the M550i xDrive, packing a 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, packing an amazing 340kW and 650Nm. The range-topper manages to hit 100km/h from rest in just 4-seconds, which is faster than the outgoing F10 BMW M5. What the new M5 will manage, is anyone’s guess.
“Interior changes follow the lead of the exterior: subtle as a seasoned auction bidder's nods.” - Road & Track
The interior design follows the lead set by the exterior, being more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Reinvention can upset long-standing customers with preset expectations, so BMW’s played it safe. But we should make it clear that the cabin of the new 5er is hardly old-hat, with the very latest tech jammed into every inch of the cabin. Aesthetically, it’s all familiar and recognisable as a modern BMW, with revisions to switchgear and materials elevating the levels of offered luxury closer to those of the bigger 7-Series. The layered dash design is clearly from the bigger car, but the centre console is angled subtly toward the driver; a unique design element from older 5ers.
The seats are now more comfortable than before too, while the rear-half of the cabin now offers considerably more space than the outgoing car. Put all this together, and the cabin of the 5er is a properly nice place to be, feeling more like a shrunken 7-Series than a bloated 3-Series. Tech-wise, the very latest iDrive system is employed here, with top models utilising a 10.3-inch touchscreen mounted on the dash, and a fully-digital instrument display sitting ahead of the driver.
Behind the Wheel
“On the road, the 5-Series has an all-round polished character that is as refined as it is dynamic.” - Drive
The 5-Series also feels more like a smaller 7 than an engorged 3 out on the road too, with more refinement and composure than the outgoing car. Though it doesn’t lumber (far from it, actually), it doesn’t feel like agility and responsiveness were top on the list of BMW’s priorities for the new 5er, resulting in a ride that is more grand tourer than B-road barnstormer. The new 5-Series also debuts a revised four-wheel steering system, which brings all the benefits (tighter turning radius, added stability) without the disjointed, unnatural sensations of the older version.
The preview drive only supplied the 530d xDrive and the 540i sDrive, with the former being all-wheel drive and the latter, rear-wheel drive. The 530d boasts incredible levels of refinement, offering torquey diesel performance with little drawback. With 195kW and 620Nm, we’d wonder how wise a rear-driven version of this car would be, as the xDrive all-wheel drive version tested sometimes scrambled for traction when the torque kicked in. The 540i sDrive was a more predictable experience, with BMW’s fabled 3.0-litre straight-six (turbocharged, of course) fitted under the bonnet. 250kW and 450Nm on tap means it’s likely the engine of choice for spirited drivers, with a throaty exhaust note under heavy acceleration.
All new 5ers will employ BMW’s excellent 8-speed automatic gearbox, which works well regardless of power plant. The only exception to this is the entry-level 520d, which will be offered with a manual gearbox.
“Its driver-assist features are more annoying than helpful. They’re the kind that gave rise to the pejorative term ‘nannies.’” - Car & Driver
The latest 5-Series sees the inclusion of BMW’s latest and greatest semi-autonomous driving technology, paired with strong body architecture. On the former, BMW has given the new 5er enough smarts to drive and park itself, and enough integrated active safety aids to assists and bolster its radar-guided cruise control and lane-keeping functions. The new 5er is capable of navigating through heavy traffic all on its own, while at motorway speeds, it can keep itself in the middle of the lane. Opinions vary on the autonomous driving capabilities (some call it refined, others call it overprotective), but it certainly represents a leap forward for the marque, bringing it a little bit closer to fully autonomous driving capabilities.
Things like a larger head up display, now clearer and more vivid than previous iterations, displays all relevant information right into the driver’s line of sight, while GPS and road-sign recognition software work hand-in-hand to refine the automatic stop/start functionality of the engine to suit conditions. It’s smart.
The new 5-Series has yet to be tested by international safety regulators, but we expect it to fare respectably in all areas.
If ever there was a car that could play it risky, it certainly isn’t the 5-Series. With the 5er of the new millennium rocking the boat harder than anything before it, BMW learnt its lesson and reigned it in a bit. And with over 2.2-million iterations of the 5er sold worldwide, it’s clearly a recipe that works for the marque and for the product, so best to stick to it.
The 5-Series is now an altogether more competent car than before, and this will likely pay dividends. However, competition now is stronger than ever, with alternatives like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the Jaguar XF, and the Volvo S90 bringing the game on strong. We don’t think it’ll faze the 5er, though; It’s that good.
From this brief preview, we’d recommend the 530d as the pick of the bunch, with its punchy diesel power plant, great fuel economy, and uncompromised refinement. This is likely going to be the best 5er for all occasions, but a 540i xDrive may make a teeny bit more sense if you prioritise driving a little more.
TopGear - 90/100 - “It’s a fabulously ownable car. Wonderfully secure on any road. Fast and yet refined. Comfortable in its ride and seats. With cabin quality and ergonomics developed to a world-leading pitch.”
Car & Driver - 90/100 - “Without compromising comfort or luxury, the newest 5-series pulls the middle-child BMW back toward that athletic virtue that once made BMW unique. It’s not a wholesale reawakening for the brand, but it’s enough to stoke our nostalgia.”
Drive - 90/100 - “All in all, there's a lot to like about the seventh-generation 5-Series. It is a great car to drive in any event, whether it's pounding the city streets between meetings, leisurely cruising the highways to get out of the rat race or blowing the cob webs out on a back country mountain pass.”
AutoCar - 90/100 - “The crowning achievement here for BMW has been to broaden the ability of the 5 Series to a point where is it now every bit as capable, if not more so, than the talented Mercedes-Benz E-Class. As well as offering a much higher level of perceived quality and greater accommodation, it is also vastly more mature in terms comfort and refinement – areas that are absolutely crucial to success in the executive saloon ranks.”
Road & Track - 90/100 - “BMW has shifted almost eight million 5-series since the first in 1972 and claims it's the model people most associate with the brand. If you're going to get a car wrong this isn't the one. BMW hasn't got it wrong. The extra refinement is astounding, the chassis still better than anyone else's. But how about a sprinkle of E60 ballsiness, next time, Munich?”
Motor Trend - 90/100 - “The G30 5-Series’ driver’s door shuts effortlessly and luxuriously, as 40 years of progress should easily accomplish. More importantly, the door has closed on this chapter of the 5-Series’ life where sport takes a backseat to luxury. Maybe, if it tries really hard, this generation can make a name all for itself.”
Car - 90/100 - “The new 5-series is still driver focused, but it's a shame the new car nestles under a same-again wardrobe - inside and out. For the first time in ages, we can say that the Five is more conservative than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.”
AutoExpress - 100/100 - “With more than forty years of development under its belt, the 5 Series just gets better and better. This latest model is a technical tour de force, plus it delivers class leading refinement and comfort. Yet like all BMW models, it’s surprisingly efficient and great to drive. We’ll have to wait until we get the car in the UK for our definitive verdict, but on this showing the executive car class has a new king.”