The BMW 5 Series is not here to shock you. It won’t be generating headlines and might not get you noticed. In black or grey, it puts stealth bombers to shame with how under-the-radar it can be. This is a car for people who are more concerned about how they feel when driving, not just how they look.
The only surprise you will get from the 5 Series is how large it seems. It’s so wide and long it’s easily mistaken for its big brother, the 7 Series. This confusion isn't helped by how similar-looking all BMW's saloons are. Identifying a 3 Series from a 5 Series or 7 Series, without looking at the badge, requires the kind of eye that can name different planes in the sky..
It puts stealth bombers to shame with how under-the-radar it can be.
What’s it like to drive?
The BMW 5 Series straddles two opposing worlds – it‘s a luxury car and fun to drive. It’s so serene and quiet that it makes driving just about the most relaxing thing you can do with your eyes open. Take one glance at the 5 Series’ weight, though – around 1.5 tons for the lightest, most basic model – and you would expect something deeply luxurious.
What you don’t anticipate – what with that weight and calming ambience – is a car ready to shake off its dowdy image and get wild. The BMW 5 Series is sharp and agile in a way that shouldn’t really be possible for a car so large. The lesser-powered models could never be described as exciting. They do retain the same eager attitude evident in the sporty versions – the M550i and M5. And they’re some of the best super saloons you can buy, if you have deep pockets.
It‘s a luxury car and fun to drive
When it comes to technology, the BMW 5 Series, again, occupies two very different realms. It possesses some of the most user-friendly car tech available, while at the same time can be equipped with some, frankly, silly gimmicks.
The key to the 5 Series’ usability is the iDrive system that includes a dial on the centre console that controls the main infotainment screen. You don’t need to be taught how to use the 5 Series’ controls, the iDrive is simple and intuitive.
Then there’s the gesture control function, an option BMW offers where you use your hands like you’re conducting an orchestra to control the onboard computers. Not only does swiping and twirling your hand around feel ludicrous, when the car does correctly detect your motion, it rarely responds with the accuracy you need. It’s got nothing on physical dials or buttons and doesn’t quite work like sci-fi inspired robotic surgery has promised us. We’d recommend keeping hands firmly on the wheel instead.
If the gesture control's lack of response should raise your heart rate, the rest of the 5 Series is there to settle it. The cabin is thoughtfully laid out, made from choice materials and exudes quality.
As is typical of a big saloon, the BMW 5 Series has a deep cavernous boot. While the lid opens to create a large aperture, you’ll never be able to fit anything too tall into the back of the car – it’s not as spacious as an SUV or a hatchback. The 5 Series does also come as a Touring version. That’s BMW’s fancy way of selling an ‘estate’.
As well as a taller boot space and an even bigger load aperture, you can also fold down the rear seats of the BMW 5 Series Touring, and that almost triples the size of space.
Running costs and reliability
BMW has been building the 5 Series for almost 50 years – it’s now into its seventh generation. Naturally, you’d expect many of the issues and niggles to have been ironed out by now and that seems to be the case. There are rare cases of faulty electrics. The latest version of the 5 Series is proving reliable.
The BMW 5 Series’ official quoted economy figures vary massively, from over 140mpg for the hybrid models to around 35mpg for the more powerful versions. As is often the case, it’s not quite so easy to replicate these results in typical day-to-day driving. Still, expect around 40mpg in most models and you won’t be disappointed.
What cinch loves
You can’t help but be impressed with the way the BMW 5 Series transforms from a well-mannered luxury car into something with a sporty edge, whenever you need it to. It’s the perfect car for someone who needs to shuttle their family or colleagues around in comfort, and doesn’t want to compromise on fun.