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

The G30 version of the BMW 5-series is still relatively new to the executive class here in the UK, and its endeavour to appeal to all in such a competitive marketplace could have left it undefined and compromised. But the BMW 5-series offers such a wide set of skills in the class, this new car could well be the most rounded and competent car yet to carry the famous badge.

Built around a new, lightened platform, the BMW 5-series offers a range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engine options, and will also form the basis of a new upcoming 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 A6Mercedes 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 hatchbacked model’s demise is only in name, though, as a new 6-series GT has been released to replace it.

Performance and 0-100km/h time

BMW’s latest suite of engines is definitely one of the 5-series’ major draws. At the entry point is the ubiquitous 2-litre turbo diesel producing 140kW. Badged 520d, a relatively lithe kerb weight and snappy automatic gearbox mean it will reach 100km/h in around 7.5 seconds. The Mercedes-Benz E220 d is both quicker and more efficient on paper, but the differences are negligible in the real world.

Mercedes-Benz All-Terrain – Review

The other four-cylinder engine is found in the 530i, which like the 3-series has dropped two cylinders despite the historical nameplate. The 0-100km/h dash is dealt with in a brisk 6.2 seconds, but performance all-round is impressive, certainly for something that can still return over 50mpg on the combined cycle.

Confusingly, the 530d retains its inline-six engine, besting the 530i by half a second in the 0-100km/h sprint. The 530d is perhaps most enchanting at speed however, as the stout torque figure gives supreme performance at any velocity. BMW has ventured close to internal combustion perfection in its latest set of modular six-cylinder engines.

Top of the tree is the 540i, doing the deed in just 4.8 seconds, but the petrol powered straight-six is not the most impressive 5-series engine and plays second fiddle to the supremely talented diesel.

Engine and gearbox

The G30 5-series is still in its infancy in the UK, so engine choices have not yet expanded to the variety of its predecessor. Currently, all engine options are based off BMW’s latest modular engine architecture, each sharing a basic 500cc per cylinder capacity and 8-speed ZF torque converter automatic.

The entry-level 520d utilises the B47 engine that is used throughout the BMW and Mini range. Overall power figures are not especially ground breaking in comparison to rivals at 187bhp at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque from 1750rpm, but the engine’s ability to generate considerable shove at low rpm paired with a slick and intuitive transmission means you rarely feel short changed compared to the six-cylinder options.

The BMW 530i uses the B48 four-cylinder, producing a stout 210kW at 5200rpm and 350Nm of torque from a lowly 1450rpm. It’s that torque figure that reflects what the 530i is like to drive, majoring on low-end torque much like the diesels.

The 530d eschews the downsizing trend and keeps its six-cylinder engine, using the all-new B48 unit that already serves in the 7-series. This new six-cylinder diesel is super impressive, being hushed at all speeds, having almost no turbo lag and feeling incredibly strong at low rpm thanks to its 620Nm of torque. Power is rated at 195kW. As a result, despite our usual petrol tendencies, in the 5-series, it is the 530d that is our pick of the range.

> review BMW 530i

The 540i, available only with xDrive all-wheel drive, can’t match the torque figure of the 530d with only 450Nm, so despite a 55kW (250kW in total) advantage over the diesel, doesn’t really feel that much faster. The 540i also does without any petrol-like qualities to rationalise its fuel type, being utterly refined, but without any real character.

If only a hybrid will suffice, BMW has recently launched the 530e iPerformance, complete with a roughly 30 mile electric range. Producing a total power output of 185kW and 420Nm of torque, the 530e utilises a combination of a 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine and an electric motor and lithium ion battery pack.

> Click for more on BMW M5 series 

Coming later this year will be an obligatory M5, sharing the same basic 4.4-litre V8 twin turbo with the outgoing car, only this time with over 445kW and all-wheel drive. Unfortunately, BMW are not (for now anyway) willing to offer the two M Performance derivatives that are available in other markets in the UK. The M550i and M550d both have startling performance, the former V8 petrol out sprinting the previous M5 and the latter making use of four (!) turbochargers on its 3-litre diesel engine.

Ride and handling

BMW has long set the benchmark for sweet handling executive cars, and the new G30 is no different. It’s ultimately more about infinite capability than excitement but BMW took no chances with the latest 5-series to ensure it had a breadth of abilities that would surpass all rivals.

As a base, BMW has upgraded the 5-series’ core structure by stiffening the areas around the sub assemblies and suspension mounting points. This added stiffness has been combined with a reduction in weight and a lower centre of gravity, imbuing the 5-series with an impressively sorted chassis.

Like all cars, the choice of wheel and tyre does have an effect on the overall ride and handling, with 18-inch wheels the sweet spot size-wise as they still have enough sidewall to absorb the worst impacts without transferring them into the cabin.

The optional adaptive dampers improve the ride quality further, but also tighten up the body control when speeds rise and ‘Sport mode’ is selected. The front end has a surprisingly tenacious appetite for apex’, with light, but accurate electric steering giving you confidence to carry considerable speed into corners. The rest of the car follows faithfully, with excellent body control over even the roughest UK road surfaces.

When fitted with xDrive all-wheel-drive, the 5-series’ is almost completely transparent, the rear-biased only involving the front wheels when the car feels it’s necessary. Traction is rightly improved though, allotting the 5-series impervious levels of grip regardless of the conditions. If you were worried tail out antics are now out of the question, just ask yourself when was the last time you saw a cooking 5-series on its lock-stops anyway.

On motorways and a-roads, the 5-series is just as capable, being both comfortable and incredibly refined at high speeds. BMW’s continued move towards autonomous tech is also notable, offering level two autonomy on motorways, which is to say it will, for short periods of time, combine radar guided cruise control with lane-keep assist to drive autonomously on motorways.

MPG and running costs

BMW’s impressive MPG figures are entirely due to tireless work removing weight and refining the drivetrains. The 520d is available in two specifications, the standard car being able to reach a combined figure of 68.9 mpg. For company car buyers, or those wanting to hand over as little as possible tax, an ED or EfficientDynamics model will hit an even more impressive 72.4mpg, while only just skimming over 100g/km.

The 530d is just as impressive, if not more so when it’s relative performance capability is taken into consideration. Able to reach up to 62.8mpg on the combined cycle, it’s mightily impressive. Petrol versions unsurprisingly don’t hit quite the same heights with 51.4 and 40.9mpg for the 530i and 540i respectively. The 530e iPerformance runs at 149mpg on paper, but like most plug-in hybrids, this figure is heavily dependent on how much electric charge is in the batteries at any one point and your resulting level of reliance on the internal combustion engine.

Interior and tech

BMW must have shuddered when it first saw the new Mercedes-Benz E-class’ interior. Arguably even more luxurious and elaborate than the flagship S-class, the car quickly defined itself as the new standard in interior design. By contrast, at first sight of the BMW 5-series interior you might have initially been a little underwhelmed, but the workmanship and technology inside goes more than skin deep.

The first thing that strikes you is the sheer quality; every surface feels sturdy and luxurious. Although there is lots of scratch prone glossy black plastic, most material use is excellent. Sharing a similar basic dash architecture with the 7-series, the 5 replaces the silver control surfaces with sharper black ones. As standard, the 5-series receives a 10.25-inch display connected to the latest iteration of iDrive, although the fully digital instrument cluster and large head-up display are still optional extras.

When interacting with the layered tech, the BMW is actually the more instinctive to use than the Mercedes E-class, which can be fiddly and a little distracting when both 12.3-inch displays are in use. The quality count is also slightly in the BMW’s favour, with even lower plastics soft touch and sturdy feeling. By contrast you don’t have to look far in an E-class to find some low rent materials.

The 5-series is also vast inside, with plenty of space for even three adults to sit comfortably in the back. The Touring just adds to this, making the new 5-series arguably the premium estate to beat, even if it lacks the NASA Launchpad sized load-bay of the E-class.

Design

Whereas the 5-series moves the executive class in most measurable ways, its Achilles heel is arguably the exterior design. The overall shape is recognisable from the previous generation, sharing its traditional cab-back silhouette with most other BMW saloons. This time though, aerodynamics have played a big role in the details, which has both good and bad knock-on effects.

The large, upright kidney grilles look good in isolation, however the headlights that flank them are proportionately oversized in comparison. This is then compounded by the fact that the grille cuts into the bonnet, again, in isolation that’s fine but it leaves the whole front end without a brow like on the smaller 3-series. The oversized and complex lower apertures don’t help, leaving the front of the car looking a little fussy but more importantly, devoid of any inherent aggression.

The rear has been heavily informed by the wind tunnel, as the boxier shape aids airflow as it whips past the car. The heavily wrapped rear lights have the same issue as the headlights, looking too big and out of proportion with the rest of the car. The estate manages to avoid this problem, looking a little more rounded and less awkward from most angles.

These design choices are a real shame though, as the main of the body is well proportioned and nicely detailed. Like the larger 7-series, the 5 has a body crease accentuating the Hofmeister kink before returning down the flank towards the front wheel arch. In a clever use of surfacing, that accent line is then joined onto the more traditional character line, eventually flicking round and then terminating at the taillight.

M Sport models feature the usual mix of differently styled front and rear fascias, while reducing the amount of chrome and upping the wheel size. Aside from the Bangle era E60, the 5-series has always been a pillar of design conservatism and the new car is no different. It will definitely appeal to its target audience.

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