The new BMW 5 Series has a lot of expectation riding on it. The outgoing car was immensely popular, so has the new one done enough to eclipse this? Darren Cassey finds out

WHAT’S NEW?

According to BMW, the 5 Series is the car most people associate the brand with — more so than even the iconic 3 Series. So when it’s time for a new generation of the car that everyone in the premium executive segment has to beat, it’s a pretty big deal.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise to see that BMW has overhauled the outgoing car without changing its character much at all. The exterior styling is now more taut and muscular, while the technology on display in the cabin is second to none.

The bits you can’t see are totally new, too. The chassis has been renewed and the extensive use of lightweight materials contributes to an overall weight saving of 100kg.

The front axle is a new double-wishbone set-up, coupled with a five-link system at the rear that helps give the kind of ride that rivals can only dream of matching.

LOOKS AND IMAGE

It’s a case of evolution rather than revolution in the looks department, but the minor changes that have been made turn the old car’s bland styling into something altogether more purposeful. The narrow headlights combine with more pronounced creases along the car’s profile to give a muscular appearance.

Inside, the interior is more functional than luxurious, but there’s no denying the quality. The new touchscreen protrudes tablet-like from the dashboard and helps to declutter the centre console by moving more functions into its maze of menus.

Few cars ride quite as sumptuously as this 5 Series. But most impressive of all is the fact this doesn’t translate to the kind of wallowy cornering ability more commonly seen in fishing boats in a rough sea.

The large leather seats are instantly comfortable, and with a range of movement from them and the steering wheel, finding a driving position is easy. It all means that even after a four-hour stint at the wheel, we arrived at our destination feeling fresh.

BMW 5 Series more muscular with the technology to boot

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY

If properly cavernous load space is what you need, you might be better waiting for the estate version. However, the saloon 5 Series isn’t lacking for luggage capacity. There are 530 litres of boot space, which makes it 10 litres smaller than an equivalent Mercedes E-Class - though we’re not sure many buyers would notice the difference.

Families will be pleased to know the interior is even more spacious than before. There’s marginally more headroom and legroom all around, which means the little ones should be more comfortable than ever.

BMW is pretty proud of the safety technology it has implemented into the new 5 Series. The most significant of these can be found in the Driving Assistant Plus package, which is an additional option. Lane departure warning, traffic jam assist and adaptive cruise control are included here.

Some of these features can be annoyingly obtrusive in normal driving, but activate cruise control along with the lane departure system and the car becomes semi-autonomous, allowing you to take your hands off the wheel for short periods. It’s really quite spooky.

WHAT’S UNDER THE BONNET?

The most popular engine variant will be the 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit in the 520d because it keeps both the taxman and the fleet manager happy.

With 185bhp and 400Nm of torque it’s no slouch, but comes with claimed economy figures of 68.9mpg and 108g/km of CO2.

However, those who can get away with it should go for the 530d. The 3.0-litre diesel makes 258bhp, but it’s the way the 620Nm of torque is so deliciously delivered that delights. Around town there’s not a great deal of difference between this and the smaller engine, but find a fun road to exploit the capable chassis and the extra punch is welcome.

In fact, prod the drive mode selector into ‘sport’ and take control of the slick automatic gearbox via the wheel-mounted paddles and we’d argue it’s actually more fun than the sportier 540i petrol — and suits the car’s lazy personality better.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

For such a big car, the BMW 5 Series handles well, and that’s all down to improvements in the chassis. The car’s 100kg lighter than before thanks to the extensive use of lightweight materials, while a new double-wishbone front axle has been tuned to find the balance between driving dynamics and comfort — we reckon the engineers have nailed it.

The 5 Series’ bread and butter is devouring motorway miles, and here it excels. The ride quality is unparalleled and means that however many hours a driver has to stare out the windscreen, they’ll feel relaxed at their destination.

Parking is made easy thanks to a suite of driver assists that use the central touchscreen to give both a bird’s-eye view of the car’s surroundings and a nifty rear-view camera.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The best goodies in the 5 Series are optional extras. It packs better standard kit than before, including a fully digital instrument display, LED headlights and widescreen navigation, which makes it competitive with rivals in this segment.

However, our car came with a long list of optional extras including automatic, four-zone air conditioning, a brilliant head-up display and ‘comfort seats’.

The base 5 Series is hardly spartan, but buyers will have to tick a lot of boxes for the full experience of technology and comfort.

The new infotainment system is one of the best on the market. The touchscreen is as responsive and easy to use as any dedicated tablet, while the widescreen display means that a lot of information can be displayed without it getting too cluttered.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE?

With the new 5 Series, BMW is targeting businessmen and women who spend much of their lives on the road. It can appeal to those who simply want safety, security and a relaxing drive, as well as those who want a little more dynamic capability from time to time.

At a glance

Model: BMW 5 Series

Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60mph: 5.2s, top speed: 155mph

Power: 258bhp, 620Nm

Economy: 56.6mpg

Emissions: 132g/km


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