The newest addition to the executive class is the all-new 5-Series, stepping up BMW’s growing presence with in-car technology and semi-autonomous driving aids.
Following on from the flagship 7-Series, the new 5-Series takes many cues from its larger counterpart, both stylistically, as well as through available technologies, including remote parking via the key fob.
With ever-improving competition from the likes of Jaguar and Volvo, not to mention traditional rivals, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, the new 5-Series needs to be as great to maintain its competitive edge.
Vehicle Style: Prestige large sedan
Price: $93,900-$136,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel (520d), 185kW/350Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol (530i), 195kW/620Nm 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo diesel (530d), 250kW/450Nm 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol (540i) | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.3 (520d), 5.8 (530i), 4.7 (530d) 6.7 (540i) l/100km | Tested: 7.2 (520d), 10.2 (530i), 10.4 (540i) l/100km
From launch, the 5-Series range offers four variants, the diesel 520d and 530d, and petrol 530i and 540i. In keeping with BMW’s sporting flavour, M-sport styling is standard on 530 and 540 models and optional on the 520d with more a plush Luxury Line package also available.
Compared with the outgoing model, the latest generation now starts at a higher $93,900 entry point, (up by over $9000) but BMW claims an extra $6255 in value with items like a head-up display, wireless phone charging, surround-view camera, and the Driving Assistant Plus suite of technologies (see Safety), Comfort Access and more joining the standard features list.
The four-cylinder petrol 530i ($108,900) and six-cylinder diesel 530d ($119,900) share their standard specification and add 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio, M Sport 19-inch wheels, brakes and styling, sports seats, adaptive LED headlights, dynamic damper control and a power-opening boot lid.
Step up to the 540i ($136,900) and the standard features list grows to include 20-inch wheels, electric sunroof, rear window blinds Nappa leather upholstery, Adaptive Drive with active anti-roll bars, Comfort front seats with ventilation and memory.
The chassis and body are also all new, with a greater use of lightweight materials including aluminium, magnesium, and high-strength steel bringing the final weight down by 95kg compared with the previous model.
- 520d: Leather seat trim, Sensatec-covered dashboard, dual-zone climate control, head-up display, wireless charge pad, electrically adjustable front seats and steering column, keyless entry and start, LED headlights, cruise control with speed limiter, speed limit information, illuminated sill plates, 18-inch alloy wheels
- 530i/530d: (in addition to 520d) power-operated boot, front seat lumbar support, heated front sports seats, adaptive LED headlights, 12.3-inch instrument cluster display, 19-inch alloy wheels
- 540i: (in addition to 530i/530d) Nappa leather seat trim, ventilated Comfort front seats with memory, four-zone climate control, electric glass sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 10.25-inch touchscreen display, iDrive controller, DAB+ digital radio, satellite navigation, ConnectedDrive online services, 12-speaker audio (520d) or 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio (530i/530d an above)
- Options Available: M Sport Package, Precision Package, Comfort Package, Innovations Package, Indulgence package (depending on model and specification, single options also available)
- Cargo Volume: 530 litres, expandable vis 40:20:40 folding rear seat
The interior has been redesigned in line with the latest themes introduced on the 7-Series with an angular look to the interior elements, and a range of new high-quality finishes including aluminium and wood trims.
Standard inclusions encompass dual-zone climate control, real leather seats, Sensatec ‘artificial leather’ on the dash and door uppers, 10.25-inch infotainment with touch and iDrive controls, satellite navigation, and a new larger head-up display.
Go top-line with the 540i and ventilated Nappa leather Comfort seats are also included, as is four-zone climate control (called Ambient Air) with air ionisation, a powered glass sunroof, and a powered rear windscreen shade with manual side window shades in the rear.
The interior finishes are all spot-on, with tightly fitted panel gaps, consistent button feel, and a fine balance of wood and metal decor, and a range of handsome colour combinations available. The standard Dakota leather leaves little to complain about, but move up to the Nappa leather of the 540i (or as part of the optional Exclusive Package on other variants) and the interior moves up yet another notch.
The wheelbase has grown slightly over the previous model, which equates to extra rear legroom, and certainly from the rear seat the 5 Series offers a decent amount of space, with plenty of head clearance to ease getting in and out.
Wireless charging is standard on all models (it also recharges the optional display key) but currently Apple iPhone users will need to add a compatible case. Similarly, the 5 Series debuts wireless CarPlay for Apple phones, but BMW has put this feature on the options list rather than as a standard inclusion.
Boot space grows slightly to 530 litres, and in-cabin storage is well served with wide door pockets, covered front cupholders, and the wireless charge-pad’s storage tray.
ON THE ROAD
- 520d: 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
- 530i: 185kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- 530d: 195kW/620Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel
- 540i: 250kW/450Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Wishbone front, multilink rear - adaptive on 530i/530d and above
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, 12.05m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 2000kg braked, 750kg unbraked
BMW has long held a reputation for delivering keen driver’s cars, but over the years its competitors have also sharpened their offerings, meaning the once obvious dynamic edge has now been diluted slightly.
In this latest generation BMW hasn’t backed down from its dynamic roots, and the range still delivers an engaging experience for drivers.
The four-cylinder petrol 530i is tipped to be the most popular variant, and after time behind the wheel it isn't hard to see why. With 185kW of power and 350Nm of torque the 530i (which takes over from the previous 528i) is a sweetly balanced performer.
The engine itself is whisper quiet, and BMW’s eight-speed automatic is calibrated seamlessly while awakening instantly should the driver up the pace.
Through rolling bends, the nose points accurately, although the steering can feel a little over-assisted in Comfort mode, but weights up nicely in Sport mode - which also transforms the instrument cluster into more performance oriented display to set the sporting tone.
Similarly, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder 520d also performs far more harmoniously than might be expected of an entry level engine. Low noise and vibration maintain the luxury feel and the 140kW/400Nm outputs result in very respectable performance.
If extra power is required the 3.0-litre six-cylinder 540i with 250kW and 450Nm is more than capable of meeting that need (at least until a new M5 arrives), with a rapid claimed 0-100 km/h time of 5.1 seconds.
The 540i also includes Integral Active Steering and Adaptive Drive chassis control as standard (though both can be added to lesser variants as options). Integral Active Steering, BMW’s version of four-wheel steering, helps reduce the turning circle at low speeds by turning the rear wheels opposite to the fronts, but at higher speeds steers the rear in the same direction as the front wheels for added stability.
Adaptive Drive works on the anti-roll bars for flatter cornering, and works in concert with the adaptive Dynamic Damper Control system (standard on 530i and 530d) that can respond to changes in the road surface for a more comfortable ride as well as stepping from soft to firm via Sport mode.
First impressions suggest that the systems to indeed match the claims that BMW makes, but on our brief introduction to the car in the winding roads between Adelaide and Birdsville, the Active Steering system didn’t add to the already settled feel of the standard system, instead giving the 540i a more flighty feel through tight bends.
ANCAP Rating: The BMW 5 Series has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Standard safety features on all models include Driving Assistant Plus, a suite of technologies including active cruise control with stop-and-go, front and rear cross traffic warning, lane keeping assistance, side collision protection, rear collision prevention and crossroads warning - and Parking Assistant Plus with front and rear park sensors, semi-automated parking, surround-view cameras, and user-programmed navigation-based camera activation points for camera views.
Speed Limit Assist uses cameras to monitor speed signs and can relay the current speed zone to the driver, and with the speed limiter or cruise control set the current speed can be updated via steering wheel confirmation. Six airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain), ABS brakes, traction and stability control, pre-collision preparation, and autonomous emergency braking are also fitted as standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals are based around 12month/20,000km ‘condition based’ servicing. BMW Service Inclusive pre-paid servicing covers the first five years/80,000km (whichever occurs first) for $1640.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Every bit the S-Class inside, the newest Mercedes-Benz E-Class puts forward plenty of glitz and glam, yet still offers fake leather trim inside. Dual-screen infotainment and instruments look properly high-tech and ride comfort in base models is spot-on.
Vying for the title of enthusiasts choice, the Jaguar XF brings svelte styling inside and out and delivers plenty of on-road promise with crisp handling and sweetly accurate steering.
With every generation the Lexus GS moves closer to its Euro competitors and the latest version, though still behind on interior finishes (and arguably exterior styling), is almost as pleasant to drive but importantly, particularly for business operators, is more affordable from the get-go.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new technology in the new 5-Series is mighty impressive. In speed limit-obsessed Australia, the Speed Limit Assist feature reduces some of the stress of spotting every speed limit change, while Driving Assistant Plus adds more driver assistance features than ever before to the 5-Series and can even allow up to half a minute of hands-off driving (BMW suggests that might be handy for opening a bottle of water or similar).
On 530i and 530d the digital instrument cluster is a sure sign that there’s so much more that can be done with a traditional instrument display, and new ways to operate the infotainment system with touch, handwriting, voice control, click-wheel and optional gesture control mean almost everyone can find a means of operation that they’re happy with.
At its core though, the 5-Series still does luxury well. It is quiet and comfortable, capable of travelling big distances with ease, and in the 540i is powerful enough to assert some genuine authority. All in all, the 5-Series range maintains a focus on dynamic capabilities and balances plushness and contemporary luxe extremely well.