BMW's 5 Series is a full-sized executive car that in recent generations hasn't quite been able to achieve the required blend between luxury and driving involvement. This seventh-generation version claims a much better balance between these two extremes and adds in smarter looks, impressive media connectivity and a suite of electronic driving aids that can pitch it against its top 10 best executive cars competitors.
The main news on the engine front in this executive car concerns petrol power. There's a fresh 252bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit in the 530i that's 7bhp up on the old 528i or alternatively, there's a 340bhp 540i variant which needs xDrive 4WD to control its prodigious 450Nm of torque. That's more grunt than older versions of the M5 super saloon used to have. BMW is of course planning another one of those for this model generation and this time round, this flagship variant will have over 600bhp. For more eco-minded folk, there's a 530e iPerformance Plug-in hybrid model that mates a four cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor to achieve a combined output of 252bhp. It can reach an all-electric top speed of 87mph.
Most 5 Series buyers though, will continue to want a diesel, probably the familiar 190bhp 2.0-litre four cylinder unit used in the 520d, which in a 5 Series must be mated to an 8-speed Steptronic auto gearbox. The alternative is the six cylinder 265bhp 530d which has 620Nm of pulling power. Both these variants are available with optional xDrive if you want it. For the first time, BMW xDrive can be combined with Integral Active Steering, as well as lowered sports suspension. As for handling, well a step forward was needed here with many commentators reckoning that the previous generation model was too comfort-orientated in its standard guises. With this executive car version, BMW's engineers reckon they've achieved a much better balance of performance and luxury thanks to reductions in weight, revised steering and new double-wishbone kinematics in the front axle.
As before with the 5 Series executive car, buyers get a choice of saloon and 'Touring' estate body styles, both of which offer exterior dimensions that are only slightly larger than those of the previous model. At the front, twin circular LED headlights flank the familiar BMW kidney grille. From the side, the passenger cell is clearly set back and a flowing roofline plus a short front overhang aim to underscore the car's sporting appearance. Underneath the skin, the same lightweight aluminium-rich 'CLAR' structure that was pioneered in the larger 7 Series model is much in evidence.
Inside, as you might expect, much is borrowed from the latest generation 7 Series, including the optional gesture control system that works as part of the lowered instrument panel and freestanding display. There's more cabin space too, with more elbow and shoulder room, plus extra headroom in the rear and a larger 530-litre boot in the saloon that has a wider opening, all good stuff for an executive car. Professional Navigation, telephone, entertainment features and vehicle functions can be visualised on the standard high-resolution 10.25-inch screen and controlled not just in the usual manner using the iDrive Controller, but also by means of gestures, voice commands or simply touching the buttons on the touch-sensitive display. There is room for up to three adults on the rear seats, which are also designed to allow room for up to three child seats.
Despite its enormous success over five decades and now seven different generations, BMW's 5 Series remains an executive car that's often underestimated. That's a little unfair for if properly specified, it can not only be the most efficient car in its class but also the best one to drive, a combination that takes some beating. Bear in mind also that to claim a place in the top ten executive car league table, it's not only got to manage that but also cover off the build integrity you'd expect in an Audi and the gadgetry and ride quality you'd want from a Mercedes-Benz. An enormous task.
But not an impossible one, as this seventh generation 5 Series executive car proves. True, it's a pity that to really create 'the ultimate driving machine', you've to spend so much on the options list. But even in standard guise, this is a hugely accomplished car, if one requiring familiarity and plenty of mileage over varying roads before its true qualities really begin to shine through. As before, it's quiet and roomy and now it's smarter, cleaner and even better on the balance sheet. A benchmark business BMW then. Just as the 5 Series executive car has always been.Click here to find out more about our BMW 5 Series range