The BMW 5 Series is the iconic businessman’s sedan, arguably the creator of the segment as we know it. But now, more than 40 years on from the original, the 7th generation 5 Series, codenamed G30, has more competition than ever. With rivals coming in the form of Audi’s A6, Mercedes’ E Class, Jaguar’s XF, Cadillac’s CTS, Lexus’ GS, and Volvo’s S90, the waters are muddier than ever. The 5 Series keeps up with the times with new technologies, but is now softer than it once was. Has BMW compromised driving dynamics in favor of mass market appeal?
BMW are masters of interior packaging – creating spacious cabins with refined ergonomics in the same space other manufacturers fail to. The 5 Series is no different, with space for 5 occupants in exceptional comfort. The driving position is low with telescopic and height adjustable steering making it easy to find a comfortable position for long journeys.
Interior appointments are of the highest quality with occupants surrounded by soft touch materials. The design is refined from the previous generation rather than radically redesigned – but feels familiar to those already in the BMW stable. Of course no new 5er would be complete without a range of new technology and the G30 gets many interior updates from the larger 7 Series. The 8.8-inch iDrive infotainment system now features a touch screen and a new tiled user interface; it also boasts gesture control. A 75% larger than before heads-up display for the driver is also new, and in full colour.
Traditionally, the 5 Series has always been the sportiest in its segment. Sadly, that title now belongs to the Jaguar XF and Cadillac CTS. BMW has traded its hard edge for mass appeal, meaning the 5 Series now has a slightly detached feeling from the road. The electronically power assisted steering offers little to no feedback and even the chassis itself doesn’t communicate as it should. The ride comfort by default is soft and cushy over just about all surfaces, though body roll is kept in check quite superbly.
Despite the lack of feel, there is plenty available competence. With optional rear-wheel steering and M-Sport suspension, the 5 Series is incredibly tied down with loads of grip. Despite the rear-driven nature, the chassis feels incredibly neutral with oversteer only occurring under duress, and even then, only just a little. The 5 Series now feels more like an Audi in the sense that it’s cold and clinical, but highly competent and exploitable by most drivers.
4 engine options can be found in the 5 Series, all gasoline, with one receiving a hybrid electric boost. The base 530i’s 2.0-liter turbo 4 cylinder outputs 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, while the 540i’s 3.0-liter 6-pot kicks out 335hp and 332 lb-ft. The 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid offers 248hp and 310 lb-ft. All models can be had in RWD or xDrive AWD, except for the range topping M550i xDrive – available purely in AWD. The M550i’s twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 kicks out 456hp and a massive 480 lb-ft. All models by default get the exceptional ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox, with shift paddles.
The 5 Series is generously equipped with 16-way power adjustable front seats, 40/20/40 split folding rear seats, a 12-speaker standard audio system, adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, automatic climate control and 2 USB ports. Safety equipment is equally as generous, with fatigue and focus detection, active lane keeping assist, 360-degree camera, high beam assist, and forward collision avoidance with auto city braking. The 5 Series cored 5 stars under NHTSA testing, and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2017 with exceptional ratings in all areas.
The BMW 5 Series may have gone soft compared to what it once was, but it still remains a complete all-round executive package. The 540i with rear-wheel steering equipped is the pick of the lot, combining performance and luxury – but it’s unlikely to set your soul alight with an involving drive.