What is it?
It’s not quite BMW’s bread-and-butter car – that honour belongs to the hugely popular 3-Series – but the 5-Series is a hugely important car for the Bavarian firm. Weirdly, at one point BMW looked like completely hashing up the 5-Series when it released the 5 GT first, before the saloon. Fortunately, the car-buying public has largely ignored the utterly hideous GT, so all you’ll see on the roads is the saloon – facelifted for 2014 with new trims and engines, although ‘new styling’ is barely perceptible. Nothing needed changing there, BMW rightly judged.
As ever, this is BMW’s strongest hand. Although this time the 5-Series is a bit more susceptible to which spec level you choose. Basically, you want to choose a car with Variable Damper Control but not Active Steering. That way you get the best of the ride/handling compromise, without steering that thinks it knows best. It doesn’t.
Hardly anyone buys a petrol 5-Series, so you’d expect the diesel choice to be excellent. It is. Top of the list of brilliance is the 535d, but the 520d that most buy won’t disappoint. It’s very quiet and fast enough for everyday driving situations. There’s a detuned version badged 518d for 2014 too, which is cheaper, but its 145bhp output doesn’t sound sufficient to us. A yawning 0-60mph in 9.7 seconds won’t win you any traffic light races, that’s for sure...
On the inside
BMW tends to go for a slightly more minimalist look than Audi. It’s smart – so long as you avoid some of the hideous wood trim options – but doesn’t have quite the blend of sophistication and simplicity that Audi manages so well. Build quality is top-notch, though, and the 5-Series will easily seat four in comfort. But the middle seat is a bit of a squeeze. Don’t worry about the iDrive – the latest versions are brilliant. Anyone who can’t figure it out should question themselves, not the car. BMW’s also introduced cool digital dials for 2014, upping the tech count further.
Now in its sixth generation, the 5-Series should offer bulletproof reliability. BMW’s stop-start tech is well proven nowadays, and there aren’t too many complicated electronics elsewhere. If you’re a company car buyer, the 5-Series is the only choice for you in this class. Even more so for 2014: power hasn’t been cut but economy and emissions are even better. At 119g/km CO2, the 520d is now so green, there’s no need for a green EfficientDynamics model...How does it do it? The 5-Series retains just as much value as the main rivals, and it also has lower running costs. What’s not to like?