BMW 5 Series Review 2021 | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

BMW 5 Series

£ 37,375 - £ 56,425
910
Published: 20 Oct 2020
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It's comfy, it drives well, it's got performance *and* eco options... There's really not much to criticise

Good stuff

Probably the best 5 Series since the E39

Bad stuff

Questionable new M options

Overview

What is it?

Believe it or not, we’re into the seventh generation of BMW 5 Series. Halfway through it, in fact, for the car you see here is the mid-life update of the ‘G30’ Five. It’s BMW’s oldest nameplate and in 2022, it’ll turn 50 years old. Let’s hope we’ll all be allowed out clubbing by then to celebrate.

On the surface, this one’s facelift-by-numbers – new, squarer lights, a longer kidney grille (though not new 4 Series long, thank the lord), a smattering of new colour and trim options and more hybridisation than ever. But there’s stuff you mightn’t have expected, too, not least the addition of an M550i at the top of the range for us right-hand-drive folk. Very, very good news.

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And the G30 was hardly in desperate need of a refresh as it was. It’s perhaps the best-rounded 5 Series since the legendary E39 generation, combining E-Class-rivalling luxury with BMW’s usual driving nous. That its range is dramatically expanding just as the Jaguar XF’s is thinning down says a lot about this car’s dominance. Think ‘biggish posh saloon’, you probably think 5 Series. They’ve sold 600,000 of these G30s in a smidge over three years. Yikes.

Prices start at a whisker under £40,000 for a 520i saloon (a 181bhp 4cyl petrol) rising to £71,365 for the mighty M550i xDrive saloon (a 523bhp V8 that sits below the full-bore M5, while being potentially cooler).

In between you’ve a pair of diesels – the 4cyl 520d and 6cyl 530d, both of which get mild-hybrid technology to trim CO2 emissions while boosting overtaking power – and the 530e and 545e plug-in hybrids, which respectively offer 4cyl or 6cyl engine power, while both manage around 30 miles of emission-free driving if you’ve charged them up.  

They’re all eight-speed automatics as standard, and xDrive all-wheel drive is available on almost all of them – deeply sensible 520d included. Other stuff of note? There’s a bigger screen with cleverer software inside, the chance to use your phone or smartwatch as key… and more M Sport options packs than ever. Said 520d can receive some deeply unsensible options in the shape of bright red brake calipers and whopping great M sports seats inside. Given the Five usually straddles the line between sportiness and subtlety rather well – it’s why we like it – we’re really not sure what to make of all that.

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Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

It's comfy, it drives well, it's got performance *and* eco options... There's really not much to criticise

The best car in its class? Quite probably. It’s certainly the most rounded. While an E-Class majors on comfort, an XF on sportiness and an A6 on styling creases, this latest BMW 5 Series combines them all into one package. Especially if you’ve got clicky with the aesthetic M Sport options.

We’d steer clear and keep our Five subtle, though. Passers-by will turn a blind eye on the outside, but inside you’ll be sat smug, comfortable and – when you’re in the mood to prod it into a sportier mode – grinning. The fact BMW’s brought a brand new V8 option to the UK, one which sits below the full-strength M5, says a lot about how true this car’s stuck to its driving machine roots. Despite the onslaught of luxury and tech atop it all.

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