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Car Review

BMW 5 Series (2017-2024) review

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Published: 07 Jan 2022
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

While everyone in the 3 Series class wants to be, well, a 3 Series, BMW’s rivals chasing its benchmark athleticism, things are different a size above. Here, it feels like BMW’s done a bit of the chasing, trying to give the 5 Series a bit more waft so that it can properly take on the likes of the Mercedes E-Class. Ergo you’re looking at the comfiest, most luxurious Five ever.

It’s so smooth and quiet – especially if you’ve got the muscular 6cyl diesel (or the M550i, which we’ll get to properly in a sec) – you might question why the 7 Series still exists. But rest assured BMW’s not forgotten how to make a car go around corners, and while this’ll feel a chunky monkey to anyone still eulogising about the E39, it’s pretty quick-witted. Even the 520d entertains; it’s hardly quick, but it’s effort-free to drive when you’re not in the mood, and neatly balanced when you are.

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When it comes to the ‘normal’ 5 Series, the M550i is the headline act. And it’s arguably a more satisfying car than the M5 above it. It’s notably cheaper – a whole 30 grand less, yet with 523bhp, its power deficit is below 100bhp. It’s a sports saloon like they used to make them – subtle on the outside, fast and grumbly underneath, though it’ll only bark like a V8 when you’re really going for it. Otherwise you’ll slink around relatively anonymously. And with standard xDrive, its prodigious power is managed oh so smoothly.

If you like the idea of a really quick 5 Series – it does 0-62mph in under four seconds – but you crave light steering, soft suspension and don’t want lots of gauche M buttons adorning the interior, it’s basically your dream car. Recent years have seen groups lobbying German government to end the derestricted autobahn. What rotten luck if that happens right as BMW launches the perfect ‘bahn stormer…

Of course, we don’t have derestricted autobahns in Britain. Thus our suspicion is the better, more relevant choice might actually be one of the hybrids. BMW’s going big on electrification – thanks to the i3 and i8, it was among the pioneers almost a decade ago (don’t we feel old) – and so the appeal of cruising silently in a 5 Series really does appeal. Especially given comfort appears to be this car’s number one priority nowadays.

Your plug-in options are the 530e and 545e: both will do around 30 miles in electron-only mode (expect high 20s in reality) at up to 87mph, but the latter has more oomph on account of its 3.0-litre turbocharged V6. It’ll do 0-62mph in under five seconds, making it an excellent chariot for fast cruising.

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What happens when you throw corners into the mix? That’s where the PHEVs come unstuck, as the weight of the battery dulls the handling and numbs the steering. Traction from the xDrive all-wheel drive system is mega though, so it’s not all bad. If efficiency is your main concern then you’ll get the best possible economy and BiK numbers from an SE-spec car on 18-inch wheels. If not, maybe hybrid isn’t for you.

Variants We Have Tested

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