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Expert Review

BMW 5 Series Saloon (2016 - 2020) review

Read about the BMW 5 Series saloon, arguably one of the most sophisticated, comfortable and satisfying executive saloons on the market 

Pete Tullin

Words by: Pete Tullin

Auto Trader

Additional words by: Auto Trader

Last updated on 29 November 2019 | 0 min read

The Auto Trader expert verdict:


The executive saloon class is extremely competitive and filled with truly excellent cars from all the premium players. Even with that caveat the BMW 5 Series is an exceptional piece of kit and a masterclass in style, technology, luxury, handling and comfort. While it may stick to a traditional format and look there’s nothing old-fashioned about the way it cossets its occupants and takes the stress out of even the most hectic schedule

Reasons to buy:

  • tickAll models come with an automatic gearbox and sat-nav
  • tickAdvanced infotainment and connectivity
  • tickSuperb ride and handling

At a glance:

Running costs for a BMW 5 Series

The 5 Series stacks up pretty evenly with key rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF when it comes to purchase price. Depending on the version you buy, the BMW could likely have the edge on fuel (the popular 520d is particularly impressive), but where the 5 Series shines is on its predicted resale value, which is considerably ahead of the other three. That should make it a really solid financial investment, and its relatively low CO2 emissions should make it popular among company car taxpayers too.

Expert rating: 4/5

Reliability of a BMW 5 Series

Such is the robust feeling of quality and solidity of the 5 Series’ cabin, you could easily imagine the car would last forever and a day. We haven’t heard any particularly alarming stories about the reliability of the previous 5 Series, but BMW’s reputation isn’t as strong as you might think: the company currently languishes in the bottom half of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings and rock bottom of the 2019 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study in the premium sector. It looks better via the same study’s category-level results, sitting between the E-Class and Audi A6. In truth though Mercedes is so far ahead of the other two BMW clearly has some work to do. A three-year warranty without mileage limitation, along with roadside assistance, is standard, plus BMW has several reasonable fixed-price service plans to choose from.

Expert rating: 2/5

Safety for a BMW 5 Series

The 5 Series comes with all the usual safety kit you’d expect at this end of the market, including a deployable bonnet that will help to reduce the impact on pedestrians should the worst happen. The 5 Series also employs autonomous low-speed braking to help avoid this type of accident from happening in the first place. Myriad electronic sensors that feed into the car’s electronic brain are also employed to help determine how many occupants are in the car, and how severe any anticipated collision might be. There’s also the option of BMW’s Driving Assistant, which provides Lane Departure Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, as well as a system upgrade that will autonomously brake and steer around obstacles in the road and help alert drivers – through steering wheel vibration – if another vehicle is encroaching from the side.

Expert rating: 4/5

How comfortable is the BMW 5 Series

The seats in the 5 Series offer excellent support and comfort, and every knob, switch and lever is harmoniously weighted to convey a real sense of precision engineering and a tangible air of luxury. The driving position is also a study in precision, thanks to a steering wheel aligned with the driver’s sternum, and pedals that fall directly underfoot. The latest 5 Series has been stretched in all directions, and the greatest beneficiaries of this are rear passengers. Legroom is still not quite up to Mercedes E-Class levels, but it’s not far behind, while elbow and headroom are both generous. In common with almost every car in this class, the thorny problem of a large, foot-space-robbing transmission tunnel running down the centre of the car means you’ll still feel you’re getting a raw deal if you end up riding in the middle. The 5 Series we tested came with the optional adjustable suspension, branded Variable Damper Control and, on the basis of driving it on some demanding roads, it could be the best money you spend on a new 5 Series. Thus equipped the 5 Series rides with a plushness and a composure that puts most luxury cars to shame.

Expert rating: 5/5

Features of the BMW 5 Series

The 5 Series has more than a hint of the larger 7 Series saloon to it. The twin circular headlights (LED units are standard across the range) frame the familiar kidney grille, while alloy wheels – at least 17 inches – are standard across the range. SE trim is the entry point into the 5 Series, but it’s not exactly a pauper spec. It comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated leather front seats, and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles for the automatic gearbox, plus the brilliant iDrive infotainment system that includes sat-nav. Upgrading to M Sport trim gives you bigger alloys, sport seats, and plenty of ‘M’ detailing dotted around the cabin, plus an enhanced body kit. M Sport cars also come on sports suspension, but you can delete this in favour of the standard suspension if you like the looks but prefer a cushier ride. Every 5 Series also comes with a large 10.2-inch touchscreen, with the infotainment arranged on swipe-able tile shaped menus. When driving, it’s easier and safer to call up the menus via voice control, or use the iDrive rotary dial that sits to the left of the drive selector. There’s also the option of a Microsoft Office 365-compatible system to turn your 5 Series into a leather-lined office on wheels and seamlessly manage even the most hectic work and travel schedule.

Expert rating: 4/5

Power for a BMW 5 Series

On the previous 5 Series the staple 520d was all you really needed, even if many owners secretly coveted the more powerful and refined 530d. With the introduction of this latest 5 Series the situation has been all but turned on its head. The 265-horsepower, six-cylinder 530d still offers a good deal more performance but the four-cylinder motor in the 520d is now so well isolated, so strong and so linear in its power delivery it actually feels the sweeter of the two. Not to mention, it’s also a good deal cheaper. Petrol engines comprise four-cylinder 520i and 530i, the six-cylinder 540i offering truly regal levels of performance. For those looking to minimise CO2 figures there’s also the 530e plug-in hybrid, which can cover around 30 miles on pure electric range and offers a compelling package for those seeking to minimise their tax exposure while presenting an environmentally conscious image. Insomuch as a large, luxury saloon can ever be considered such.

Expert rating: 5/5