Is the new BMW 5 series simply the best in its class?

The all-new BMW 5 Series is here and boy is it good! The previous car, while it came in for some criticism for its styling, was acknowledged as an excellent performance saloon.

The all-new BMW 5 Series is here and boy is it good! The previous car, while it came in for some criticism for its styling, was acknowledged as an excellent performance saloon.

By Hugh Maguire

But since then the competition has upped their game. To name but a few the new Audi A6 and just launched A7 are truly superb. The new Mercedes E Class is a very fine motorcar too. Saab have recently launched the new 9-5 and Volvo's S60 is pretty good. So this new 5 Series will not have it all its own way.

In an era where diesel engines are becoming ever more popular in the luxury segment BMW make some of the best available. However that praise would normally be directed at their 6-cylinder range which provides silky smooth engines, but what about their excellent 4 cylinder diesel which powers the new X3, the 3 Series 320d and the 520d?

This week's test car - the 2.0 litre turbo diesel 520d will account for the bulk of 5 Series sales. The 520d is now the cheapest of the 5 Series range and though the least expensive model it actually comes very well equipped.

My test car the 520d SE did have a few options, including a Media Package which includes Sat Nav, Bluetooth and Voice control, (€2,902) a Dynamic package, Sports steering Sports Seats, 19 inch alloys (€4,175) and a fabulous 8-spped auto paddle shift transmission (€2,376) as well as Seat heating and a USB interface, all optional.

First Impressions

The new 5 Series is, as most will agree, a very tidy, smart looking car. It looks quite like a smaller version of the current 7 Series. However in my opinion they were a tad too cautious about creating the same mistake with the revolutionary style of its predecessor and the result is a car that although it looks well is a little too understated.

Behind The Wheel

The cabin of the 520d SE is typically BMW, very minimalist and simple. The dashboard is a model of ergonomic excellence. Clear, concise and uncluttered. I felt that BMW made some of the best dashboards in the business but that in the previous 5 Series they had lost their way. Well in the new car they are back. Quite simply this is the best "cockpit" in the industry.

At night all the instruments and switchgear are illuminated in a soft easy on the eye red glow. Studies have shown that this type of illumination best suits the transition from viewing the road ahead to refocusing on the car's instruments at night.

It is this attention to detail that I so admire and it is evident in every BMW I have driven. The driving position is excellent and the seats proved comfortable and supportive. The fit and finish of absolutely everything is beyond reproach, while the new simplified iDrive is much more user friendly.

Leather trim is now standard and the cream upholstery in my test car looked superb. Standard equipment across the new 5 Series range is very good indeed with a host of standard features including, to mention just a few: a host of airbags, ABS with EBD, traction and dynamic stability control, ISOFIX, BMW iDrive, BMW efficient Dynamics, a puncture warning system, auto wipers, automatic air conditioning, a super stereo system with CD changer, keyless entry with pushbutton start, and of course electric windows, locking and so on. You really need to check the spec for whatever car interests you as each model varies so much.


The 4-cylinder 2-litre turbocharged diesel produces a healthy 184 bhp, giving this car a respectable zero to 100 km/h of 8.1 seconds and a top speed of around 230 km/h, which is quite impressive.

It emits just 129g/km of C02 in manual or 137g/km in auto guise putting it into the low road tax category costing just €156 per year to tax. In everyday terms I must say that this engine performs very well indeed. At idle there is a faint diesel thrum from the engine, the only hint that this car is diesel powered. Once on the open road it accelerates smoothly, providing great mid range punch.

The 8-speed tiptronic auto box is so very good that I found I never used the steering wheel mounted paddle shifts much at all. With Sport, Sport+ or normal modes for optimum driving pleasure the new 5 Series proves truly entertaining to drive. On the economy side it proves equally impressive consuming just 5.9 litres of diesel per 100 km on average over my test period. This gives the 520d a range in excess of 1,250km between refuels! Amazing!

Road Behaviour

The new BMW 520d is a really enjoyable car to drive. It is rewarding in the way in which it responds instantly to every driver input. The handling is surefooted whether on wet or dry roads.

Point the 520d at a sequence of bends and it will effortlessly track your chosen line no matter what the conditions. Push the car hard and it seems the limits of grip are out of reach, push really hard and the Dynamic stability Control kicks in to tame your over eager approach. The balance of the car is near perfect with a 50%/50% weight distribution.

In short it is a truly rewarding car to drive. A good cross country dash highlights the driving dynamics of the new 5 Series so well. It just does everything the driver commands of it and it does it so brilliantly. It handles, stops and goes with such aplomb that you look forward to every km behind the wheel.

Refinement is high with little or no engine, road or wind noise to intrude. Accommodation is very good and the boot is generous in its size. There is no spare wheel as the car comes fitted with run-flat tyres.


The new 520d is a remarkable car because it just does everything so very well. It is once again a true driver's car yet cossets passengers in refined luxury. In my opinion there is no other saloon in its class to match it for driving dynamics.

If you enjoy your motoring and want a car that involves the driver yet makes excellent use of the many technologies available today then the new BMW 5 Series is the car for you.

Added to that is a certain satisfaction in knowing it simply sips diesel and costs just €156 to tax.

Prices start at €41,750 which is very good value in this class. The car as tested with the aforementioned options costs €53,417.

Bulls eye BMW!