The BMW 5 Series is the Munich firm’s longest-running model line. It is also the most-recognised BMW globally. After revealing it in the summer, BMW is now readying the all-new 5 Series saloon for its showroom launch in February 2017.
Built on an all-new platform shared with the 7 Series, it carries over much of its technology, including semi-autonomous drive technology and a new touchscreen infotainment system with gesture control. Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz dominate this profitable car sector: with the new 5 Series, BMW is aiming to rule it.
From the car’s media presentation in Portugal, I spent two days with the new 5 Series to find out how BMW will do this.
Design and interior
Evolution is the name of the game here. This car has the 5 Series look, with a longer nose and more rearward-weighed cabin than the more dynamic 3 Series. New headlights are bigger than ever, blending into the grille for the first time, and rear lights are substantial. The profile is proudly three-box, albeit with a bit more of a coupe sweep to the roofline at the rear.
What marks out the new 5 Series is the precise attention to detail. Panel fit is exemplary and the complexity of the lines is an impressive manufacturing feat. The ribbon-like twist in the side featureline which passes through the doorhandles is clever, and the lower sides are more sculptural.
BMW interiors have in recent years been rather formulaic and not as richly-finished as an executive car should be. The new 5 puts that right. All models have leather, fancy ceramic is used for the header and iDrive controller, and the aluminium dash trim is measured and matched by lasers on the production line so the fit is perfect. It’s angled more towards the driver than its predecessor.
Virtual dials are standard, as is a 10.25in infotainment screen. Reflecting the new 5’s diet, the dash is lower and less bulky, the central widescreen now freestanding. It feels much more plush than the old 5, with 7 Series substance (the two probably share multiple parts). BMW has responded to customer feedback here.
Sat nav is standard on every new BMW you can buy: even better, widescreen sat nav is included in every new 5 Series. Unlike rivals, BMW doesn’t charge thousands extra to enjoy the umpteen features I sampled on the launch cars. This alone is a very big deal.
The BMW Professional Multimedia system includes standard Real Time Traffic Information, and BMW Connected Music, which accesses 40 million songs via either Deezer or Napster; a 12-month subscription comes with all new cars. You can call a BMW Concierge Service too, but Brits will probably prefer to put the £200 cost towards the Bluetooth, wireless charging and wifi package to find out things for themselves.
There’s a BMW Connected App as well, which auto-learns frequent journeys and will list them when you’re most likely to drive them. It will also push ‘time to leave’ alerts to your smartphone or Apple Watch if it detects traffic on the way that would otherwise make you late.
BMW is the first auto maker to offer Microsoft Exchange email. For £150, you can connect Office 365 to your car, to control your inbox and sync your calendar. If there’s a meeting address in the calendar entry, it’s easy to put that into the sat nav. It will read out emails, and let you dictate replies. If you’re running late for a meeting, you can auto-push alerts to everyone invited to it, with your ETA. It’s comprehensive and takes some learning, but is a superb efficiency tool.
For the first time in a BMW, the infotainment display is a touchscreen. The dash panel below it has been shaped for palms to rest on it, and the screen is crisp and responsive, like an iPhone (unlike in some other cars, you don’t have to jab it hard and the glass screen is precise). You can configure the display, with functions shown in live tiles. Traditionalists can easily switch between the iDrive rotary wheel, steering wheel controls and the touchscreen.
Gesture Control comes to the 5 Series: you can wave your hand to adjust the audio volume, accept phone calls (or bat away ones you want to ignore) and run several other defined functions. Currently it’s a bit of a gimmick but it only costs £200.
The BMW Display key costs £195. This has a touchscreen display, through which you can precondition climate control, lock and unlock the car and run other remote functions. It is also extremely cool and thus a must-have.
The head-up display is 70% bigger than before, and the multi-colour display is genuinely useful. It’s far more neatly integrated into the dashboard than any Audi. Choose the £1,495 Technology Package and it’s yours, along with Display Key, Gesture Control and wifi.
The one oddity is Apple CarPlay. It’s available, but costs £235. Why isn’t it standard?
Quality and details
BMW quality has taken a hit in recent years, evidenced by this car’s smaller sibling, the 3 Series. That special feel returns to the new 5 Series. Controls have a more precise, well-oiled feel, leather is rich and smooth, plastics are thick, not shiny. The action of the doorhandle could be from a Rolls-Royce; the soft rubber finish in the inside door pull feels nice when you close it.
The colour display for the climate control is an attractive feature, and the extended displays within the instrument panel display multiple functions. I liked how the miles remaining display was shown within the fuel gauge, the analogue-style clock in the centre and how the numbers on the rev counter were spotlighted as the needle approached. Like a Lexus, they disappear when the ignition is off.
BMW now fits conventional stalks, rather than the old, confusing ‘return to centre’ electronic stalks.
Interior ambient lighting is standard and offers umpteen colour choices: I liked green on green, but you can also pick from yellow, orange, blue, violet and white. LED headlights are piercingly bright, giving the road ahead brilliant clarity at night.
Space and comfort
The 5 Series feels more spacious in the front because the dashboard is less bulky. It makes it feel lighter and airier. Rear seat space is OK, but foot space is a fraction tight beneath the front seats, and the bottom of the door opening could be bigger – those with big feet might find their shoes getting stuck.
The boot is big and comes with electric operation (for £430). This has its own form of gesture control – swing your foot under the rear bumper and it pops open. A feature from the luxury car class comes to the 5 Series: pay £435 for soft-close doors, when you pull them to and motors do the noisy, heavy door-slamming part.
The new BMW 5 Series is a quality machine. It’s a big step on from the current car inside, with appealing new technology and several sector-unique gadgets. The premium feel has been improved considerably and it’s pretty likely this new 5 will become the executive car to beat when it launches in the UK. Prepare to be impressed.
Price and release date
Prices start at £36,025 for the BMW 520d SE, with M Sport spec costing £3,000 extra. The 530d costs from £43,835, with xDrive adding on £2,130. Petrol models cost from £40,120 for the 530i SE and £46,645 for the 540i xDrive SE.
The new BMW 5 Series arrives in dealers from February 2017.