$77,900 – $179,900
Good: Elegant styling; Generous cabin space; Build quality; Excellent drivetrains; Class leading dynamics.
Not so Good: Ride over poor surfaces; Lack of interior storage cubbies; Expensive option pricing. Lack of standard features.
Design and Engineering
Good : The sixth generation BMW 5-Series, codename F10, arrived in Australia in June 2010. Compared to the previous shaped E60 gen 5-Series which featured a rather extravagant design, this one is less controversially styled and in our eyes the far better looking of the two. So a return to classic BMW good looks and of course the 5-Series still features the brands signature kidney grille and Hofmeister C-pillar kick design traits. We like the slightly muscular bulge above the rear wheels and the way the rear lights glow at night (trust us, they look really cool).
The new 5-Series has a wheelbase 80mm longer than previously (at 2.97m it’s longer than all its competitors) yet the overall length has only increased by 58mm thanks to shorter overhangs.
The lightweight body, a mix of high-tensile steel and aluminium (for the doors, front wings and bonnet) shares its platform with the more expensive 7-Series. Other highlights include the all-aluminium double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension and the option of four-wheel steering, adjustable dampers and active anti-roll bars.
Not so good : Not everyone will be excited by the overall conservative styling or that much of the new technology is offered as cost options.
Interior and Styling
Good : Thanks to the stretched wheelbase and a slightly wider body the 5-Series is more spacious than ever before. The interior is a very classy affair, much improved over the previous model in terms of design, use of materials and even fit and finish.
The driving position is typical BMW excellence with the optional sports seats offering superb comfort and good levels of support. The centre console is slightly angled towards the driver (just how we like it), the iDrive control system – improved over the previous generation, is matched to a wide seven inch display screen and the head-up display system, which displays speed and directions from the satellite navigation, is now projected onto the windscreen.
Not surprisingly, thanks to the longer wheelbase, second row cabin space has improved thanks to the additional leg room on offer. Rear shoulder room has also improved. The boot is impressively long, a ski-port and folding seats further adds to load functionality if required.
Not so good : The cabin is short of compartments for storage odds and ends (but maybe not surprising considering this isn’t a Multi Purpose People Mover or SUV segment vehicle). Whilst the outer two rear seats are most definitely comfortable, the centre rear seat is less so. The boot is generously sized at 520 litres (and also lovely finished) however the opening is narrower than we expected.
Good : The 5-Series range is powered by six engines in total (not including M5). There is four petrol engines and two diesel engines on offer.
First up the 520i is powered by a 2.0-litre in-line four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces 135kW of power and 270Nm of torque when matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Meanwhile, the 528i features the same 2.0-litre in-line four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine as found in the 520i but this time around power and torque has been increased. The 2.0-litre manages 180kW of power and a massive 350Nm of torque when matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
The 535i features a 3.0-litre in-line six cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces 225kW and 400Nm of torque when matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Last of the petrol engines is the big daddy 550i featuring a 4.4-litre V8 twin turbo engine that produces 300kW of power and a jaw dropping 600Nm of torque when matched to an 8-speed sport automatic transmission.
Now, moving right along the 520d features a 2.0-litre in-line four cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 135kW of power and 380Nm of torque when matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Last but not least the 535d features a 3.0-litre in-line six cylinder turbo diesel engine that produces 230kW of power and 630Nm of torque when matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
The 535i’s engine offers very impressive power delivery – amazingly turbo lag is virtually nonexistent! It’s a ripper of an engine, the 225kW of power arrives in a positively linear fashion and the big 400Nm of torque is available from a remarkably low 1200 revs. It’s a real Jekyl and Hyde power plant, staying quiet and polite when required or guttural and character-full when pushed.
Fuel economy across the range is mighty impressive ranging from 5.2-litres per 100kms for the 520d to 10.4-litres per 100kms for the 550i (both official combined figures).
Not so good : We found the 520i with its 2.0-litre in-line four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine a little underwhelming, when you put your foot down there is a noticeable pause before there is any sign of motion. Although fuel consumption is rather impressive at 6.7-litres per 100kms.
Ride and Handling
Good : The 5-Series is a superb driver’s car. The chassis is excellent and the optional variable dampers and active anti-roll bars offer the combination of a comfortable ride in urban traffic and ‘oh my god this is good’ handling capabilities on fast flowing country roads. The harder you push the more you are quietly aware of the work BMW engineers have achieved, to create this class leading handling large luxury sedan. Yes the ride at times can be a touch firm, but this is a small price to pay for the brilliant body control and capabilities on offer.
The optional four-wheel-steering is very good for an electric system, and definitely one of the best we’ve tried. The four-wheel-steering also equates to the 5-Series having an impressively compact turning circle at lower speeds, perfect when negotiating that tight spot in the multi-level car park.
BMW have created a very quiet cabin, even at highway speeds wind and tyre noise is thankfully almost nonexistent.
Not so good : Whilst the ride is good over most surfaces, it’s best to avoid pot holes as they can be met with a crushing thump (we’ll put it down to the extra stiff chassis, firmish suspension and standard run-flat tyres).
Buying and Owning
Good : Ticks the safety box with standard safety equipment of six airbags, anti-lock brakes with cornering brake control, brake assist, dynamic stability control, active front headrests and active bonnet pedestrian protection.
As well as being an impressive sports sedan this generation 5-Series is equipped with a higher level of standard features than previously. Standard features on the 520d (and of course the more expensive grades as well) include multi-zone climate control, keyless start, cruise control with brake function, front and rear park assist, head-up display, satellite navigation, auto-on lights and wipers, Bluetooth connectivity and high quality leather upholstery.
The grades above this (528i, 535i, 550i) add a host more luxury goodies and on top of this the option list is as long as your arm, should you be tempted. Our favourite options are Adaptive Drive (which includes Dynamic Drive & Dynamic Damper Control), Surround View (which show a bird’s-eye view of the car, using high mounted cameras, as a parking aid) and Lane Departure Warning.
Not so good : Tick too many options and the price heads upwards FAST. Our favourite option, Adaptive Drive (which adjusts the suspension for different road conditions and driving styles) costs a big $7,000 and Integral Active Steering (four-wheel-steering) which is good but less impressive overall, is $3,600.