The BMW 5 Series saloon of 2010-17 offers an almost unbeatable combination of performance, economy and build quality in the executive car class – especially in tax-busting 520d SE trim. In some areas, such as its styling (a little bland) and suspension (the optional adaptive system is a big improvement), it falls slightly short, but viewed in the round, it’s a used car you won’t regret buying.
The 520d SE, which was the least powerful diesel in the 2010 launch line-up, dominates supply and, given its primary role as a long-distance mobile office, mileages can be high. For example, as this was written, there were almost 230 520ds with more than 100,000 miles on one popular sales site, ranging in price from £4000 for a 2011-reg with 170,000 miles to £10,000 for a 2015- reg with 100,000.
The diesels are, in the main, a great choice and range from the later 518d launched in 2014 (it’s rare, less powerful and no more economical than the 520d, so avoid it unless it’s cheap) to the thundering, twin-turbocharged 535d that produces 309bhp and an even more impressive 465lb ft of torque for 0-62mph in 5.3sec. Prices for the 535d start from £7500 for a 2001-reg with 130,000 miles. In between is the slightly more common 530d, with 354bhp and 398lb ft. The opening prices for this are around £5000. If big mileage easily dispatched is your goal, this or the 535d will do nicely.
The petrols were never going to compete with the tax-busting diesels, which is a pity because BMW made them more efficient from 2011. Out went some of the old six-pot 3.0-litre motors, badged 523i and 528i, to be replaced by new four-cylinder turbocharged units, badged 520i and, confusingly, 528i. A 2012-reg 520i SE with 50,000 miles costs around £10,500 but, for power with decent economy, go for the 528i.
If you want the classic BMW six-pot experience, with the bills to match, you’ve got those early 3.0-litre cars we mentioned plus another, the 535i. Beyond these, there’s the 550i, with its 4.4-litre V8, and finally the mighty M5. Nearly forgot: there’s also the 535i ActiveHybrid, but then with economy in the mid-20s, so did new car buyers.