From £35,8359
All-new BMW 5 Series shows a broader set of abilities than before on our early prototype drive across demanding Welsh roads

Our Verdict

BMW 5 Series

BMW brings 7 Series luxury limo quality to the executive saloon class

12 October 2016

What is it?

Underneath the light disguise of the BMW prototype you see here lies the seventh-generation 5 Series saloon – a car described as being new from the ground up and, as it has been since its inception way back in 1972, one that's crucial to the company's continued drive for greater volumes, profit and success.

We've now driven the 2017 BMW 5 Series in production guise. Click here to read about it

The production version of the new 5 Series, codenamed G30, isn’t planned to be unveiled until October. However, we’ve now driven a trio of prototypes over some challenging roads in Wales – the very same network of coarse-chip blacktop that the head of BMW’s chassis development, Jos van As, and his team have been using recently to fine-tune the handling attributes of the new executive saloon, which will come up against some stiff competition in the form of the Audi A6, Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz E-Class when it goes on sale in the UK early next year.

Click here for the full tech specs on the 2017 BMW 5 Series

Although BMW is holding back on many of the details of the new 5 Series until closer to its launch, it has provided us with an insight into its advanced new chassis, which is not only a brand new development but also comes with a new set-up aimed at providing the car with a broader range of attributes than ever before. “At one end of the scale, we’ve succeeded in making it more responsive and increased its agility," says van As, "while at the other end, it now provides greater comfort and refinement.”

In terms of dimensions, the 5 Series has grown, if only slightly. The increases in length, width and height are incremental and mostly aimed at increasing rear seat accommodation. As before, BMW will build the new car with two distinct wheelbases, including a long-wheelbase version exclusively for the Chinese market. The simple taped disguise of the prototypes we drove hides a car with the same basic proportions of its predecessor. But while the appearance may be described as evolutionary, it adopts some more revolutionary measures in other areas of its design.  

Key to the changes to the traditionally strong-selling BMW model is a new body structure first unveiled on the 7 Series last year. Known under the working title CLAR, a play on the words 'cluster architecture', it incorporates more aluminium within its floorpan and bulkheads than the earlier 35up platform used by the outgoing F10 5 Series. It also uses a greater number of aluminium castings than the earlier structure.  

Although it does without the more expensive carbonfibre components used by its larger sibling, BMW claims the new structure and other weight-saving measures, including a lighter wiring loom, have resulted in a reduction in kerb weight of up to 100kg, depending on the model. That’s not all, though. CLAR also provides the new 5 Series with significant increase in torsional rigidity and the basis for a completely new suspension philosophy.

The new set-up, which will be largely mirrored on the next 3 Series, adopts a fully electric steering system, both in standard rear-wheel drive and four-wheel-drive xDrive models. There’s also a new mounting system for the steering that’s claimed to provide the rack with improved rigidity and therefore greater feel and increased feedback.

The new steering system is allied to completely reworked double wishbone front suspension that uses a greater number of aluminium components for a reduction in unsprung weight. Due to its inherent design and the fact that its lower arms are largely freed from supporting any lateral forces, BMW says the new set-up provides a more integrated solution for a sportier drive.   

At the rear, BMW has redesigned its traditional five-link suspension, providing it with new geometry, lighter and stiffer aluminium components and newly developed mounting points. Together, the changes are claimed to provide more controlled wheel movement, improved toe-in properties and greater refinement through enhanced isolation from surfaces irregularities and coarseness.

For the first time, BMW will offer the 5 Series with all-wheel drive in combination with sports suspension and a 10mm reduction in ride height. You’ll also be able to order the new car with a combination of xDrive and BMW’s active four-wheel steering. Both are aimed at further elevating the 5 Series' reputation for dynamic excellence despite its continued increase in size.

Expect a price increase of around £1500 on the entry-level 518d, with a slightly higher rise on the 520d. This will be compensated for by an increase in standard specification.

What's it like?

We sampled three prototypes, each with a different suspension set-up and options. The 2.0-litre turbo 530i sDrive ran the standard steering and suspension, the 3.0-litre turbo 540i sDrive featured both dynamic damper control and four-wheel steering, and the 3.0-litre diesel 530d xDrive combined non-adaptive sports suspension and four-wheel steeringWhile these prototypes were running a final-specification mechanical package and provided a clear pointer to the direction the new model has taken, they were missing the usual quality touches you’d expect from a new BMW. As such, it would not be fair to definitively judge the new 5 Series just yet. 

What is clear is the new model has progressed in a number of key areas. The various changes BMW has brought to the chassis certainly help to lift the 5 Series' game in the dynamics department. It’s now a more rounded car than ever before – one with a mesmerising range of abilities with the right options.   

We also got to test a number of alternative software maps for the steering, highlighting the difficulty of hitting the right compromise to provide the sort of sporting attributes the 5 Series has become known for down through the years. By adopting what BMW describes as a full electric set-up, engineers were simply able to connect a laptop and alter the characteristics of the steering while on the move – something van As says has enabled his team to test a wider range of set-ups in a concerted move to broaden the new car’s dynamic abilities.

Find out more about the new BMW 5 Series with this video from our sister site, What Car?

The newly developed speed-sensitive system is an advance on that of the outgoing model, delivering greater feel around the straight-ahead, more consistent weighting in the first half a turn of lock and suppressing kickback with greater authority on lumpy surfaces. By any standards, this is first-rate steering, endowing the new BMW with great precision, feel and dependability. There’s an underlying calmness to its operation that impressed us greatly during our first drive.  

There’s a superb feeling of balance and fluidity about the new BMW, too. The consistency and conviction of its actions provide it with great poise and a wonderfully secure feeling when hustled along. You can confidently thread the new 5 Series down a winding back road without any qualms about its ability to soak up lateral forces and keep gripping hard even at very high speeds. It is very fleet in its responses while at the same time delivering an engaging exactness to your inputs in rear-wheel drive guise.  A new generation of dampers featuring altered valves and faster-acting software also ensure roll angles are kept well in check even on the standard suspension, which provides continuously variable properties.

The rear-biased apportioning of power of the xDrive system keeps the entertainment factor high while added to the overall feeling of security, especially on damp and undulating roads. While the apportioning of drive to both the front and rear wheels previously robbed the steering of some of its steering sensitivity, you can now combine xDrive with the four-wheel steering. Together, they provide a compelling combination of instant steering response and great traction, making for a deeply impressive car with true sporting handling characteristics.    

Mirroring the changes made to the 7 Series, the new 5 Series also offers a wider range of driving modes than previously. Next to the familiar Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport settings, the optional Drive Experience function now includes a Sport Individual mode, allowing you to tailor the characteristics of the steering, engine and suspension to your liking. Additionally, there is so-called Adaptive mode, which is programmed to automatically adapt the characteristics to your driving style, even taking into account routes programmed into the navigation system.

And the ride? It’s safe to say this is the best-riding 5 Series yet. The new chassis imbues it with a more cosseting and controlled feel over any given road than its predecessor. It is very accomplished, whether coping with high-frequency bumps around town or more undulating topography at higher speeds out on the open road. It’s quiet, too. Indeed, tyre roar is very well suppressed, indicating it will be a brilliant motorway cruiser.

Should I buy one?

It’s too early to say just how the new 5 Series really compares with the executive class competition. While we’re now familiar with many of the changes made to its chassis, there’s still a lot of crucial information about the new BMW to come before we can confidently deliver a binding conclusion.

Based on our brief dynamic assessment, though, it appears BMW has succeeded in raising the already fine dynamic qualities of the 5 Series. The new model may be larger and more extensively equipped than its predecessor, but the adoption of a new lightweight platform and a number of significant chassis developments provide it with outstanding agility and the sort of handling flair to worry the competition.

If the impressive dynamic traits, particularly the inherent response found in the new electric steering system, of the various prototypes we drove in Wales find its way into production versions of the new executive class saloon, it will prove a very competitive contender in a class not known to be at all kind to mediocrity. Additionally, BMW has also managed to provide the new 5 Series with greater levels of comfort than the previous model. With thoroughly reworked suspension, it cossets occupants with improved chassis compliance and greater overall refinement when you dial up Comfort mode.

Together, this results in a broader range of abilities than we’ve seen from any previous 5 Series model. Still, we’ll need more time to say whether it is a better proposition than the latest Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the undisputed leader in the class right now.

BMW 530d xDrive

Location Wales; On sale Early 2017; Price £46,000 (est); Engine 6 cyls in line, 2993cc, diesel; Power 265bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 457lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight na; Top speed na; 0-62mph na; Economy na; CO2/tax band na

Join the debate

Comments
14

7 September 2016
The latest edition of Autocar concludes about the 530d X Drive "All it will have to do is outhandle Jaguar's class-leading XF to scoop our overall recommendation". So the next 5 Series could beat the XF in virtually every area, a bit like the current model almost already does, but if it doesn't handle as well as the Jaguar it's basically game over for the BMW. Interesting that in last week's copy of Autocar, the 5 Series is listed as class best in the back pages....

jer

7 September 2016
The BMW will need all the suspension options to match the Jag for ride and handling, you won't easily get one with those options. The Audi will have the best interior and good engines but be a bit behind in ride and handling. The Merc a good interior and ride but a bit mute to drive and acquired taste styling. Leaves the BMW that will look like a small 7 and be pretty good at all but ubiquitous and a bit more leaden to drive? So long as the rest of it is competitive Autocrat always prefer the best car to drive.

7 September 2016
The competition may be god at one thing, like Jaguar a tiny bit better at ride, or Audi and Mercedes a tiny bit better at interior. But overall ride, quality, interior, handling, etc etc etc. Nothing beats BMW. It's been so for many decades and will be so in the future. The last 1-2 years, opposition has grown confident as they have come up with brand new designs while BMW still was selling the last gen. These new 7, 5 and 3 series will remove the last shred of confidence Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes had given themselves. All 3 make very good cars, just that BMW makes even better cars. Hence why they are the benchmark.

Dan

12 October 2016
I think it fair to say bezor Ta must be awarded the BMW brand promoter of the year on this website for his unstinting praise of the brand BMW.

7 September 2016
BMWs aren't the leaders they once were. The competition has caught up, of course. But many BMWs are too heavy and too reliant on pricey options. It's good this new 5 is lighter, but the old one is a bit of a bloater. A 200kg saving should have been the goal.

8 September 2016
The 3 Series has often been the benchmark for its rivals, but to say BMW's other models are is probably not correct. The 5 Series has generally traded blows with E Class over the decades and both models have often been regarded as the benchmark for its rivals. The 7 Series, however, has never been regarded as the best overall in its class or the model which rivals try to at least emulate, instead the BMW always seems to fall short and never quite achieves the sum of its parts. Unlike the S Class, which is considered 'the' luxury car in the same way the 3 Series is seen as 'the' mid-size saloon.

RPF

8 September 2016
I wonder if they will finally ditch the over-priced con-trick that are Runflats in order to finally get the ride right?

First thing I do with any BMW I own is ditch them; improves the ride, handling and economy no end, whilst being far, far cheaper.

12 October 2016
Why are there 4.5 stars at the top? I'm sure it's very good, and there's nothing wrong with saying so, but to score something that 'isn't quite'' what the public will be buying, please hold back until a full review is complete. Thanks.

13 October 2016
Hey Greg, as the owner of a current 530 xdrive I rarely get to drive across empty moorland roads so I couldn't care less about new toe-in angles and suspension mountings. What I want to know is; can it fit 4 sets of golf clubs in the boot and fit easily into a Waitrose car park and does the sat nav link into traffic updates to avoid busy routes (which are all limited to 50mph anyway) and are the seats comfy and warm when driving home from Heathrow after a long business flight....?

 

 

 

13 October 2016
Apparently, still around 50% of us buy new privately with cash or a form of PCP. Hard to believe, I know, but that's apparently a 'fact'. How many of those go and buy a 'business express' is, of course, another matter. I suspect no one in their right mind is going to buy a 5, an E or an A6 brand new "with their own money" unless they have an unalloyed affinity with depreciation. They'll leave that to the business 'user-choosers'. Therefore, private buyers will be influenced just as much about the 'post purchase experience' as to the latest adaptive drive or semi-autonomous gizmo. Is buying an Audi or a 5 the experience it once was when BMW was shifting 50K cars per annum (as opposed to 160K today) ? Nope. If I were running Jaguar this is the area where they need to pull away from 'mass brands' (that's you BMW I'm afraid...) because the 'tech wars' are lost before Jag gets out of bed in the morning....

BertoniBertone

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK
  • Volvo V90
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The Volvo V90 is a big estate ploughing its own furrow. We’re about to see if it is refreshing or misguided
  • Kia Stonic
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Handsome entrant into the bulging small crossover market has a strong engine and agile handling, but isn’t as comfortable or complete as rivals