What is it?
The new, seventh-generation 5 Series is a car with an inevitable reputation and a heavy weight of expectation to uphold. In production since 1972, BMW’s traditional mid-range model has now racked up more than eight million sales worldwide – including 2.2 million sales for its direct predecessor, the familiar F10 introduced in 2009.
But with such classy competition as the latest Audi A6, Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the latest 5 Series, codenamed G30, will not only have to be at the very top of its game but also push the boundaries further than any of its illustrious predecessors if it is to manage to claw its way back to the top of its class and continue the success story of the past 44 years.
Developed from the ground up in a program spanning almost five years, the new 5 Series is both significantly lighter and more aerodynamic than ever before. With a range of heavy upgraded engines, it is also faster and more economical than its already strong-selling predecessor.
The main focus with the new BMW, however, has been reserved for a number of contemporary new chassis developments in a move not only aimed at re-establishing its status as the best-handling car in its class but also introducing greater levels of comfort into its already impressive dynamic repertoire as a means of broadening its range of abilities and appeal.
The new saloon clearly takes its influence from the latest 7 Series, adopting a much more formal - some might say more conservative - look than the previous 5 Series. The changes to the appearance help to disguise an increase in dimensions compared with the outgoing car. Length has increased by 36mm to 4935mm, width grows by 6mm to 1868mm and height increases by 2mm to 1466mm. The wheelbase is also 7mm longer than before, at 2975mm.
The increase in external dimensions has netted the new 5 Series greater interior space, notably in the rear. There is now sufficient space for up to five adults on newly developed seats front and back. Crucially, the rear bench has been reshaped to provide a more defined centre seat, rather than being shaped primarily for the two outer seats. With a longer rear overhang, boot capacity has also increased by 10 litres to 530 litres.
The new 5 Series will offer the choice of three engines from the start of UK deliveries next February, with others, including a petrol-electric hybrid option, set to follow in quick succession.
Included from the start of sales is an updated version of BMW’s traditional turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine. It develops 248bhp and 258lb ft of torque in the £40,120 530i and a gutsier 355bhp and 332lb ft in the 540i, which will be sold exclusively with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system in the UK at a price of £46,645.
Among the diesels is BMW’s latest 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, delivering 187bhp and 295lb ft in the expected volume seller of the new 5 Series line-up, the £36,025 520d. Also planned from the outset is a 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel that provides the £43,835 330d with 261bhp and a generous 457lb ft.
Gearbox choices continue to include either a six-speed manual (standard on the 520d) or eight-speed automatic (standard on 530i, 540i and 530d). Both units have been heavily upgraded, bringing what BMW describes as greater levels or refinement and, in combination with the new engines, overall efficiency gains compared with the old model. With a combined average of 40.9mpg, the rear-wheel-drive 540i betters the old 535i by an impressive 5.6mpg.
Although the conservative styling fails to convey it, the new 5 Series has been comprehensively re-engineered in a concerted bid by BMW to catapult its new mid-range saloon well ahead of its main executive class rivals. Central to the changes is a brand new platform and heavily updated 12-volt electrical architecture, both of which are shared with the latest 7-series.
Although eschewing the expensive carbonfibre structural elements of its larger sibling, it also gains a greater percentage of aluminium and hot formed high strength steel within its body in a move that has resulted in a reduction of 95kg in the 540i compared to the older 535i. At the same time, torsional rigidity has been improved, providing the basis for what is described as a new direction in chassis tuning. The 5 Series also benefits from a new electric steering system and heavily reworked double wishbone front suspension.