Review: BMW 5 Series

A reputation for reliability, fantastic drive and comfort

05 Aug 15 Tim Barnes-Clay


  • Comfortable drive

  • Precise steering

  • Reliable


  • Expensive price tag

  • Pricey to run

  • Tricky to manoeuvre

Our expert rating

The BMW 5 Series is an executive mid-sized luxury car, made in Germany since 1972. The car is sold in saloon and estate (or “touring” as BMW calls it) body styles. It is the auto maker’s second best-selling model after the omnipresent 3 Series.

The 5 Series has always been an admired choice for company car drivers and fleet managers, so they are in plentiful supply on the secondhand market.


The bulk of used BMW 5 Series models are powered by diesel engines, and the 520d is the best of the bunch. This is because it is fast, but still provides respectable real-world economy.

However, keeping a 5 Series on the road is never going to be as cheap as running, for example, a Ford Focus. However, the ushering in of BMW’s “Efficient Dynamics” technology to axe CO2 emissions and raise fuel economy in 2007, means models after that year are cheaper to run.

Side of BMW 5 Series

Ride and handling

Sat behind the chunky steering wheel, the car seems to exude a substantial sense of self-confidence and positive energy. Indeed, the 5 Series has a sporty feel, yet the ride is yielding and composed.

The car is available with optional sports suspension when bought new. This is a lot firmer, so take a decent test drive to ensure you are happy if it has been fitted to your proposed buy. The switchgear and controls are sturdy, and, on the newer models the sat nav and iDrive controller are simple to use too.

Interior space

The BMW 5 Series’ interior is really lovely and is an elegant place to sit for long periods of time. The wide range of steering wheel and seat positions guarantee you will get comfortable without difficulty.

In the rear, there is space for three adults, with all seats but the middle one offering good legroom. The large transmission tunnel shrinks legroom for whoever is sat in the centre. The boot is massive on the saloon and estate - perfect for loading up all the paraphernalia you need for a family trip.

BMW 5 Series interior

What to know before you buy

BMW’s 5 Series has a really good reliability record and, generally speaking, there are no major problems. However the car is not completely gremlin free and there have been recalls for the fuel pump, stability control system, clutch, engine and airbags. A used car will, in all likelihood, have had these problems resolved, but do check anyway online.

Also, over the years, axle, suspension and electrical issues might have occurred. When you single out a model you would like to test drive, listen out for any knocks, or peculiar noises from the suspension.

Rear of BMW 5 series

Also ensure the steering feels precise and the ride is settled without any lumpiness. What’s more, the German car’s run-flat tyres can leak air, causing complications with the pressure monitoring system.

Alternative cars

The BMW 5 Series’ arch enemies are the equally talented Audi A6, Jaguar XF and Mercedes E-Class. The Audi A6 is perhaps the closest rival of all. The jury’s out on which of these two German mile munchers deserve the most desirable badge.

Alternative car to BMW 5 Series - Audi A6

Overall verdict

There are people who can light up a room with their presence. They are good at building and maintaining relationships. They establish rapport quickly and effortlessly. It seems like everybody is their best friend. This BMW 5 Series is just like that, but in the motoring sense.

With its overall reputation for reliability, fantastic drive and comfort, this car makes an awesome used buy.

Expert rating



Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money


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