If ever a car summed up the Aristotelian belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it’s the current BMW 5 Series. Make no mistake: its individual parts are deeply impressive, but put them all together and the resultant car is terrific – especially as a used buy.
Regular petrol models range from the 520i to the 523bhp V8 BMW M550i. Petrol plug-in hybrids include the 530e and, from 2021 onwards, the four-wheel-drive, six-cylinder 545e. There’s even a BMW M5, a 592bhp supersaloon (616bhp in Competition form, 626bhp in CS trim). The diesels are the best-selling 520d and the punchy 530d.
Some 5 Series cars have four-wheel drive (xDrive) and all feature an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Since 2021, all four- and six-cylinder engines have had 48V mild-hybrid technology.
There are just two regular trims: SE and M Sport. Even SE is laden with items such as heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights, while M Sport offers all of the above plus sportier body styling and larger wheels.
Whichever one you choose, the 5 Series is great to drive. The four cylinder 520i and 530i petrols are smooth and refined, while the BMW 540i and M550i are wonderfully swift. The diesels are decently refined, too, and the 520d is punchy enough for most tastes. The BMW 530e is delightful: it’s smooth and quiet and packs enough pace to make the much more expensive BMW 545e seem a little superfluous.
Precise steering and great balance make the 5 Series a joy to punt down a twisting road. It also does a fine job of keeping wind and road noise at bay and does well for ride comfort. SE models have softer suspension and smaller alloy wheels that give a smoother ride than M Sports, which can be a little unsettled on standard suspension. If you can find one, a 5 Series with the optional adaptive suspension offers the smoothest ride of all.
The 5 Series is just as impressive inside. Digital instruments are standard, the dashboard is laid out clearly and all the controls are easy to use. Every 5 Series comes with BMW’s range-topping infotainment system, which packs a 12.3in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring and sat-nav. It’s one of the best systems going. Between the front seats, there’s also a dial controller surrounded by shortcut buttons, which is much easier (and safer) to use than the touchscreen.