Unless you really need massive cargo-carrying capacity, it’s hard to find a better, or more desirable, all-rounder
Interior space
Refinement and comfort
Long-distance cruising ability
The artificial-feeling steering
Hard ride on larger wheels
Fiddly iDrive computer control system

BMW 5-series E60/E61 review (2003-2010)

A German high five

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BMW E60 review

What is the BMW 5-series E60/E61?

If a car company is going to call its products “the ultimate driving machine”, it must have the machine and the drive to back it up. But with cars such as the 5- series BMW manages to flaunt that slogan without any sniggers from the back of the room.

These are high-quality, sleek-looking machines — refined, rewarding to drive and impeccably engineered. The 5-series comes as a smart, limousine-like saloon or elegant Touring estate, and while the styling is a little too aggressive for some, it has been toned down in recent years.

The 2003-10 model, codenamed E60 is saloon form and E61 in Touring (or estate) guise, is becoming increasingly affordable; post-2007 examples benefit from BMW’s fuel-saving EfficientDynamics programme, which helps to contain running costs. The latest series, launched in 2010, brought a significant update, however, and while some critics thought that the driving dynamics had been watered down in favour of comfort, the 5-series is, for all but the keenest road racers, a consummate all-rounder.

BMW E61 5-series review

Some BMW fans will set their hearts on the M5 rocketship, but for the majority of buyers the flexible 520i petrol and 520d diesel will do just fine. 

Of note: this 5-series scored only four stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, its pedestrian protection judged particularly poor, whereas the latest model has been awarded the full five, with a 95% rating for adult occupant protection.

Equipment levels are to a high standard, and the fit and finish of the leather-upholstered cabins is excellent.

The 5-series holds its value well, especially in diesel Touring form, and makes as good a car for family use as for business purposes, though the Touring’s not quite as much of a load-lugger as its Mercedes E-class and Audi A6 equivalents.

BMW E60 interior review


What to look out for when buying a used BMW 5-series E60/E61

There were several recalls for the 2003-10 model (check out www.vosa.gov.uk for a full rundown), and the new one has been recalled for possible water pump overheating. The 5-series has been solid but not glitch-free; it has scored disappointingly in customer satisfaction surveys, though problems have mostly been minor. Watch out for hard-worked former police cars.

The one to buy

BMW 520d SE


1995cc, 4 cylinders
184bhp @ 4400rpm
280 lb ft @ 1750rpm
6-speed manual
0-62mph in 8.1sec
Top Speed:
58.9mpg (combined)
Road Tax Band:
L 4899mm, W 1860mm, H 1464mm

BMW 5-series rivals