What is it?
For about as long as we can remember, the 5-series has been the king of the executive saloons. You could spend more on a larger 7-series but it would be a waste, so good is its smaller sibling. And while the Touring version is accomplished, it isn’t the largest or most practical estate car of its class.
The saloon offers a precise and satisfying drive, outstanding comfort and robust build quality. There is also a wide range of engines that offer class-leading performance, fuel economy and exhaust emissions. Our choice would be the 520d Efficient Dynamics. In this class of car, you should also be arranging test drives of the Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6. The Jaguar, in particular, is a highly desirable motor that offers a very satisfying drive.
Your first consideration when buying a 5-series is whether to order variable damper control, an adaptable damping system. This offers a choice between sport, normal and comfort, and allows the driver to alter the ride comfort and, to an extent, the car’s character. We’d suggest it’s worthwhile, as it sharpens up the handling considerably over the basic model.
As for the 520d, its 2-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel is powerful enough (181bhp) to make the large saloon feel spirited, powering it from standstill to 62mph in 8.2 seconds. But it’s also efficient, offering the potential for fuel economy of 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km — albeit on the Efficient Dynamics version. The 6-speed manual transmission is good to operate and the main controls — steering, throttle, brake and clutch — all have a reassuring weight.
You’ll be sitting comfortably in the 5-series. It has a good driving position and excellent seat comfort with a wide range of adjustment, so long trips are borne with ease.
The quality of the materials and fit and finish is impressive, the dashboard is clearly laid out and the latest iDrive multimedia interface is a great improvement on the original version. A neat option is a head-up display, which projects information about vehicle speed and satellite navigation instructions onto the base of the windscreen, helping to prevent you from taking your eyes off the road.
Rear seat space is generous, as is the 520-litre boot, but for further practicality you’ll need to specify the optional (£390) split/folding rear seat. The only real gripe involves the automatic transmission, which, where available as an option or fitted as standard, isn’t intuitive to use.
What to look out for when buying a used BMW 5-series (F10 / F11 model)
Run flat tyres with the M Sport package can be at risk of damage so check the sidewalls for bubbling. Some owners have had a malfunction warning on the reversing camera, so check that works OK, and also check for other warning lights – some owners have noticed drivetrain malfunction warnings which would mean a trip to the service centre. Some owners have also found their car pulls to the right so take the car on a test drive to check this isn’t the case, and that there are no other unusual cabin noises and signs of wear and tear.
The 5-series with towing ball hitches were recalled in 2013 for an issue with the electronic deployment system, which could result in the ball hitch shaking loose from the end stop whilst driving, and the M5 was recalled in 2012 due to engine failure related to oil pump problems. If you’re going for either models affected, check that the car has been fixed by BMW.
Additional reporting by Will Dron
The one to buy
520d Efficient Dynamics
- £30,435 (price correct at time of publishing)
- 1995cc, four-cylinder turbo diesel
- 184bhp @ 4000rpm
- 280 lb ft @ 1750rpm
- 6-speed manual
- Top speed:
- Road tax band:
- L 4899mm, W 1860mm, H 1464mm
BMW 5-series rivals
- Lexus LS (click to view used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- Audi A6 (click to view used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- Mercedes-Benz E-class (click to view used car prices on driving.co.uk)