Overall rating: 5/5
The 5 Series is one of the keystones of the BMW range and even when simply glanced at it is easy to see why it remains such a popular choice among buyers. Given the seemingly winning formula, the people behind the blue and white roundel have naturally taken a very measured approach to updating it.
In the Metal:
As facelift models (or as BMW calls them 'LCI' (Life Cycle Impulse) updates) go, the new BMW 5 Series has received only subtle changes. At the front end some slight re-design work around the signature BMW kidney grilles adds additional contour lines that help focus attention on the grille. The result is that of a slightly more sporting look; below there is a restyled air intake.
The 5 Series will now also benefit from having Xenon headlights as standard across the range, while buyers will also be able to specify LED fog lamps and Adaptive LED Headlights. The latter work by having both main and dipped beams generated by LED units housed on horizontal ribs in the centre of the two light rings. The look and finish of them is of a very high standard. Moving back along the car, the side indicators are now fully integrated into the door mirrors while at the back of the car there are redesigned rear lights that feature very thin contoured LED light strips. These, in combination with an additional crease in the rear apron, help to emphasise the width of the car. Overall the exterior changes are minimal but do give the car that fine tweak that was needed to keep the car fresh.
As was the case with previous generations, this updated 5 Series remains very much a driver's car. The turbocharged straight-six diesel engine offers masses of torque whilst the free-revving nature of it gives a sporting feel that more enthusiastic drivers will appreciate. Should you wish to take control of the gear changes, a small pair of steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters are perfectly located to be at the tips of your fingers. The feel and weight of the shifters as you use them is of the kind of quality one would expect from a car in this premium segment. Gear changes are crisp and as swift as any other system that is currently on offer.
Those that prefer a more sedate level of driving can select the Comfort+ mode in the Driving Performance Control, which is linked with a Dynamic Damping Control system and provides the ultimate levels of comfort while on the move. Gears change at lower engine speeds while the suspension softens up to give a smoother, more softly damped ride.
BMW has worked hard to keep a positive and direct feel through the electric power steering system and the result is a setup that just edges ahead of the competition. Buyers can also choose to add Integral Active System, which at speeds of less than 60km/h makes the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to the front in order to reduce the car's turning circle; while at higher speeds the rear wheels steer in the same direction as those at the front to improve response - when changing lanes on the motorway for example. The steering is direct and gives a better feeling of connection with the car compared to some of its rivals.
Inside, the cabin is very well insulated from external and road noise, helped in part by a rear suspension design that includes acoustic separation. The quality and finish on the interior is some of the best in class and now offers even higher levels of personalisation than before. The BMW does have a different sense of style inside in comparison to that of the Audi A6 for example. It is of course modern but seems to draw on a more classic style interior compared to the uber modern Audi cabins of late. Legroom for the rear passengers is generous although the third passenger in the middle will lose out due to the prominent transmission tunnel.
The EfficientDynamics technology employed by BMW throughout the car does genuinely impress the more time you spend driving it. Designed as a means by which to maximise efficiency and minimise fuel consumption, it demonstrates better than most other technologies the perception that it is indeed working to achieve a more economical drive. Selecting the full Eco Pro mode sees the most noticeable change in the car's characteristic; the engine management alters the throttle pedal's response and changes the shifts of the automatic gearbox to help reduce engine revs, thus decreasing the amount of fuel being consumed. The system also reduces the power usage of electrically operated functions such as climate control and even the heated door mirrors. When the driver lifts their foot off the accelerator at speeds between 50- and 160km/h the car disengages the powertrain allowing the car to coast along without the effect of engine braking, which again helps to lower fuel consumption.
What you get for your Money:
If you like to have the latest technology in your car then BMW can certainly deliver on that, but it will come at a price. The standard specification is quite generous but systems such as the Traffic Jam Assistant (which will be available later this year) and Driving Assistant Plus bring another level of autonomy to the car that, when activated and set, can control acceleration and braking of the car while driving along in traffic, as well as keeping the car in the same lane even when the road bends around a corner.
BMW has increased the levels of detailed personalisation available to the customer with this new 5 Series. This includes BMW's Modern and Luxury lines, which offer far higher levels of luxury to the 5 Series buyer allowing them to tailor the interior to their exact taste.
As with most of BMW's model updates, what might seem like only minor changes at first glance are in fact much more extensive when looked at in more detail. This new BMW 5 Series is no different and the changes do enhance what was already an excellent car to begin with. Where the BMW 5 Series still excels is in how well it can perform both as a driver's car and in its ability to simply transport its occupants in luxurious comfort.