The all-new 5 is still a joy to drive
BMW's latest 5 Series sheds weight and gains efficiency and performance, writes Geraldine Herbert
Since the polarising Chris Bangle designs of the Noughties, BMW designers have maintained a strong visual link between the past and present 5 Series and differences between the all-new version and previous generation are minor. The latest 5 Series is probably the most restrained offering to date and looks more like a shrunken 7.
It is more spacious and 100kg lighter than the last, thanks to a redesigned chassis and what BMW calls Efficient Lightweight design.
Power comes from a range of diesel and petrol options and all offer greater fuel efficiency with lower emissions. There is also the option of a hybrid, the 530e iPerformance Saloon with CO2 emissions of just 49g/km while generating overall output of 252hp. Fuel consumption is a miserly 2.1 l/100km.
Under the bonnet of the 520d is a TwinPower turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that delivers 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque and with fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of 4.1 l/100km and 108g/km, it will be the engine of choice for many. The 20d, 30d and 40i can be specified with BMW's xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive system.
Keen to demonstrate that their recent emphasis on Efficient Dynamics is not at the expense of the Ultimate Driving Machine, we were offered the chance to sample the car on our National track at Mondello.
And it is here that the 5 truly shines, with brilliant grip and perfect balance thanks to the new xDrive four-wheel drive available for the first time. The steering is quicker than before and both that precision and poise is very appealing; it is still the car to offer the best balance of power and handling.
Inside it is packed with high-tech features including the new iDrive infotainment with optional Gesture Control for key functions such as navigation, telephone, entertainment features and vehicle functions, or you can simply rely on the iDrive rotary controller to do the same.
Prices start at €51,950 for the 520d SE and the 530d SE starts at €64,860. Though well equipped, the price is a little steep when compared to rivals. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class range starts from €47,975 (recently reduced by 10pc), Jaguar's XF from €45,995, Volvo S90 from €44,995 and the Audi A6 is priced from €45,080.
As the price tag suggests, the 5 series comes with a host of driver-assistance systems to reduce the driver's workload, including Dynamic Cruise Control (DCC) as standard, while Active Cruise Control (ACC) and Speed Limit Info are optional. The Driving Assistant Plus safety package includes the Lane Keeping Assistant, Lane Departure Warning system, Lane Change Warning, along with Driving Assist Plus. The new car can even park itself into tight parallel and perpendicular spaces - but be warned: it may get you into a space but the system won't get you out again.
So having had a chance to drive the 5 Series as German engineers intended, the new car is impressive and retains the key driving traits that have defined it for decades. However, at a time when rivals such as Mercedes and Volvo have focused on comfort and refinement on the move, are driving dynamics enough in this competitive market?