+ Refinement on the move
+ Variety of engine options
+ Still a driver's car
- Basic infotainment
- Potential maintenance costs
- Smaller boot than rivals
Verdict: The BMW 5 Series is an excellent blend of executive style with a premium-grade interior and great chassis setup that makes it thoroughly enjoyable to drive.
Used BMW 5 Series (2010-2017) review: the five-minute read
The BMW 5 Series has been a staple of the German marque's range since 1972, but this sixth-generation, known by its F10 model designation, is the second-most recent version. Available in both saloon and estate bodies, the latter called the Touring, this 5 Series was also the first to spawn an off-shoot model called the Gran Turismo, which adopted more of a crossover and wasn't especially well-received.
Among the main rivals to the BMW 5 Series are the Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, though it's also worth listing the Jaguar XF, Lexus GS and Volvo S90 as worthy competition. Larger-engined 5 Series examples are also more discreet alternatives to luxury cars such as the Maserati Ghibli and the Porsche Panamera. Of its closest rivals, the 5 Series is the most rewarding from a driver's perspective.
Sharp handling and engaging powertrain options make it a car that can be as enjoyable to drive on a good B-road as it is adept at tackling the everyday commute. The eight-speed automatic transmission is one of BMW's strong points, getting the best performance from its diesel engines. As the 5 Series was a popular car among business users, diesel engines are more common, yet some of the petrol engines are further refined and reasonably economical to run.
That doesn't quite apply to the range-topping M5. This super-saloon is the ultimate F10 5 Series and features a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 with a top speed that could be de-limited to 189mph with an optional Driver's Package.
Whichever model you choose, the BMW makes the most of its subtle styling as it hails from an era before BMW started to put massive kidney grilles onto the front of its cars. The interior is equally restrained and sensibly laid out with an iDrive system that doesn't seem dated despite not being a touchscreen setup.
Space isn't in short supply in the front and an assortment of different upholstery and inserts mean the cabin of the 5 Series can take on numerous different looks according to specification. Rear seating is generous with good headroom and legroom, though the rear-wheel-drive setup of the BMW means that the middle seat has restricted legroom due to the transmission tunnel.
When the BMW 5 Series was crash tested in 2010 by Euro NCAP, it scored a full five stars, including 95 percent for adult occupant protection and 100 percent for safety assist.
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Used BMW 5 Series (2010-2017) interior and infotainment
When BMW released iDrive in the 2001 7 Series it pioneered what we now know as infotainment, and using the wheel to control it made it highly intuitive to use. Skip forward a decade and the standard infotainment system in the 5 Series featured a 7-inch display, but BMW did offer an upgrade to a 10.2-inch display.
From 2013 onwards, the 5 Series included sat-nav as standard. We recommend looking for the optional BMW Professional system to avail of intelligent route assistance and real-time traffic information. The analogue instrument dials are classic BMW design; large, clear and easy to read. A digital display along the bottom relays trip computer information, including fuel consumption.
Interior comfort isn't in short supply inside the 5 Series. All versions came reasonably well-equipped with leather upholstery, parking sensors, Bluetooth and cruise control. The interior included wood and metallic inserts on higher-grade versions, giving the cabin a notably different look depending on the specification. There is only one wheelbase option for the 5 Series, and rear-seat space is quite good, other than a reduction in foot space for the middle seat due to the transmission tunnel.
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Used BMW 5 Series (2010-2017) practicality and boot space
The size and shape of the BMW 5 Series would lead you to believe that it has a massive boot, but at 520 litres it is less than both the Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class of the same era. It also doesn't have an especially large aperture, so loading larger and bulkier items into it isn't so easy. It is possible to fold the rear seats down in the 5 Series, however, this wasn't a standard feature and not all buyers were willing to spend the extra to have it. If that's a feature you'll need, ensure to check that the car you're viewing has it.
There is also the slightly more practical 5 Series Touring, but as stylish as the estate version is, the boot capacity only increases to 560 litres, which isn't a great deal more. However, as is the case with many of BMW's estates, the Touring's rear window can be opened separately to the boot lid, which makes it helpful to drop in smaller items.
Various storage areas dotted around the cabin are useful for odds and ends. Lifting the cover ahead of the gear selector reveals two cupholders and a 12-volt power socket. Beneath the armrest is additional storage for larger items.
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Used BMW 5 Series (2010-2017) engines
An array of diesel and petrol engines are available with this generation BMW 5 Series; even a hybrid version called the ActiveHybrid 5, which has a 335bhp powertrain, although it never really caught on and is one of the rarer models.
Petrol engines initially began with the 201bhp 523i and the 528i, which has 254bhp. A 530i with 268bhp soon replaced the 528i. The 535i is a sweet engine, using a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six to produce 302bhp. There is even a 550i that is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8, making it quite a sleeper car. Then there is the full-fat M5, which also has a 4.4-litre V8 producing 552bhp. BMW followed this up with a Competition Package that sees the power output rise to 592bhp.
The 5 Series being a popular choice among company car drivers means plenty of diesel engine options are available. These start with the 518d, which has a modest output of 148bhp and is a better engine than you might think. The four-cylinder 520d has 181bhp, while earlier 525d cars used a 3.0-litre six-cylinder with 201bhp, though from 2012 onwards it uses a 215bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. In earlier examples, the six-cylinder 530d and 535d cars have 242- and 302bhp engines, but BMW upgraded to 254- and 309bhp respectively, in 2012.
BMW uses six-speed manual gearboxes alongside an eight-speed automatic, and the auto is both more common and better to use. The M5 uses a slightly different dual-clutch 'DCT' transmission with seven gears.
Used BMW 5 Series (2010-2017) driving
The BMW 5 Series is one of those cars that simply drives right. It strikes a balance between the lighter and more agile 3 Series and the luxurious 7 Series. Opting for a car with the M Sport specification will appeal to those who prefer a sportier driving experience as the suspension is set up towards a firmer ride that enhances the driving experience. However, it does make the ride less smooth on coarser surfaces. An optional Adaptive Drive system features adaptive dampers that provide comfort when needed and firmness for keener driving and is an option well worth seeking out.
Choice of engine also plays a significant role in how sweetly the 5 Series drives. Naturally, the larger the motor, the more enjoyable it can be, though the more economical engines such as the 520d offer a superb balance and have satisfactory performance. The range-topping M5 has excellent handling and a considerable amount of power to match, making it ideal for transporting the family quickly.
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