Review and road test of the BMW 5 Series [G30] (2016 - 2020)
DEFINITELY 5 STAR
By Jonathan Crouch
Whatever you're looking for in a full-sized Executive car, it's very likely that you'll find it in this one, the seventh generation 'G30'-series BMW 5 Series. Back in 2016, weight savings and clever new driving technology features restored this model's traditional leadership in this segment when it came to drive dynamics. There was also a sumptuous interior, a host of media connectivity and some really cutting-edge safety features. In short, this 'Five' proved to be a rejuvenated proposition.
5dr executive saloon/estate (Petrol - 2.0 184hp [520i] & 252hp [530i] + PHEV 530e / 6 cylinder 340hp [540i], V8 625hp [M5] / Diesel - 2.0 190hp [520d], 3.0 6 cylinder 265hp [530d] - trim levels SE, Sport, Luxury & M Sport)
For well over four decades now, the question facing customers in the segment for full-sized executive cars has less been why they should choose a BMW 5 Series but why they shouldn't. This was the car that ruled its marketplace, the business buyer's 'ultimate driving machine'. So what are we to make of this, the seventh generation 'G30' version launched in 2016?
Despite appearances, this MK7 model 5 Series is new from the ground up, lighter and more aerodynamic with sophisticated chassis upgrades and options like rear wheel steering that together are said to make this car almost as agile as its smaller 3 Series stablemate. The engine line-up was heavily upgraded to make the most of it all and as a result, across the range, original buyers could expect around 10% more performance along with an 11% rise in efficiency. Want a full-sized Executive car that can be more frugal than an entry-level Fiesta? The volume 520d variant can provide just that - and there's the potential to do even better if you can stretch to a Plug-in hybrid powerplant.
On top of all that, there's a little more space inside than the previous generation model could offer, a big step up in cabin quality and some quite astonishing technology, including another step towards semi-autonomous driving. This is, in short, a state-of-the-art contender that's quite impossible to ignore as a used car choice in this segment. It was heavily facelifted in Spring 2020. It's the pre-facelift G30 series versions of this car we're going to look at here.
What You Get
Over nearly half a century of production, there have certainly been moments of note in 5 Series design - the original 'E12' version of 1972 and the MK5 'E60' model of 2003 both come to mind. Overall though, this car has generally been characterised by the kind of confident but conservative styling that features on this seventh generation 'G30' version. As expected, this 'Five' borrowed heavily from aesthetic cues established by its smaller 3 Series and bigger 7 Series stablemates and shares much under the skin with that larger car. The 'CLAR' 'cluster architecture' underpinnings in fact are pretty much the same as you'd find in a 'Seven', though BMW stopped short of incorporating that pricier model's expensive carbon-fibre reinforced 'Carbon Core'. Even without that though, this MK7 5 Series model still weighs in 100kg lighter than its predecessor, despite the fact that it's longer, wider and slightly taller than before.
Once in the cabin, the design approach seems less understated than it is outside - and feels very sophisticated. Virtual dials cosset your eyes through the beautifully tactile three-spoke wheel, while to the right at the top of the centre stack lies a big 10.25-inch colour iDrive screen that welcomes you on first name terms to the 5 Series driving experience. Those may be the first things you'll notice, but shortly after, you'll be struck by the sheer quality on offer here. All the materials used - even those lower down - feel great to touch, with proper leather and metal finishing that feels very special indeed.
This seventh generation 'Five' is virtually as big as the larger 7 Series model from a decade or so back and the stats for back seat space bear that out, particularly in terms of the extra knee room and leg room that come courtesy of this G30 model's 7mm of extra wheelbase length. Boot space is rated at 530-litres thanks to the long rear overhang; that total's only a fraction less than an E-Class or an XF. With the Plug-in hybrid 530e variant, it'll be 120-litres smaller because the 9.2 kWh battery pack pinches a little bit of the space. Of course, if you're going to be needing this sort of capacity very often, you'll be better off going for the Touring estate version of this model, which offers a 570-litre boot in conventional form, extendable to 1700-litres if you flatten the rear seat.
What to Look For
Most of the 5 Series buyers in our ownership survey were very happy with their cars but inevitably, there were a few that had issues. Check all the electrical features work as they're supposed to. Make sure there are no parking scrapes on the alloy wheels as these will be pricey to put right. And as usual, insist on a fully stamped-up service record.
(approx prices based on a 2017 520d ex VAT) An air filter costs in the £13 to £29 bracket. An oil filter costs around £16. Front brake pads sit in the £27-£48 bracket for a set; for rears, it's around £30-£33. A pair of wiper blades cost around £27. A rear lamp is priced at around £182. A front full-LED headlamp is pricey, costing in the £1,230 bracket. A water pump's around £100.
On the Road
You don't have to drive very far in this seventh generation 'G30'-series 5 Series to notice this model's sharper feel and extra agility. Losing 100kg in weight will do that for you. It didn't feature the kind of full air suspension set-up that could be specified as an option on a rival Mercedes E-Class, but if you get a car whose original owner added in the extra cost 'VDC' 'Variable Adaptive Damping' system, you'll find very little to complain about when it comes to ride quality. With 'VDC' fitted, you also get an extra 'Adaptive' setting on the standard 'Drive Performance Control' system, a mode that makes all the driving set-up decisions for you and draws on data from the navigation system to anticipate and prepare for corners and hazards in advance. Options you might find fitted include an 'Adaptive Drive' set-up that uses automatically-adjustable anti-roll bars to reduce body roll through the bends. Plus quite a few original buyers paid extra for xDrive 4WD. And an 'Integral Active Steering' that'll steer the rear wheels for additional stability at speed and extra manoeuvrability when parking.
Engine-wise, most buyers will choose the 190bhp 2.0-litre four cylinder diesel unit fitted to the 520d variant. In its most frugal 'EficientDynamics' guise, this particular 'Five' is capable of running cost returns that are un-bettered in the class - 72.4mpg on the combined cycle and 102g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). If you need more pulling power, the 3.0-litre six cylinder diesel of the 265bhp 530d model beckons. Another 3.0-litre six cylinder unit features at the top of the mainstream petrol engine line-up, namely the 340bhp powerplant that sits beneath the bonnet of the potent 540i variant. The primary 5 Series petrol engine though, is a 252bhp 2.0-litre four cylinder unit offered in two distinct forms. You get it conventionally in the 530i model. But it also comes mated to a 95bhp electric motor and a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery as part of the Plug-in hybrid package provided by the 'iPerformance' 530e derivative.
Elsewhere, you may have read or seen that this seventh generation 'G30' 5 Series has been pronounced as the class-leader in the full-sized Executive segment. We're not about to disagree with that assessment. A comparable Jaguar XF is lovely to drive. And a rival Mercedes E-Class is technologically advanced and great to ride in. But with the 5 Series, we think you get the best that these two competitors can offer - plus a little more.
Whether you prioritise clever gadgetry, hi-tech engineering or sharp running costs in your full-sized Executive car, this BMW operates from an agenda that will certainly impress. Conservatively styled it may be: conservative in outlook it certainly isn't.
BMW 5 Series [G30] (2016 - 2020) review by Jonathan Crouch