The 5 Series is BMW’s most important car

BMW 5 Series
BMW 5 Series

This might not be an all-new model, but there’s no such thing as a minor refresh in the BMW 5 Series.

The biggest news for this latest model is on the inside, with an unbelievable array of gadgets and active safety installations now available either as standard or at an extra cost.

On the outside, things are more or less as they were, with a long, sloping bonnet that dips suddenly towards a low, trademark ‘kidney grille’. Small tweaks here and there have neatened and sharpened what was until now a slightly tubby design, so its on-road presence is that little bit more imposing.

On the engine front there are six diesels and four petrols, ranging from a 518d with 141bhp and 119g/km to a mighty petrol V8 with more than 440bhp. At the car’s exclusive launch we drove the 535i and 530d options, with the diesel likely to be the more popular of the two. It’s a familiar unit to many current owners and excels at turning liquid diesel into formidably rapid forward motion, even in a car so relatively large.

The gearbox is, under normal use, a perfect match for the car. Changes are smooth, there’s no interruption to the power delivery and it will even disengage from the engine in an off-throttle efficiency-boosting process called decoupling. Its only failing is that under hard acceleration it changes up too late, allowing the diesel’s power delivery to stall in every gear as the torque curve falls away. For brisk acceleration it’s better to shift manually at around 3,500rpm using the paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.

This 5 Series cruises quietly, with immense stability even above 100mph on the German autobahn. It munches the miles deceptively easily and high-mileage drivers will love it. The variable-rate steering adjusts to make holding a straight course in your lane child’s play.

There’s simply far too much new technology to list here, but believe me it’s worth getting hold of the brochure. Something that merits a special mention, though, is a set of systems that drives the car completely automatically in traffic jams, accelerating, braking and steering independently of the driver.

As any dealer will be happy to tell you, the 5 Series is more customisable than ever, from the looks to the leather and from the suspension to the stereo. The basics are excellent enough though, and whatever configuration it’s built into, yet again, it’s hard to beat.