BMW 5 Series

The new 5 Series is too anodyne for its own good

Here is the new BMW 5 Series, a breed of car to which all thrusting executives used to aspire. Nowadays they might tilt towards an Audi instead, but the ideal of a sportingly-flavoured, large saloon with a German nameplate is a concept owned by BMW for longer than anyone else.

So appetising and so marketable has such a concept been that even Mercedes-Benz found itself trying to make a somewhat BMW-like car with its previous-model E-Class. Reason has returned, and the current E-Class is a Mercedes which is most definitely a Mercedes. The curious thing is that, in its simplest form, the new BMW is a bit like a Mercedes too.

This is not a bad thing in itself, but you somehow expect a strong streak of that "ultimate driving machine" promise to which BMW so often alludes. So here I am in a new 530d, the model with the most remarkable blend of driving thrust and carbon minimalism. It is longer than its immediate predecessor, and it comes across as a bulkier car than any 5 Series before it (of which there have been five since 1972). The new one certainly has a more homogeneous shape than the outgoing model, but it's a shame the lower flanks have ended up so slabby when the concept sketches showed such curvaceous intrigue.

There's one throwback to the old car's challenging blend of convex and concave surfaces. Look at the bonnet: like all new cars, this 5 Series is designed to minimise damage to pedestrians, so it has a high, bluff front. That bonnet, though, looks as if someone has landed on it already.

Inside, the high dashboard adds to the feeling of bulk and stolidity. Partly to counteract thoughts of driving dullness, the main instrument and switch panels are angled a little towards the driver in the way they used to be in BMWs, the better to promote an intimacy with the machine. But this modern version is one complicated edifice. Central in this new dashboard is a hefty information screen on which the iDrive control systems – sat-nav, stereo, phone, computer, suspension settings and more – are laid bare. It is designed for people with no intelligence: why else would it tell you exactly how to select a "gear set" every time you start the engine, and continue to tell you this some time after the car is moving?

Time to discover how it moves. This 5 Series, ranging from £28,165 to £50,520, has a full steel structure, although the bonnet, front wings and doors are aluminium to help keep the near-even weight distribution over the axles that BMW holds dear. Most suspension components are also of aluminium, and at the front there are now double wishbones instead of struts to stop side forces from inhibiting the movement of the dampers. So the new 5 should feel smoother over bumps.

It does, too. This particular 530d has the optional adaptive dampers with four settings. The steering is now electrically powered instead of hydraulically, which saves energy, and bar an odd springiness when straightening up it feels pleasant enough. Add to this the usual, steam-engine-like flow of torque from one of the world's great turbodiesels, delivered with a deep, distant growl, and so many automatic gears that you lose track of where you are in the gearscape, and you have a restful, undemanding but ultimately rather unexciting car.

This can't be right. A BMW should excite you, draw you into the action when your mood desires it. Salvation presents itself in the 535i I try next, with 306bhp on offer from its 3.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine. This engine sets the tone for a proper BMW drive.

Crucially, as well as the adaptive dampers, this particular car also has "active steering", which speeds the response at low speeds and also steers the rear wheels a little to make the BMW more agile, and "dynamic drive" which reduces lean in corners by actively twisting the anti-roll bars. Thus equipped, the 535i becomes a driver's delight while retaining all the admirable comfort. It scythes round bends as a BMW should. It makes you feel great.

Trouble is, the trick suspension and steering add £3,520 to the price. And you shouldn't have to pay that to make a BMW into a BMW.

The Rivals

Audi A6 3.0 TDI SE quattro: £35,215.

Sleek, desirable but style has become Audi generic. Beautifully made, pleasing to drive, four-wheel drive as standard. CO2 can't match BMW's.

Jaguar XF 3.0 D Luxury: £34,775.

Terrific new twin-turbo diesel suits lithe, soothing but sporting XF perfectly. Auto gearbox only, plus the best interior in the class.

Mercedes E350 CDI Sport: £37,335.

Like others, has a 3.0-litre engine despite the name. CO2 isn't as good, at 186g/km, as BlueEfficiency tag suggests, but a delightful car to drive.

Suggested Topics
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - IT Managed Services

    £30000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are loo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Administrator

    £17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest ...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence