Currently reading: Nearly new buying guide: BMW 5 Series
This deeply impressive, all-encompassing German saloon can now be yours from £18,000

If ever a car summed up the Aristotelian belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it’s the current BMW 5 Series. Make no mistake: its individual parts are deeply impressive, but put them all together and the resultant car is terrific – especially as a used buy. 

Regular petrol models range from the 520i to the 523bhp V8 BMW M550i. Petrol plug-in hybrids include the 530e and, from 2021 onwards, the four-wheel-drive, six-cylinder 545e. There’s even a BMW M5, a 592bhp supersaloon (616bhp in Competition form, 626bhp in CS trim). The diesels are the best-selling 520d and the punchy 530d. 

Some 5 Series cars have four-wheel drive (xDrive) and all feature an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Since 2021, all four- and six-cylinder engines have had 48V mild-hybrid technology. 

There are just two regular trims: SE and M Sport. Even SE is laden with items such as heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights, while M Sport offers all of the above plus sportier body styling and larger wheels. 

Bmw 5 series side 2

Whichever one you choose, the 5 Series is great to drive. The four cylinder 520i and 530i petrols are smooth and refined, while the BMW 540i and M550i are wonderfully swift. The diesels are decently refined, too, and the 520d is punchy enough for most tastes. The BMW 530e is delightful: it’s smooth and quiet and packs enough pace to make the much more expensive BMW 545e seem a little superfluous. 

Precise steering and great balance make the 5 Series a joy to punt down a twisting road. It also does a fine job of keeping wind and road noise at bay and does well for ride comfort. SE models have softer suspension and smaller alloy wheels that give a smoother ride than M Sports, which can be a little unsettled on standard suspension. If you can find one, a 5 Series with the optional adaptive suspension offers the smoothest ride of all. 

The 5 Series is just as impressive inside. Digital instruments are standard, the dashboard is laid out clearly and all the controls are easy to use. Every 5 Series comes with BMW’s range-topping infotainment system, which packs a 12.3in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring and sat-nav. It’s one of the best systems going. Between the front seats, there’s also a dial controller surrounded by shortcut buttons, which is much easier (and safer) to use than the touchscreen. 


Read our review

Car review

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Bmw 5 series front seats

All the materials look and feel of suitably high quality. Every model has comfortable seats and plenty of room for the driver and passengers. The boot is big and well shaped, too. 

As for prices, the 5 Series starts at around £18,000 for an early one. Most will be 520ds, because this model is the biggest seller. Spend between £19,000 and £25,000 on 2018 and 2019 cars. Reckon on £25,000 to £29,000 for a good 2019 model and £29,000 to £35,000 for 2020-2021 cars. Post-facelift 2021 models start at around £35,000.

Our top spec

M Sport Pro: If you can find one, a car fitted with adaptive suspension is definitely worth having. Look out for this on the M Sport Pro Pack on later, post-2020 cars.

Need to know

The mild-hybrid 520d averages 56.5mpg officially and the rest of the range is very efficient, too. The plug-in hybrid 530e has an electric-only range of up to 29 miles in the earlier versions and up to 37 miles in the post-2021 cars.

The What Car? Reliability Survey from our sibling title shows petrol 5 Series models in a good light: they achieved a 95.0% reliability rating. Diesel variants scored only 90.4% and the hybrid 530e 91.6%

Bmw 5 series front three quarter 2

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Buyer beware

After-sale fixes: Recalls have been issued for a few potential problems. The exhaust gas recirculation cooler might leak, posing a fire risk. An issue with the propellant in the curtain airbags means they might not deploy correctly. The rear driveshafts might not fulfil their durability requirements, and there’s a possibility of impurities in the highvoltage batteries of plug-in hybrids causing a short circuit. Check that all remedial work has been carried out before buying.

Our pick

530e: We love the 530e. It’s fast, smooth and refined, and if you do short journeys and can plug it in often, you could see spectacular economy. It also shouldn’t cost much more than a 520d to buy.

Wild card

M5 CS: Why not? Go wild with the mega CS, a 190mph, 3.0sec 0- 62mph bruiser of raw, genuine and involving character. Well mannered, usable and very expensive. Five stars from us.

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405line 8 February 2024

The problem with the 5 these days and BMWs generally is that it's all too much engine or nothing to write home about, who wants an expensive 4 cylinder 5 series except commercial users, smooth as it may be.