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BMW 5 Series


BMW M5

Summary

BMW 5 Series

Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new BMW 5 Series 520d, 530i, 530d and 540i sedans with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Victoria.

When we're all living under the cruel rule of our robot overlords, the few remaining human historians will track the genesis of our downfall to the technology explosion that occurred in 2017's new-car market. 

Never before have car companies focused so hard on producing cars that can't just be driven, but that can drive themselves, negotiating corners, unexpected obstacles and changing traffic conditions without ever needing to consult the human actually sitting behind the steering wheel.

And BMW's all-new 5 Series sedan takes yet another a step forward, eliminating the need for said human to even be sitting in the car. Owners can instead move their 5 Series in and out of tight parking spaces simply by pressing a button on their key.

The Active Key function is admittedly a $1,600 cost option, but it proves the techno-focus applied to the seventh-generation of BMW's executive express, which will land in Australian dealerships this month. Every car is also fitted with what the German brand calls its personal co-pilot; a series of nifty cameras and radars that allow the car to be driven completely autonomously for spells of 30 seconds.

But the question is, has all this new technology come at the cost of regular, old-school driver enjoyment?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

BMW M5

Full throttle out of a 90 degree corner with 441kW under your right foot is a situation any sane human should consider carefully, regardless of skill level or whether you’re pedalling someone else’s $200,000 super sedan. 

This was particularly true with the 423kW previous F10 M5, which would overcome its 295mm wide rear treads as soon as you looked at the throttle. Of course this is a helluva lot of fun in the right scenario, but a bit of a glass ceiling if you’re chasing faster lap times or trying to drive with any dignity in wet weather. 

Hence the reason the new F90 M5 scores all-wheel drive (AWD) for the first time in a fully-fledged M car, and spoiler alert: it’ll now punch out of even the slowest corners with little more than a chirp from the rear tyres. If you leave all the traction aides switched on that is, but more on that later.

If you’re shopping at this end of the market, you’ll no doubt realise the new AMG E 63 has also graduated to all paw, aligning with Audi which has been in this camp since it started building fast cars. AMG and Audi have certainly proved that extra grip doesn’t necessarily mean a dull drive. 

So the pressure for German super sedan supremacy is on the new M5 big time, and we were among the first to drive it on road and track in Australia last week. Will the M5 vs E 63 debate become the next Coke vs Pepsi, Prince vs Michael Jackson, or Holden vs Ford?

Safety rating
Engine Type4.4L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

BMW 5 Series7.9/10

Sleek and attractive in the city,  engaging on a country back road and with plenty of clever technology, the 5 Series sedan ticks all the right boxes as an executive express. If you can stomach the price hike, the six-cylinder 540i is our pick of the bunch.

Would a new 5 Series tempt you away from an E-Class or A6? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


BMW M58.3/10

The new M5 is another masterpiece from the brilliant minds at M. Whether its better or worse than the E63 is impossible to say in isolation, but I can tell you it’s bloody good. All-wheel drive is a very good thing for the M5.

Would you go M5 or E 63? Or hang out for the next RS 6?

Design

BMW 5 Series8/10

Hardly a revolution, the 5 Series has instead undergone a few nips and tucks. But if it ain't broke and all that. It might not be the most head-turning offering, but the 5 Series sedan remains sleek, powerful and understated, and it is undeniably handsome on the road.

Its 8mm wider, 28mm longer and 2mm taller than the car it replaces, but it's also around 95kg lighter, thanks to its aluminium doors and boot and a clever magnesium frame for the instrument panel that saved another two kilograms. There's some other clever design elements, too. The kidney grille has active air flaps that open when extra cooling is required, closing when it isn't, reducing drag and helping accleration.

Inside, the 5 Series offers a beautifully crafted yet joyously understated cabin, with quality materials joining modern technology in a seamless way.


BMW M58/10

Starting with the still-fresh G30 5 Series as an excellent basis, the new M5 retains the somewhat discrete looks of before, missing out on the pumped wheelarches of the smaller Ms and staying within cooee of lesser fives fitted with the M Sport pack. 

There is a host of bespoke bits for your money though, headlined by a more aggressive front bumper with larger cooling apertures. You also get the typical aero-shaped M door mirrors, extra ridges pressed into the bonnet, vented front guards, a chunkier rear bumper insert with quad exhaust outlets and a tiny lip spoiler on the bootlid. 

There’s also 20-inch wheels which can be had in machined finish or all black for the same price, which wrap around blue (unspecified diameter) six-piston front and single piston floating caliper rear brakes. Carbon ceramics with gold calipers are available for an extra $16,500, saving 23kg.

For the first time, the M5 has scored a carbon fibre roof panel (unless you option the no-cost sunroof), which saves 1.5kg over the regular aluminium turret.

In fact, the whole car is 15kg lighter than before at 1855kg. This is despite adding all the extra AWD hardware and thanks to the G30 5 Series’ aluminium, high-tensile steel and magnesium-intensive body structure. 

This relative subtlety is carried over to the inside, with bespoke sports seats featuring illuminated M logos joining a chunky new gear selector and sexy little anodised red M1 and M2 buttons on the steering wheel. There’s also M-striped seatbelts for anyone concerned.

The perforated Merino leather seats are available in a choice of off white, cream or black themes.

Practicality

BMW 5 Series8/10

This is a full-size sedan, and every seat feels spacious and airy. The sloping, slightly coupe-style roofline does cut into headroom in the back, but human-sized people will have little trouble, even sitting behind a tall driver.

Each trim offers two cupholders in the front, with another two housed in a pull-down divider that seperates the rear seat. And there's two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back. 

The 5 Series' boot opens to rival a surprisingly sizeable storage space, offering 530 litres with the 40:20:40 rear seats in place.


BMW M59/10

Just when Australia loses its home-grown performance sedans, the M5 continues to offer decent seating for five adults, and a large 530-litre boot that'll manage family holidays and beyond with a 40/20/40 split fold. 

Other par for the course items include two cup holders front and rear, bottle holders in each door, and ISOFIX child seat mounts in each outboard position in the rear.

In lieu of a spare tyre, the M5 rides on runflats with a puncture repair kit as backup. 

For those needing to tow things real fast, the new M5 is rated to pull an impressive 2000kg unbraked.

Try all that with a Ferrari Enzo, which is still 0.2s slower 0-100km/h.

Price and features

BMW 5 Series7/10

BMW's venerable 5 Series is now 45 years old, and this all-new model arrives in four distinct flavours, with a fifth - an incoming M5 performance sedan - still some way off.

For now, though, the range kicks off with the 520d, before stepping up what BMW hopes to be the big seller of the range, the 530i (replacing the outgoing 528i). Next up is biggest diesel, the 530d (replacing the the 535d), before the current range tops out with the petrol-powered 540i (replacing the old 535i).

Be warned though, there's been some pretty serious price increases right across the line up, ranging from $9,145 to a whopping $19,245. In fact, only the 530d has seen its price come down, now $3,755 cheaper than the outgoing 535d. BMW justifies the hikes by pointing to an increase in standard inclusions across the range.

The 520d kicks off from $93,900, and arrives predictably well equipped for your money. Expect 18-inch alloys, leather trim, dual-zone climate control and a 12-speaker stereo. You'll also get a technology overhaul, with a bigger and upgraded Head Up display (it can now read street signs and beam that info onto the screen), a 10.25-inch touchscreen and a wireless (insert link to chi charger story) charging pad.

Step up to the 530i ($108,900) or 530d ($119,900) and you'll add 19-inch alloys, adaptive dampers with dynamic mode (that reads both driver input and navigation data and tweak suspension, gear and steering settings automatically) a 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and a crystal-clear 12.3 high-resolution digital display in the driver's binnacle. You'll also find heated front seats, a powered boot and sports seats in the front.

Finally, spring for the 540i ($136,900) and you'll get 20-inch alloys, a sunroof and electric blinds for the rear windows. You'll also find better Nappa leather on the seats, which now also offer a cooling function. Under the skin, you'll get an active anti-roll bar at each axle designed to keep the car from rolling side-to-side on the twisty stuff.

One quirk, however, is the fact that BMW's very cool wireless Apple CarPlay is a cost option on every trim level, and one that will set you back $479.


BMW M58/10

The first 50 F90 M5s to touch down in Australia will be Launch Edition spec, and wear a list price of $199,900.

This puts it $30,000 cheaper than the previous top-spec version, but $14,900 higher than the previous Pure entry point. We’d be very surprised if a Pure version of the F90 didn’t appear in the near future. 

There’s also an even more exclusive run of five First Edition models, but I’m afraid you’ve missed the boat on these already. 

The Launch Edition comes very well stocked, with highlights including a 16-speaker harmon/kardon audio system, leather-wrapped instrument panel, Alcantara headliner, velour floor mats, M-specific colour head-up display, smartphone-like ‘Display Key’ and power boot opening with hands-free function.

Reflecting Australia’s preference for maximum noise from its V8s, the console-button switchable 'M Sport Exhaust' system is also standard.

It’s worth noting that Apple CarPlay is still a whopping $623 option, however, and even then you only get a three-year subscription to the interface. There’s no sign of Android Auto either, due to BMW’s stance that its admittedly excellent iDrive proprietary system is superior. 

As always, there’s a variety of options available, including the aforementioned $16,500 carbon ceramic brakes, a $2250 carbon fibre engine cover, a $6400 Bowers & Wilkins 16-speaker audio upgrade, and a variety of colour and trim options via BMW Individual. 

Engine & trans

BMW 5 Series8/10

The hunt for efficiency sees all but the most expensive 5 Series models equipped with four-cylinder engines, including the entry-level 520d, which is fitted with a 2.0-litre diesel unit that will produce 140kW at 4,000rpm and 400Nm from 1,750rpm. That's enough to push the cheapest 5 Series to 100km/h in a not particularly inspiring 7.5 seconds, topping out at 235km/h.

The cheapest petrol, the 530i, arrives with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine good for 185kW at 5,200rpm and 350Nm from 1,450rpm. That will see you clip 100km/h in 6.2 seconds and push on to a limited top speed of 250km/h.

The 530d introduces the first six-cylinder engine, a 3.0-litre unit that will produce 195kW at 4,000rpm and an impressive 620Nm from 2,000rpm. That's enough to knock off the sprint in in 5.7 seconds and offers a top speed limited to 250km/h.

Finally, the top-spec petrol, the 540i, will produce 250kW at 5,500rpm and 450Nm from 1,380rpm from its 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine. Those are healthy numbers, and enough to welcome 100km/h in a sprightly 5.1 seconds before topping out a limited 250km/h.

Every model is paired with an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.


BMW M59/10

All-wheel drive is nothing new for left-hand drive versions of BMW’s sedan line-up, but this most recent generation has extended this to right-hand drive models. 

The first to hit Australia was the M760Li V12 7 Series flagship, but the new M5’s M xDrive (sounds a bit like a Mazda sports car) system brings the extra versatility of being able to switch between 4WD, 4WD Sport and wait for it, 2WD modes.

The key distinction between each is the amount of power allowed to escape to the front wheels, and while BMW isn’t specifying torque splits, we can safely say that '4WD' is able to actively send lots of drive to the front when needed. '4WD Sport' clearly favours the rear wheels and forms the brilliantly calibrated 'M Dynamic Mode' in M5 guise, while 2WD mode disconnects the front wheels altogether and deactivates the stability control to pretty much leave you in the hands of your chosen deity.

Regardless of mode, the system works in conjunction with the 'Active M' locking rear differential used across the M range. 

The next biggest change to the M5’s drivetrain is the move away from the seven-speed (DCT) dual-clutch transmission in favour of an M-tweaked version of the eight-speed ZF torque converter auto found in most high-end longitudinal applications (BMW included) these days, including the Audi RS 6

Labeled ‘M Steptronic’ in M5 tune, it promises ‘similar’ shift speed to the previous dual clutcher while improving low speed response. It’s doubtful anyone who’s lived with an F10 M5 in everyday traffic will disagree with this move.

Like before, the new unit is able to be controlled manually via paddle shifters or sequentially via the selector, while also incorporating 'Drivelogic' shift speed options which can be controlled individually.

Providing the M5’s thrust in the first place is a slightly tweaked version of the previous F10’s hot-V twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, which now carries the S63B44T4 designation.

Rather than the name of a Star Wars robot, this code represents 441kW/750Nm, with the latter available from just 1800rpm all the way to 5600rpm. This is 18kW/70Nm up from before, but is notably still 9kW and 100Nm shy of the new E 63.

The only key mechanical change for the S63B44T4 has been the adoption of an electronic oil pump, which allows fully variable control of lubrication to suit specific conditions. 

Fuel consumption

BMW 5 Series8/10

BMW quotes a combined 4.3 litres per hundred kilometres from the 520d, which will also spit out 114g per kilometre of C02. The 530d lifts that number to 4.7 litres per hundred kilometres (which seems a small price to pay for all that extra torque), with C02 pegged at 124g per kilometre. Both diesels get a slightly smaller tank, at 66 litres.

The 530i will sip a claimed/combined 5.8 litres per hundred kilometres, with C02 emissions a claimed 132g per kilometre, while the big 540i requires 6.7 litres per hundred kilometres, with C02 pegged at 154g per kilometre. Both petrol models get a 68-litre tank and require 95RON fuel.


BMW M58/10

You simply can’t expect a car of this size and performance to sip fuel when you’re using it to its potential, but the new M5’s 10.5L/100km official combined fuel figure suggests you’ll get a decent range on the highway out of its 68-litre tank.

This is actually 0.6L more than the previous model’s official figure, but the difference is likely to be negligible in the real world. 

Impressively, BMW’s press material states that it will accept Regular 91RON unleaded if needed, but full-strength 98RON is recommended.

Driving

BMW 5 Series8/10

BMW's pre-drive briefing was so technology focused we half expected the black turtle neck and dad jean-wearing ghost of Steve Jobs to emerge from behind a curtain clutching an iPad. Only a minuscule portion was dedicated to the cars' drivetrains, with BMW instead hammering home autonomy functions, technology upgrades and the fact that its car was a preview to "the future".

But once we'd slipped behind the wheel of the all-new 5 Series, it all started to make more sense. Having briefly sampled three models (the 530i, 530d and 540i), we can safely report there's nothing particularly revolutionary about their on-road behaviour. That's not necessarily a bad thing - they do everything you could ask of a car in this bracket. They're mostly smooth and always quiet, the new chassis has done nothing to dampen engagement when you start to ask a little more of it, and it's generally a luxurious experience. But then so was the old car.

But what's new is the technology poured into the 5 Series. Every car gets what BMW is calling its personal co-pilot, for example, which is a set of tricky systems (there's six cameras, five radar sensors and 12 ultrasonic sensors scattered around the car) that work with the active cruise control and allow the car to be driven completely autonomous for 30-second intervals. Now, it's not quite as advanced as some of its competitor's systems - it can't change lanes for example - but if you're out on a country road or on a highway, it will stay within its lane, turn around corners and keep up with the traffic, even if they stop in front of you.

While the cheapest diesel model has historically been the best seller, BMW is hoping the new 530i will prove the most popular this time around. And while you couldn't describe it as fast, the power from its four-cylinder engine is ample for all that will likely be asked of it, and it feels sorted and composed on  more challenging roads. It's a smooth and comfortable ride, too, even with the optional 20-inch alloys fitted, though that's undoubtedly thanks to the adaptive dampers and ever-changing dynamic ride function, both of which are fitted as standard. In fact, we're yet to drive a car without those options fitted, so we're forced to reserve judgement on the as-standard ride quality of the cheaper models.

Be warned though, none in the 5 Series range offer the disconnected and perfectly smooth conveyance you might find in some true luxury offerings, and you'll still know when you're diving into deep pockmarks in the road. But the trade off is a an engaging ride and steering set up that always feels planted, with enough feedback to ensure you feel connected to what's happening beneath the tyres. And that's a trade we're more than willing to make.

Step up to the 540i and things take a much sportier turn. The turbocharged six-cylinder feels right at home in a car this size, with acceleration effortless and freeway overtaking manoeuvres an absolute breeze. And while we didn't find roads quite brutal enough to really test the active anti-roll bars housed at each axle, there's a wonderful and stable flatness to the way the biggest petrol handles corners.

It's not cheap, but thanks to the bigger engine and sorted dynamics, the 540i feels most like a 5 Series probably should.


BMW M59/10

Back to the full throttle, 90 degree bend scenario, the new M5 proves itself to be pretty much idiot proof at Turn 12 on our second lap of Sandown. Floored at the apex in 4WD mode to get the best out of Pit Straight, it just gets up and goes without any fuss. 

We only had time for three hot laps per session, which gave us one lap to properly warm up, one lap to push it in full 4WD mode, and one lap to see what happens when the leash is loosened in 4WD Sport. 

The full nudie run 2WD mode was kyboshed by the party police for our brief stints, but 4WD Sport liberates a healthy dose of tail wagging all around, which converts the experience from admiration of sheer speed to smile-inducing indulgence. 

Approaching Turn 12 in the same fashion, the rear steps out quite nicely, and the front wheels (and remaining traction aides) step in at just the right time to make you feel like you’ve played a role in pulling it straight again. 

It’s hard to avoid superlatives when describing something with 441kW, 750Nm, a 0-100km/h claim of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 305km/h when the M Driver’s Package is optioned, even before you consider we’re talking about a large sedan with all the creature comforts for five adults.

The 0-100km/h time is only a small part of the story here. It’s the 0-200 in a claimed 11.1 seconds that you feel on the track, and we were nudging 250 along the back straight. 

Through the twisties at either end of the track, the M5 does a great job of changing direction for its size. It’s clearly not as nimble as something like an M2, but its one very agile big sedan. 

The cars we used on track were fitted with the optional carbon ceramic brakes, which seem well up to the task of managing the M5’s 1855kg, and showed no signs of fading over three laps of the fast circuit.

BMW claims the F90 is quicker than the F10 around a racetrack even in 2WD mode, so it’s hard to describe the new model as anything other than a net gain. 

That’s without considering it’s on-road performance of course, but the M5 is instantly impressive as an everyday performer. 

It does make quite a racket from the exhaust on start-up, which brings a bit of a supercar vibe, and like the previous model it’s more of a techy bark than the Merc’s offshore powerboat roar. This perception doesn’t change, and I’d wager BMW’s approach would be easier to live with in the long term.

Plonked straight into Melbourne urban driving for our road drive loop, it is instantly clear how much of a benefit the new transmission is. 

Gone are the sometimes jerky and slow automatic shifts, as are the occasional robot noises as two clutches reveal the complexity of their jobs. The new model simply gets along like any other 5 Series would, comfortably, responsively and without fuss. 

It retains the same adjustability of the old model, with individual controls beyond the driving modes for  shift speed, throttle responsiveness, engine acoustics, stability control, steering and suspension. 

Your favourite combos can be saved for ready access behind those M1 or M2 buttons, and if you’re not happy with your own M5 calibrations, you can always pick one of the default modes instead. 

Left in full comfort mode, the ride quality is really quite liveable. You can tell it's a performance car, but it probably won’t drive you mad using it for the daily commute.

And, when you find yourself stuck in motorway traffic you can while away the hours marvelling at the semi-autonomous mode for 30 seconds at a time.

Safety

BMW 5 Series9/10

Expect plenty of clever safety gear, with every 5 Series sedan arriving with six airbags (dual front and full-length side airbags, along with head protection bags for front passengers). You'll also find a surround-view reversing camera and parking sensors.

But the high-tech stuff arrives courtesy of active cruise control, cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and cross-road alerts.


BMW M58/10

The new M5 is yet to be tested by ANCAP, and the maximum five star rating awarded to the 520d doesn’t officially carry across to the performance flagship.

It may retain all of the safety equipment of the lesser models, but its all-wheel drivetrain and bespoke under-bonnet hardware can’t guarantee the same crash performance. 

This standard safety list includes AEB, dual front and driver’s knee airbag, full-length side and head airbags. 

The active cruise control system works in harmony with lane guidance and front and rear cross-traffic monitoring to allow up to 30 seconds of semi-autonomous driving at a time. 

One BMW strong point is the 'eCall' system, which automatically detects incidents when a certain g-force is registered. The system then attempts to contact you by phone, and if there’s no response, it automatically alerts the emergency services with an estimated severity of the incident and the GPS coordinates of your location. 

One other freebie that might help you avoid ever needing eCall is the BMW Driving Experience course which is thrown in for M buyers, to show you what your M5 is capable of with professional guidance.

Ownership

BMW 5 Series7/10

The BMW 5 Series is covered by a three year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and requires condition-based servicing (rather than a pre-defined service interval).

You can also prepay your maintenance costs for five years/80,000kms, with prices ranging from $1,640 for the basic package, and climbing to $4,600 for the all-inclusive option.


BMW M57/10

The new M5 is covered by BMW’s standard three year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Service intervals are condition based, meaning the vehicle will alert you when a service is required. 

To add some certainty to the cost of ownership, a capped service plan is available for the first five years or 80,000km for $3641.