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BMW 5 Series 2014 review: first drive

EXPERT RATING
8
BMW's 5 Series has long been a class benchmark, successfully balancing its requisite size and luxury with a dynamic edge that often evades its rivals.

BMW's 5 Series has long been a class benchmark, successfully balancing its requisite size and luxury with a dynamic edge that often evades its rivals. Since the current sixth-generation arrived in late 2010, fresh challengers from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar and Lexus have all attempted to stake their claim on the segment, so BMW has responded with a facelifted model for 2014 to reassert its presence.  

Despite being the large premium top-seller in 2012, BMW have given the all three 5 Series bodystyles an aesthetic refresh with revised pricing, improved value, and polished mechanicals to ensure their ongoing desirability.

VALUE

Pricing has been shuffled across most variants, with the entry 520i sedan jumping $1400 to $79,900, and the range-topping 550i sedan has dropped an impressive $19,255 to $159,900. Following a similar approach to rival Mercedes-Benz, new 'Luxury' and 'Modern' trim line choices have been created for the 5 Series -- with no respective price difference -- to sit beneath the existing ($4000-$6400) M-Sport trim and suspension package.

Improved equipment levels across the range have boosted value by a claimed 14 per cent average across all models. The entry 520i and 520d models now come with 18 inch alloys as standard (up from 17s), extended dual-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting, bi-xenon headlamps, electric seat adjustment, paddle shifters, WiFi capability, Bluetooth audio streaming, uprated satnav, LED fog lamps, and a grippier sports steering wheel.

The 528i has made similar gains, and steps up to standard 19 inch alloys (up from 18s), adaptive LED headlamps, reverse-dipping exterior mirrors, hands-free bootlid opening, digital radio with Harmon Kardon audio, lane departure, forward collision and pedestrian warning systems with city braking, surround view camera system and multifunction instruments. The 535i and 535d models add an automated parking system over the 528i, while the top 550i sedan has all the above plus rear and side retractable sunblinds. 

DESIGN

In keeping with recent BMW tradition, the styling department has taken an 'if it aint broke' approach with the new 5 Series' design revisions. A new front fascia features shapes similar to the new 4 Series, while a redesigned rear bumper has gained a chrome inlay, and the side indicators have been moved to the wing mirrors.

All models feature redesigned head and taillight internals and new LED foglights, with the adaptive LED headlights ($3500 option on 520i and 520d) also featuring automated high beam, which recognises oncoming traffic and adjusts the beam to suit.  The new Modern and Luxury trim packages are available with all drivetrains at no extra cost, with Modern-line models featuring satin aluminium exterior detailing and a range of lighter 'Scandinavian'  interior trim materials.

Luxury-line models are differentiated by chrome exterior detailing and a range of darker trim materials inside. The entry 520i and 520d models also wear line-specific 18 inch wheels, and all Modern and Luxury variants can be identified by subtle badging on the front guards. All wheel designs aside from M-Sport variants are unique to the new model, with the M-Sport bodykit also unchanged aside from new inserts in the front bumper.    On the inside, all models benefit from revised metallic detailing and trim materials, along with increased storage capacity and in the centre console.

ENGINE/TRANSMISSION

The 5 Series sedan drivetrain lineup of four petrol, two diesel and the petrol-electric ActiveHybrid 5 are largely unchanged, but fuel economy has improved on all bar the 535d and ActiveHybrid 5 due to a new coasting function for the standard eight-speed ZF auto. The entry petrol 135kW/270Nm 520i drops by 0.5L/100km to 6.2, the 180kW/350Nm 528i by 0.3L to 6.5, the 225kW/400Nm 535i by 0.5L and the 30kW/50Nm stronger 330kW/650Nm 550i drops by a full 1.6L/100km to 8.8, with its claimed 0-100km/h figure contrarily dropping by 0.4s to 4.6 – just 0.4s shy of the mighty M5 performance sedan.

The 135kW/380Nm entry diesel 520d drops by 0.5L to an astounding 4.7L/100km, promising a range of nearly 1500km from its 70L tank. Note that this combined figure eclipses the 250kW/450Nm ActiveHybrid 5's 6.8L/100 by a significant 2.1L/100km.

SAFETY

All 5 Series models were previously granted a five star Euro NCAP rating, and continue with dual front, full-length curtain, and front side airbags, active front headrests, belt tensioners, post-collision braking and brake lights that pulsate during emergency stops. 

DRIVING

We had the chance to experience all sedan drivetrains aside from 535i and the petrol-electric Active Hybrid 5, and the examples sampled continue to impress in terms of refinement, power delivery and efficiency for their respective capacities. Despite hauling a 1600kg-plus sedan, the entry 520i and 520d models have ample pulling power to permit comfortable cross-country cruising. 

The 528i steps performance up a notch and brings a nice induction rort seemingly absent in the 520i, while the 535d is a creamy and relaxed kilometre-eater, with the only trace of diesel noise being a muted purr under heavy throttle.  The 550i continues with its iron fist/velvet glove persona, with outstanding refinement that erupts into instant earth-shifting acceleration at the flex of your right ankle.

The entire 5 Series drivetrain lineup is a glowing endorsement for the reduced capacity/forced induction movement, and the eight-speed ZF auto shifts as effectively and smoothly as its current industry-wide reputation suggests. Performance aside, the 5 Series lineup continues to offer the dynamic edge the brand is known for, with eager turn-in, excellent electric steering and plenty of grip regardless of spec level. This is all without compromising the ride comfort expected in a luxury sedan, even on the larger 19 inch wheels and with run-flat tyres across the board.     

VERDICT

The sixth-generation BMW 5 Series sedan has always been deserving of the model's benchmark status, and the new 2014 model may not look drastically different from its predecessor, but it's been polished sufficiently around the edges to keep it fresh among newer rivals. 

Pricing Guides

$35,844
Based on 29 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$28,750
Highest Price
$48,880

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
535i Gran Turismo Luxury Line 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $47,850 – 55,000 2014 BMW 5 Series 2014 535i Gran Turismo Luxury Line Pricing and Specs
535i Gran Turismo Modern Line 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $55,770 – 64,130 2014 BMW 5 Series 2014 535i Gran Turismo Modern Line Pricing and Specs
ActiveHybrid 5 Luxury Line 3.0L, Hyb/PULP, 8 SP AUTO $56,760 – 65,230 2014 BMW 5 Series 2014 ActiveHybrid 5 Luxury Line Pricing and Specs
550i Modern Line 4.4L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $55,660 – 64,020 2014 BMW 5 Series 2014 550i Modern Line Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Malcolm Flynn
CarsGuide Editor

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Pricing Guide

$28,995

Lowest price, based on 10 car listings in the last 6 months

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