IAIN ROBERTSON 

BMW Series

BMW Series

We are told that ‘E-numbers’ are not good for us but ‘E-words’ are a different measure altogether, writes Iain Robertson, and the latest generation 5-Series takes the fifth letter of the alphabet to new extremes as BMW refines its finest offering.

Knowledge is key in all aspects of enterprise. For carmakers, it is a process that commences with their market perception. Some of them ace it from the outset, while others just never quite hit the mark. Were you to judge any specific manufacturer’s progress, a level of consistency ought to be sought. When that consistency is measured by contented shareholders, by way of solid financial performance and profitability, there are only a few players in the premier league, among which is BMW.

The Bavarian carmaker set out its stall with the first generation 5-Series of 1972. Very much a car of its time, it went into headlong competition against the predecessor of the Merc E-Class and commenced a 48 years’ determination to hit pole position and remain there. Of course, the company has been through a handful of design directors since then, some more controversial than others but never disrupting an established formula. The current seventh-generation 5-Series, introduced in 2016, maintains an indefatigable stance (over 600,000 worldwide sales), at which both E-Class and Audi A6 tilt but cannot usurp. Trust me, it is not luck but it is a business premise that is as Teutonic as Angela Merkel and the Japs (Lexus) and Indians (JLR) can only look on in amazement.

BMW Series

BMW Series

Yet, BMW has its issues. It is far from being free of criticism. It has still never given me a suitable response to its incessant desire to fill every imaginable niche, even creating a few, in the modern motorcar scene. In addition, I have long contended that the company makes its purchasers suffer the indignities of early model hiccoughs; the recalls, the warranty claims and the behind-the-scenes ‘fixes’, all of which generally disappear by the mid-life refresher exercise, which is relevant to this new 5-Series that will remain in production for another four years probably. BMW should be perfection…but it is not. However, when the machine is well lubricated, it also becomes unstoppable and, from July 2020, the 5-Series story continues confidently and knowingly, with that insouciant wave of a hand that dismisses the past with arguably Germanic arrogance.

Naturally, BMW wants you to feel that the new Five is entirely new but that would not be true, as much of it is carryover from the 2016 model introduction. Yet, the makeover is comprehensive, be under no illusion. The exterior alterations are minor but enough to warrant a ‘Mark7b’ designation, while interior refinements have taken a step upwards. Several models now feature mild hybrid technology and a full plug-in hybrid will appear in the line-up by November this year, in either the 4-door saloon, or 5-door Touring variants.

Thank the Good Lord that BMW has not introduced the oversized and grossly ugly ‘double-kidney’ radiator grille employed on its SUVs, instead chrome emboldening, widening and lowering the position of the signature unit but retaining an elegance expected in the class. I can recall BMW talking of smaller headlamps on its cars back in the late-1980s and the latest LED lighting technology allows slimline constructions that help to differentiate older models from the current types. Needless to say, the daytime running lamp signature is changed ever-so-slightly to reflect this, with extra cost options of either matrix, or laser adaptive technology.

BMW Series

BMW Series

Before going any further, be aware that an entry-level 520i costs little more than a high-spec Mini. However, start factoring-in the various ‘packs’ (M-Sport Pro, up to £3,295; Visibility, up to £2,000 with Laserlights; Technology, up to £4,995, if you specify the Bowers & Wilkins fancy hi-fi; Technology Plus up to £7,495; Comfort, £2,495; Comfort Plus, £4,995; Entertainment, £2,995) and a 5-Series becomes a taxation problem, especially for the company car driver that will likely be its 90% target customer in the UK.

Engine choice is extensive with four-cylinder 2.0-litre engines powering several models in both petrol and diesel forms and a V8 unit being the petrol preserve of the 530bhp M550ixDrive that can crack the 0-60mph sprint in a seriously quick 3.5s, on its way to a limited 155mph. The top 540ixDrive Touring model features a six-cylinder powerplant that develops 333bhp for a 4.9s 0-60mph dash and 155mph top whack. Emissions and fuel economy figures, both of which are reduced, will be announced closer to the launch exercise. All models drive through BMW’s refined 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, with the four-wheel drive system offered on select models in the line-up.

These days, mid-life model refreshment exercises are a really good excuse to incorporate the latest developments in ADAS technology, which start with active sat-nav and refinements to steering assist and lane-change systems. An interesting diversion is the ‘40s’ recording mechanism that uses cameras and sensors around the car to record footage that can be viewed on the larger 12.3-inch central screen (up from 10.25-inches).

BMW Series

BMW Series

While there are three main trim levels – SE, M-Sport and M-Sport Edition – the 550i model can also be acquired with M Performance enhancements. It is heartening to recognise that BMW has not quite shed its ‘driver’s car’ tagline of a few years ago. It is also worth noting that the base specification on the entry-level 520i now includes folding door mirrors, electric lumbar support, Park Assist, top levels of connectivity and more equipment overall. Value for money? Probably not but the driver does gain a bit more.

For much of the past 48 years, having scaled the heady heights of the executive sector, the 5-Series has been at the top its game, being held in the highest regard by almost all critics and beloved by end-users. The ride and handling compromise is well resolved and cabin comfort has taken an important upwards hike, all of which is geared towards maintaining the ‘top dog’ status that BMW desires and its customers expect.

Conclusion:      Despite strong competition, the BMW 5-Series continues to live up to expectations and the latest round of model changes serve that purpose to perfection. This new example will build its repute and enhance BMW’s vital bottom-line.

BMW Series

BMW Series