Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page


First Drive: 2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.

First Drive: 2010 BMW 5 Series
New BMW 5 Series builds on its predecessor's excellence, with more widespread appeal added to less controversial looks.


<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> BMW reviews

| First Drive | Lisbon, Portugal | 2010 BMW 5 Series |

Fifty per cent. That's how much the BMW 5 Series and its GT and 7 Series relatives are worth to the company's bottom line according to Dr Norbert Reithofer, BMW's Chairman of the Board of Management. It's hardly surprising then that the new 5 is one of the firm's most important launches this year. Always the benchmark dynamically, BMW is promising more of the same with this new 5, though this time it's been less adventurous with the styling than it was when the current car was launched in 2003.

In the Metal

It took a while for the outgoing 5 Series to win over the doubters to its radical looks and BMW has been more conservative with its replacement. There are elements of the bigger 7 and smaller 3's style, though the 5 retains some flair with its heavily contoured bonnet, streaked rear lights and bold feature line along its flanks. It's a good looker, that'll neither offend newcomers nor put off those coming from the old car. In times of LED front lights it's refreshing to see BMW bucking the trend and sticking to its signature lit circular rings, the BMW modestly presenting its face alongside its overtly glitzy Merc E-Class and Audi A6 rivals.

Driver focus is the aim inside and it's largely successful. Central as ever to the interface is BMW's iDrive, though such is the spectrum of adjustment, functionality and sheer number of entertainment, information, driver assist, safety and guidance systems available the cabin has plenty of other buttons to press, twist and slide. Too many at times. It's comfortable inside though, the seats offering plenty of adjustment and support while the rear provides ample seating for two adults and the boot is massive.

What you get for your Money

A lot more than you used to. Order your 2010 5 Series and it'll come with leather as standard, a BMW Professional Radio, Bluetooth telephony, front and rear parking distance control, automatic air conditioning and cruise control. To that list - depending on the model - you can add an eight-speed automatic, Park Assist, Active Steering with rear-wheel steer, a surround view parking system, head-up display, night vision with pedestrian recognition and Lane Change Warning among others - BMW usefully bundling many key extras up in four different option packs. The standard kit is ample, though it's worth ticking the box for the satnav if you ever plan on selling it.

Driving it

It takes some time to work through the myriad of driver assist systems and multiple choices available to you through the BMW's ConnectedDrive to find your preferred 5 Series. There's the choice of Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+, each working with the suspension, steering, driver assist and safety systems and engine and gearbox to subtly change the car's character. What's obvious is that it can be anything you want it to be - a cosseting luxury machine on one hand or a smoky-tyre power-oversteer drifter on the track. That has always been one of the 5 Series's characteristics, but now its multiple personalities are more readily accessible with the touch of a button.

The basics remain at the forefront too, the 5's chassis and suspension exhibiting the sort of poise and balance that's consistently had it heading its class as the most dynamic, interesting and involving drive. Whether it's quite as far removed from its competition as it used to be for driver interaction is questionable, the steering lacking some finer detail and the 5's general demeanour feeling a bit more grown up in all but its most extreme settings.

That's made apparent jumping between the two models available on the launch. Both the 530d and 535i were on hand, and the sixes are very different in character. The 530d's 398lb.ft of torque dominates the drive with startling pick up and low-rev pace, its 6.3-second 0-62mph time only 0.3 seconds slower than the petrol 535i.

The 535i's torque is no less impressive, with its 295lb.ft delivered from 1,200rpm right up to a lofty 5,000rpm. It's a far more involving, organic drive compared to the turbodiesel, which is ably demonstrated by the natural urge to shift the slick eight-speed automatic via its paddles rather than leaving it to its own devices in the turbodiesel. For a favourite road or a lap of a track the petrol car is the more appealing choice, but the diesel remains the preferable daily driver - not least for its 45.6mpg combined consumption figure and 160g/km CO2 output - for the automatic model. The 535i in comparison returns 33.2mpg and 199g/km.

Regardless of engine choice the 5 is a subtly different car from its overtly dynamic predecessor, BMW broadening its appeal yet managing to do so without removing too much of its core appeal.

Worth Noting

Opt for the Active Steering with its rear-wheel steer system and the 5's rear wheels will turn as much as 2.5 degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts at speeds up to 37mph, after which they turn in the same direction to improve stability. It's easy to get carried away with high-spec launch cars here - the 535i and 530d always going to be good - what will be telling is how the huge selling 520d drives, with less dynamic enhancing equipment and less power. We'll find out soon...


With the 5 Series accounting for that big chunk of the bottom line it's important that it succeeds for BMW. It will; BMW taking a more cautious approach with this new car compared to its predecessor, dialling in some additional comfort, adding equipment and softening its styling. That it's able to offer greater performance while still reducing emissions and improving economy underlines the firm's commitment to its EfficientDynamics policy too, though that's crucially not at the expense of driver involvement. It's no longer perhaps so far removed from its competition as it once was in this area, but that ultimately enhances its overall appeal.

Kyle Fortune - 27 Jan 2010    - BMW road tests
- BMW news
- 5 Series images

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by Dave Jenkins.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.

2010 BMW 5 Series. Image by BMW.


Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Old motor show reports | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2024 ©