Company Car Today

First Drive

First Drive: BMW 5-Series

The story: It’s facelift time for BMW’s executive saloon and estate model, with a front and rear restyle, larger screen and more kit being the main changes, as well as an additional performance PHEV model
Key rival:Audi A6
On sale:Now


BMW describes the 5-Series as the “epitome of the ultimate sporting business saloon”, and for the mid-life refresh of its seventh generation of 5-Series – BMW’s longest-running nameplate – it has refreshed the front and rear, added new tech and introduced an additional more powerful PHEV powertrain that joins the range in the next few weeks.

Although subtle, the changes to front and rear are obvious with the two cars parked side by side, and involve a larger double-kidney grille (although not as large as it is in some other BMW products) extending deeper into the front bumper, and more slender rear lamps. The M Sport trim level, which is by far the most popular in the line-up, gets larger front air inlets and, in the M Sport Pro option pack, a gloss effect that enhances the front end by making that larger grille a little more subtle. New headlamps are also present across the range, as are new alloys for the M Sport trim level, sized at 18-inch for the PHEV models and 19-inch for the rest of the range.First Drive- November 2020-BMW 5-Series- Image 4

On the inside, the 5-Series gets a 12.3-inch central touchscreen, which is two inches larger than the one in the pre-facelift car, and is the same as the offerings in the larger SUV products, as well as extra equipment. This includes front-seat lumbar support, folding door mirrors and a parking assistant system. The plug-in hybrids (of which there are now two different models) now have the zonal function that switches the car to electric power when entering clean-air zones. It’ll currently work with London and Birmingham, with more to be added.

First Drive- November 2020-BMW 5-Series- Image 7The 5-Series has long been the stand-out executive saloon from behind the wheel, and since there are no engineering changes to the car, nothing has changed on that score. It’s still more nimble and rewarding to drive than any of its rivals, and although not the softest and most cosseting of rides, is more than capable of lapping up long-distance motorway runs in quiet comfort.

BMW has revamped the Five’s options offering to five packs and nine stand-alone options, as most car makers are doing to reduce emissions levels and cut complexity.

There’s nothing particularly dramatic in this facelift, but the 5-Series was already a strong proposition pretty much across the board, certainly for running costs, emissions, driving experience and overall appeal. It is now more so than ever.

paul barker

The verdict

No devastatingly seismic changes, just some tidying up of a car that’s already best in class