Car Reviews

2017 BMW 5-Series Review – Australian Drive

 Alex Rae’s 2017 BMW 5-Series Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: Refined and comfortable but with dynamic ability, the 5-Series continues its legacy to suit a technology driven world.

2017 BMW 5-Series Review

Pricing From $93,900+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals capped price servicing – $1640; 5 years/80,000km Safety Not rated Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder diesel, 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol Power 140kw/195kW/185kW/250kW Torque 400Nm/620Nm/350Nm/450Nm Transmission eight-speed automatic Dimensions 4936mm (L); 1868mm (W); 1479mm (H) Boot Space 530 litres Spare Space Saver Weight 1540-1640kg Fuel Tank 66 litres Thirst 4.3-6.7L/100km

Editor's Rating

What's it like inside?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety features?
Practical Motoring Says: The smaller engines don't satisfy but higher up the food chain the car delivers what the 5-Series is known for - good grunt, good dynamics and a refined interior. The amount of new tech and a terrific six-cylinder diesel is what should help move the 5-Series into new owner's garages.

THE SEVENTH GENERATION 5-Series which turns 45 years old this year is here and we drove all four variants before they hit showrooms March 18. Codenamed G30 the new 5-Series replaces the outgoing F10 and promises to deliver improvements to just about every area of the outgoing model.

It seemed improbably BMW could add more fruit, more power, more space, more luxury with less weight and better economy but indeed that is just what the boffins in Munich have achieved. It comes at a cost however and the four-model line-up will be around $10,000 more expensive than its outgoing equivalents.

But with more standard inclusions, tremendous tech and semi-autonomous driver assists the equation might not look so bad.

Read our Paul Horrell’s preview drive of the BMW 5 Series HERE.

What is it?

Compared to the F10, the G30 is, on average, 100kg lighter across the range and sits on a new platform produced from aluminium, magnesium and steel. One metal door shell complete with hinges weighs just 6kg and the body itself is smaller – 4936mm (L) and 1868mm (W) compared to 4998mm (L) and 1901mm (W). It might seem insubstantial but there’s more rear passenger space although the car feels just as big on the road.

Visually the design change is incremental, however, the wider front end and side profile hip-line now extends into the Hofmeister kink (named after Wilhelm Hofmeister, ex-BMW design chief) and apparently enhances the presence of the new 5-Series. Not just some product jargon, the design does visually bring some weight back to the rear and the car looks a little more coupe like rather than stout sedan. It’s still unmistakably a ‘5er’ and the G30 adds a more muscular tone to the F10’s previously refined and reserved appearance.

What’s more important is that the improved design lowers the drag coefficient to 0.22cd and much of the new aero advantage is because of new active flaps in the kidney grill. The grille’s teeth open or close to control air ventilation through the nose and help things like, closing to warm the engine faster, improve economy and help shave tenths of a second from the 0-100km/h sprint.

Inside, the design is also familiar from the previous generation however the materials used are an upgrade and all models now feature a large 10.25-inch centre mounted infotainment screen as standard. The larger screen is glossy, high definition and a prelude to the tech packed inside the 5-Series, which although comprehensive and requires time to master, is friendly to use after 10 minutes tinkering in the parking lot.

An option on the 520d and standard on all other models is a 12.3-inch digital display dash. There’s also a heads-up display showing information such as nav, speed and speed limit information – yes the 5-Series now reads road sign speed limits and sends the data to its active speed limit control.

The entry model 520d is fitted with a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel producing 140kW and 400Nm and was last generation’s best seller. The frugal (4.3L/100km) diesel pot now climbs in price from $84,755 to $93,900 (+ORCs) and comes standard with Luxury line trim. All other models come with M Sport package as standard and Luxury line is a no cost option. M Sport package can be fitted to the 520d for $7200 at which point the 530i should seriously be considered.

The 530i comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol producing 185kW and 350Nm and is also healthy on the environment drinking 5.8L/100km. BMW claims the 530i will take the 530d’s spot as best seller even though it’s a bit more expensive, starting from $108,900 (+ORCs).

Further up the food chain is the 530d with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged diesel producing 195kW and 620Nm and returning economy of 4.7L/100km. On launch this was the pick of the models for us and starting at $119,900 (+ORCs) we wonder if it might pip the 530i for sales but come second to the 520d overall.

The 540i tops the models as most potent and plush with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol producing 250kW and 450Nm. Despite its power it retains good economy of 6.7L/100km and starts at $136,900 (+ORCs).

All models come with an 8-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

What’s it like inside?

The 5-Series interior is low slung to hop into but opens into a spacious cabin with plenty of room for four passengers. The leather seats are comfortable from base 530d up however the 530d and 540i’s Nappa leather seats are in another league and plush with shades of 7-Series design and support. All models provided comfortable cruising on the three hour test drive across South Australian country roads.

Every models come standard with heated seats while the 540i gets cooled ventilation and massage function. The massage feature works well and didn’t just feel like the lumbar motors were having fun. The front seats are three-way electric adjusted and the steering wheel has electronic reach and rake adjustment and it’s quite easy to find a comfortable seating position.

All models, except 520d receive BMW’s latest digital dash which replaces the traditional analogue tachometers. There are real chrome rings on the display which provide a textural element but this means the dash can’t be manipulated to provide the sort of custom layout of Audi’s virtual cockpit. Unlike the Audi version, however, the fuel and temperature gauges are also digital.

The centre console features a split-fold door to access storage and a single USB and 12v socket. BMW provides a two port USB plug to use with the 12v socket but it would be better to have extra USB ports in the cabin instead. Unlike any other car with Apple CarPlay the USB port is not for connecting to it – more on this in the infotainment section.

Two cup holders good for mid-size drink bottles and cups of coffee sit forward of the centre console where the automatic transmission selector and iDrive infotainment rotary dial and buttons are located. We’ll explain the infotainment soon, but all of the inputs are at the natural fall of the wrist and hand, except for the volume dial which is a little awkward to adjust being higher and to the left of the centre stack.

The standard climate control console sits just above the cup holders and integrates well with the dash design. An optional LCD climate control centre is available and it both looks and works very well, but the standard unit is similar in function without the wow factor.

In the rear there’s plenty of room to comfortably accommodate two adults and the legroom is even better than in previous models. The rear seat is 40:20:40 split-fold and extends the 530-litre boot space to fit some skis. A rear-seat entertainment package adds two 10-inch screens to each seat back with blu-ray disc player and remote control for $4400.

The cabin is well insulated from exterior and road noise and for the journey of the trip NVH was not an issue. For sound the 530d comes with a HiFi speaker system while other models get a Harmon Kardon unit and there’s a $7700 Bower & Wilkins Diamond 16-speaker package available. We found all systems had good clarity and power but the Bower & Wilkins did elevate some music such as classical, blues and jazz.

What’s the infotainment like?

Ordinarily we wouldn’t cover this in a first drive, but the new 5 Series gets the latest iDrive 6 system displayed on a 10.25-inch glossy high-resolution screen, and it’s worth a quick explanation. The infotainment sits on the console rather than being integrated into to it which means the 5 series dash design hasn’t been violated to accommodate.

The iDrive 6 software is an upgrade from the 5th generation but its incremental rather than revolutionary. And for the first time in BMW’s history Apple CarPlay is offered – a big deal for the German manufacturer who has resisted implementing the system and considers CarPlay inferior to its iDrive system. It also requires (on Apple’s behalf) that data be collected and sent through the phone’s sim rather than the sim fitted to the 5-Series as standard (no, you don’t need to pay data charges for the BMW fitted sim).

The iDrive software is intuitive and the centre console mounted shortcut switches allow for quick changes, but the iPhone connectivity provides streaming of music apps such as Apple Music or Spotify which cannot currently be done through iDrive 6.

Setting up CarPlay in the 5-Series is a tedious task compared to other vehicles because the connection is wireless rather than wired but it’s not really an issue once the phone has been matched and remembered. And not having to plug into a USB port is better than fiddling with a lightning port cable or even worse, forgetting to bring one.

The infotainment can be directed from the rotary dial, touch screen or air gestures. The gestures take a little getting used to but work – swirl a hand around and the volume will adjust up or down, or swipe left or right to navigate apps. In driving situations it’s probably less frustrating to just use the traditional controls, but the evolution of the air commands will be interesting to watch.

What’s it like on the road?

We drove all the engines currently available, and the 530d feels the most polished to drive and was a more balanced car than the 540i during our short test. The 530d is the heavier of the two sixes, carrying 45kg extra, but it feels less weighed down upfront, perhaps a result of the engine position over the front axle. It also has a tremendous amount of torque, available early in the rev range, and doesn’t react down low like most diesels do. Surprisingly it also had some of the best engine noise of the four models and would have to be one of the best diesel engines currently offered in a passenger vehicle.

The 520d by comparison is lethargic and doesn’t entertain like the other engines can but as an affordable entry point it will suffice. The extra weight of the 5-Series is a strain on the engine compared to its performance in the 3-Series and an upgrade to the 530i is well worth the money.

The 530i not only gets extra kit over the 520d but it’s also a smoother and more refined engine. Enough poke for a Sunday country drive it’ll also happily nip through weekday traffic without the laziness of the 520d down low.

The 540i is the most potent engine in the stable, and although the 530d felt better to drive, the 540i is the quickest, accelerating 0-100km/h in 5.1sec, 0.6sec faster than the 530d. Surprisingly the straight six lacks a little bit of noise and isn’t quite the experience it should be. That’s not to say it isn’t quick and it isn’t a very good engine, but we were spoiled from driving the 530d first.

In general the 5-Series is large on the road and feels it to drive, but for highway miles and around town it’s comfortable and refined without feeling too soft. The larger engines provide a lot more grunt than the small units and the 540i’s active sway bars (standard) minimise the evident body-roll when pushing through corners.

Three driving modes – eco, comfort and sport – adjust the cars settings accordingly although there wasn’t much of a difference between them except for sharper shifting of the automatic gearbox. A fourth adaptive driving mode automatically predicts how the car should react by observing information such as driving habit and satellite navigation.

The 8-speed automatic is solid and in sports shift (move the stick to the left) it is sharp. The steering wheel mounted shifters were preferenced when wanting to manually choose gears although the box will stop you going down if it thinks the revs are too high.

Four-wheel steering is available on the 5-Series although none have arrived here yet. Four wheel steering comes standard on 540i and is a $2200 option on all other models.

Out of Adelaide and into the hills the 5-Series is as comfortable crawling traffic as it is cruising the highway, and the standard across the range driver assistance (near semi-autonomous) features made highway cruising easier than it should be. The assistance functions use data from stereo cameras mounted outside the vehicle and make appropriate adjustments to steering and lane control and collision avoidance. There’s also active cruise control with stop and go, speed limit assist and other functions.

The ‘hands-off’ steering will operate for up to 30 seconds and on a clear bit of highway worked well, although it tended to get onto the lines before steering rather than just before. Active speed limit function also worked as promised by adjusting its speed based on road traffic sign monitoring. It then asks the driver if they want to accept the new speed and a click up or down of the wheel will accept. What is missing is the ability to adjust the speed before the sign is reached – such as entering a town from a 100km/h zone.

How safe is it?

The G30 5-Series does not yet have an ANCAP or EuroNCAP rating.

Advanced safety features standard on every model include cross traffic warning, lane keeping assistant, park distance control front/rear, surround view, panorama view and speed limiter.

Why would you buy one?

The BMW 5-Series is one of the better premium mid-size sedans available and although it’s not a dramatically different car it now has some of the best tech available. Its safety technology is terrific too and some of it is standard across the range. There’s also a myriad of options but they quickly add up in cost.

The 530d proved to be a superb motor and the pick of the bunch, and its packaging is good value at the pointy end of the 5-Series price. A 520i is coming but it probably won’t provide much variance to the 520d.


Alex Rae

Alex Rae

Alex Rae grew up among some of the great stages of Targa Tasmania, an event that sparked his passion for all things mechanical. Currently living across Bass Strait in Melbourne, Alex has worked for the last decade in the automotive world as both a photographer and journalist, and is now a freelancer for various publications. When not driving for work Alex can be found tinkering in the shed on of one his project Zeds or planning his next gravel rally car.