BMW's 'G60' eighth generation 5 Series has changed - but not beyond recognition. The looks get sharpened, there's enhanced cabin media tech, engine electrification now proliferates and an all-new full-EV variant joins the range. Otherwise, the line-up continues with much the same polished, Teutonic and mildly dynamic appeal as before.
How do you right a bestseller? This eighth generation G60-era 5 Series is BMW's answer to that question when it comes to the Munich maker's uber-successful offering in the full-Executive segment. It's G30 predecessor was the biggest selling 5 Series design to date, this model line's lineage dating all the way back to the Seventies. It's never looked quite like this though. Diesels have been dumped, there's just one single entry-level variant you can't plug-in and a huge proportion of sales will be accounted for by an all-electric version, the i5. There are of course more familiar elements to this MK8 design: a developed version of the old car's 'Cluster Architecture' CLAR platform; the 'Curved Screen' cabin tech we now see in all new BMWs. And the car rolls out of the same German Dingolfing factory as its predecessor. Its role though, is to prepare us for a very different 5 Series future.
For decades now, 5 Series sales have been primarily diesel-led. The line-up's perennial bestseller, the 520d, still on sale in Europe, isn't even offered here now. And the only variant that doesn't require a plug to maximise its efficiency returns is the entry-level 520i sDrive. This runs the latest version of the brand's 2.0-litre four-cylinder 48V mild hybrid petrol engine driving the rear wheels. There's 208hp on tap, which means 62mph in 7.5s en route to 143mph. From launch, the alternative was the all-electric i5, which borrows its EV drivetrain from the only slightly smaller i4. And launches (as that car did) in two forms: the rear-driven eDrive40 with 340hp (62mph from rest in 6.0s en route 119mph) giving up to 356 miles of range. Or there's the four-wheel drive M60 xDrive, which mates its stablemate's rear motor with an additional one at the front, creating a combined output of 601hp (so 0-62mph in 3.8s en route to 142mph, with up to 315 miles of range). If you need to go electric but aren't quite ready for a full EV, then you can choose between a couple of Plug-in Hybrids, the rear-driven 530e sDrive with 299hp; and the four-wheel drive 550e xDrive with 489hp. Both use a larger 19.4kWh battery than their previous generation counterparts, allowing the 530e to go up to 63 miles on battery power - it's up to 56 miles for the 550e. Across the 5 Series range, firm M suspension is the standard ride set-up, which suggests a driver-orientated vibe. You can option that up to 'Adaptive Professional' suspension, which gives you adaptive dampers and rear wheel-turning 'Integral Active Steering'. The top set-up is 'Adaptive M Professional' (standard-fit on the M60), which combines rear-wheel steering with active roll stabilisation.
This is a meaner, leaner, more muscular kind of 5 Series and this eighth generation G60 model has grown in every direction - 93mm longer, 35mm wider and 24mm taller. The saloon will of course be joined by a Touring estate version. Both body styles share what the brand calls 'a clear, reduced design language and athletic proportions'. The classic kidney grille continues at the front, even though it isn't needed on the i5, where it's blanked off. And traditional door handles have made way for flush-fitting ones. These, along with a flat underbody, explain an impressively sleek drag factor of up to 0.22Cd. There are no surprises inside if you happen to have tried the current 7 Series. Which means a triple-layered dashboard supporting a single 'Curved Display' panel combining a 12.3-inch instrument screen with a 14.9-inch central monitor. The latter runs the latest 8.5-spec version of BMW's media operating system, which means it gains video and gaming functions for the first time. As in the '7', a touch-sensitive back-lit 'Interactive Bar' can be specified, this featuring colour-adaptive functionality. As standard, the cabin comes decked out in vegan leather upholstery; and the lower console now has only a small toggle for a gear selector. For this MK8 design, BMW's added 20mm extra to the wheelbase length, which has freed up a little extra back seat space. Boot capacity is rated at 520-litres (appropriately) for the 520i, or 490-litres for the i5. As previously, you can flatten the rear backrest on the saloon to increase luggage space length.
Expect an increase over previous 5 Series prices, which means you'll be looking at £51,000 for the entry-level 520i sDrive. You'll need well over £74,000 for the i5 eDrive40; and nearly £98,000 for the i5 M60 xDrive. For the 520i and the i5 eDrive40, the default trim level is 'M Sport', BMW having realised that most customers previously upgraded to this trim level anyway. If you want more, there's an 'M Sport Pro' trim option. The 530e PHEV prices from around £60,000, while the 550e PHEV is pitched from just over £76,500. Even the standard spec comes with quite a lot. 'M Sport' trim includes 18-inch alloy wheels, power-folding mirrors and Adaptive LED headlights with high beam assist. Inside, there's a Harmon Kardon audio system, heated front sports seats, a wireless smartphone charging tray, ambient lighting and automatic air conditioning. If you stretch to 'M Sport Pro' level, you get an illuminated front grille, meaner looking 'Shadowline' headlights, a rear spoiler, larger wheels with red-painted brake calipers and, inside, an upgraded audio system and M Sport seat belts. Most customers will want to add in one of the available optional packs. The 'Comfort Pack' gives you a heated steering wheel, an auto boot lid and keyless entry. The 'Comfort Pack Plus' includes 4-zone air conditioning, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats. The 'Tech Pack' includes BMW's 'Parking Assist Plus' system that automatically steers you into spaces, plus gesture control and an interior camera. The 'Tech Pack Plus' adds the brand's 'Parking Assistant Pro' set-up that remembers parking spaces, and the pack also includes BMW's suite of 'Driving Assistant Pro' driver assist features.
For the 520i sDrive petrol model with its 48V mild hybrid powertrain, expect up to 48.7mpg on the combined cycle and up to 132g/km of CO2. As for the petrol Plug-in Hybrids, the 530e sDrive and 550e xDrive models both use the same 19.4kWh battery, giving an EV range of 58.4-63.4 miles for the 530e and 52.8-55.9 miles for the 550e. We gave you the all-electric i5 eDrive40's driving range figure in our driving section - up to 356 miles. Or up to 316 miles for the M60 xDrive. These figures come via an extremely slim high-voltage battery located low down in the vehicle floor and providing 81.2kWh of usable energy (quite a lot smaller than the 101.7kWh battery used in the larger i7). The heat pump technology used in the integrated heating and cooling system for the cabin and drive system helps boost efficiency, as does the adaptive or individually adjustable recuperation feature. The high-voltage battery is heated using a dedicated 5.5 kW electric flow heater. The Combined Charging Unit in the i5 eDrive40 allows AC charging at a rate of up to 11kW, while DC power can be taken on board at a rate of up to 205kW. This allows for a 10-80% charge within 30 minutes. The 'BMW Charging' package comes as standard on the i5, which gives owners attractive kilowatt hour tariffs for AC and DC charging throughout the UK and Europe. The high-power charging network run by the BMW Group's joint venture IONITY also forms part of the BMW Charging network. Almost 16,000 charging points are included in the UK and Ireland, while the monthly fee for BMW Charging and IONITY is waived for the first 12 months for all retail customers.
The 5 Series is BMW's oldest nameplate, a model that pre-dates the current industry obsession with SUVs and will probably outlast it. Though it's true that you might prefer the cossetting luxury of a Mercedes E-Class - or perhaps the cool, understated vibe of an Audi A6 - it's also difficult to deny that now, more than ever before, this BMW provides much of what you get from those two rivals in a package that's slightly more purposeful, both visually and dynamically. There's premium pricing of course, but that also applies to the latest versions of key prestige-badged rivals. At least with this BMW, you feel that money's buying you a car that showcases the current state of the automotive art. Whether you prioritise clever gadgetry, hi-tech engineering or sharp running costs in your full-sized Executive car, this BMW operates from an agenda that will certainly impress. In summary, though much is different here, much is as it always was. Over five decades, the question facing customers in the segment for full-sized Executive cars has often less been why they should choose a 'Five' but why they shouldn't. And it still is. By a small but significant margin, this Munich maker still sets the class standard.