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Latest update: BMW 520d long-term test

Date: 15 December 2017   |   Author: Debbie Wood

P11D price £38,970
As tested £48,440
Official consumption 65.6mpg

Final report - The final journey

There are some cars that you just know are going to be 'that good' when you take the keys. For me, the BMW 5 Series has definitely been one of them. 

When it arrived at BusinessCar headquarters, the goal was to find out if BMW's popular saloon could really live up to its hype in the real world. After six months and almost 10,000 miles, I can 100% categorically say that it has, and then some. 

As with any car, there are a few niggles. For one, its not exactly loaded with safety kit as standard, which is disappointing when you see so many of its rivals offering almost old-hat tech such as lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring on entry models these days. Secondly, it falls a little behind its rivals in terms of boot volume and space in the rear. 

But the criticisms end there. Lighter, more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor, this latest 5 Series remains focused on BMW's traditional values of driving pleasure and performance.

Main 2

Under the bonnet of our car is a 2.0-litre diesel, which boasts headline figures of 114g/km of CO2 and 65mpg combined fuel economy. On our test, we managed a real-world average of 50mpg, not bad at all considering I haven't always driven the car with economy in mind. 

The steering is expertly weighted and sharp, the handling neat and supple, and the 2.0-litre engine proved powerful enough to satisfy the challenging roads around the Lake District. 

We drove the 5 Series to Edinburgh and back during its time with us, and the hours slipped by in comfort and tranquillity while on the motorway - something that couldn't have been said as easily about the old car - while the twists and turns of the B roads surrounding the Scottish capital proved no match for the 5 Series, either. 

The different driving modes offered tangible differences to the car's set-up. Although opting for Sport mode did compromise ride comfort a little, the extra weight and engagement in the steering was too good to resist the majority of the time.

BMW 5 Series Sportmode 1

While the executive saloon has never managed to pull off the kerb appeal of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or the Jaguar XF, this latest model proved a head-turner in its own right and its understated beauty accumulated many admirers among my neighbours, family and friends. Even the rather sensible Bluestone Metallic paintwork, which I admittedly wasn't a fan of originally, completely won me over by the end of the six months.

Slip behind the wheel and there is very little to fault. Interior quality is excellent, connectivity kit is best-in-class and although it's not the most practical of its rivals, there's very little the BMW wouldn't be able to cope with when it comes to family life. We'd probably avoid the Dakota White leather (a non-cost option) if you have a young family, though, as it could quickly start looking worn.

The options fitted with this car were vast and the digital key, part of the Technology Package, has been a particular favourite. Not only does it look great, but it also allows you to check the status of the car and set the cabin temperature remotely via the little touchscreen display - definitely a talking point at a dinner party. Meanwhile, BMW's iDrive infotainment system has been a real highlight during our test, especially the sat-nav, which completely outshines Google Maps, in our opinion. 

So after a great six months with the 5 Series, we're very sad to hand the car back to BMW. It's performed almost faultlessly on test and while we always knew it was going to be a great car to run for six months, it has actually come as a bit of a surprise to discover just how good the car has proved to be. Would I choose one over other executive saloons? In a heartbeat.

Our average fuel consumption: 50.2mpg

Mileage: 10,172

8th report - Does the 5 Series have the X Factor

My husband has very recently taken delivery of the new iPhone X. As well as raving about the face recognition software and new talking emojis (while I roll my eyes), he's also started making more use of the 'Hey Siri' functionality like it's something brand new. 

Voice command systems are not exactly new kit, especially in the automotive world, where they've been getting more sophisticated over the past few years. 

Like the new iPhone, we can ask cars to direct us to places, play a song, even book a restaurant; however, their effectiveness varies from car to car. Some can be admittedly a little slow to operate, or don't pick up accents as well. But neither of these niggles are the case for our long-term BMW 5 Series, which has proved faultless in testing during the past six months. 

Using the voice control function, which is standard on our long-termer, makes life quick and easy when you leave the house. Just press a button on the steering wheel and it will set destinations while on the move, recognising a number of place names that are tricky to pronounce first time. 

BMW Voice command

OK, so you can't use facial recognition to open our 5 Series, but the keyless entry is a handy feature to have, especially this time of year when out Christmas shopping. It forms part of a Comfort package costing £1,995 that includes a reversing camera, electric memory seats and folding door mirrors. The electric memory seats have been especially ideal, as my 5ft 1in frame means the driver's seat needs to be frequently adjusted for other drivers. 

One area where the iPhone X falls short against our BMW is in the sound quality department. The Harman Kardon surround sound system is excellent in our 5 Series, offering crisp quality on even the most challenging of music tracks. It forms part of the M Sport Plus package which includes 19in special alloys and tinted glass for £1,995 - another worthy consideration. 

So our BMW 5 Series is almost as good as the new iPhone X in a number of ways. Sure, you can't control a poo or unicorn emoji with your own face and send it to your friends, but I sincerely hope many will not be too upset by this.

Our average fuel consumption: 50.2mpg

Mileage: 8,770

7th report - Practicality credentials

Every car needs a downside right? And for the 5 Series, it's practicality where the shine starts to dim a little. 

That's not to say that our long-termer isn't a practical car of course. It's just not as spacious as its rivals. The 530 litres of boot space is the same as the Audi A6, but ten litres smaller than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Jaguar XF, while the boot opening is smaller and higher up than hatchback and estate body-styles, meaning it's not as easy to get larger or heavier items inside. 

A recent family trip to the airport proved a breeze, though; quite impressive when you consider the amount of clothes and make-up my teenage step-daughter insisted on packing. There are hooks inside the car to help secure items, especially useful when you go shopping and can secure bags with wine bottles to stop them rolling around. There are also a couple of small compartments on either side of the boot, and a netted section. 

Interior storage is a little limited; however, the central cubby proves big enough to store a couple of smartphones, the glovebox is plenty big enough for keys, documentation and the like, and the door pockets can comfortably hold small bottles of water. In the rear, passengers have plenty of options, including a central armrest, magazine holders, pockets in the doors for drinks, and a compartment ideal for a smartphone in the central cubby.

BMW 5 Series boot

This latest 5 Series has a lower, sportier seating position, which means that even with the shift to a more coupe-like roofline, there's still plenty of room inside. Headroom is generous and the seats are pretty comfortable too - although, as with most executive saloons, the middle rear passenger doesn't get quite such a comfortable ride over longer distances with a limit on legroom.

So while it's true that the 5 Series is not quite as spacious inside, or as practical as its rivals, the car still proves it can handle most of what family life has to throw at it.

Our average fuel consumption: 50.2mpg

Mileage: 8,172

6th report - BMW vs Apple

I'm a big fan of Apple CarPlay and rarely turn the system off when new cars are delivered to the BusinessCar office to test. Our long-term Skoda Octavia also has this tech fitted and it has proved invaluable in helping me to stay connected over the past few months. 

So when I first slipped into our long-term BMW 5 Series, I expected to abandon BMW's own system in favour of Apple CarPlay. After all, that is my current default. However, I underestimated how excellent the German firm's own infotainment offering is, especially when it comes to the sat-nav. 

Launched in February this year, the sixth generation of BMW's iDrive technology introduced a variety of new technology that we've mentioned before, such as gesture control and wireless charging functionality, as well as a more advanced and intuitive satnav system. 

While Google Maps will inform you promptly of traffic and adjust your travel time accordingly, the BMW system has actually proved to be quicker to react. On one recent journey, the M11 had been closed due to an accident and it was the BMW that alerted me first, not Google, saving me valuable time and helping to avoid being stuck in a jam. I've also found the BMW's arrival times are more realistic, especially over longer journeys, and it's proved faster at sending alternative routes to avoid bad congestion. 


It's easy to input a destination, either via the iDrive Touch Controller, the optional touchpad on top of the controller or by using voice control. We've also found the voice control to be more responsive than Siri, even picking up some of my family member's more pronounced accents. The 10.3in screen offers excellent resolution too, and has a split-screen function to enable you to easily navigate around the various multimedia functions. 

These days we're so accustomed to car sat-nav systems that we rarely get impressed; however, the 5 Series' iDrive infotainment system is a real gem and worthy of praise. I didn't think anything would tear me away from Google and Apple. How wrong I was. 

Our average fuel consumption: 47.1mpg

Mileage: 7,338

5th report - A sweet drive

Sales of the D-segment saloon have been in decline for some time now, especially with the recent popularity of SUVs; however, premium brands buck this trend somewhat, and cars like our 5 Series are still very much in demand in the UK. 

Alongside the 5 Series is the formidable Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the stylish Jaguar XF and the luxurious Audi A6. All have defining qualities and areas in which they top the class. The XF, for example, is arguably the most comfortable and also posts the best residual values, while the on-board tech in the E-Class is hard to beat and the A6's interior - even though the car is a little old now - is excellent. 

So where does the 5 Series stand out? 

The answer to that question is simple - in how the car drives. 

Under the bonnet of our 5 Series is the popular 2.0-litre diesel with 190hp and 400Nm of torque, which translates to a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds, while the compulsory eight-speed automatic gearbox works faultlessly to provide slick gear changes when required.

There's loads of pulling power and grip on offer, and the car tackles corners with poise, while the steering is direct and engaging.


There are different driving modes available, including Sport and Comfort. Sport noticeably firms up the suspension, sharpens the throttle and adds more weight in the steering, ideal when you're tackling the odd country lane.

Despite the car's compact dimensions, our 5 Series still feels agile and fun on the road and, thanks to a big uplift in refinement in this latest model, the car is excellent on the motorway too. It's ideal for me, as I'm a regular on the M25.

This step towards comfort does come at the expense of driver engagement a tad, with a little of the old car's rugged charm lost in favour of this excellent ride quality. However, where the old car was rewarding to drive but not the best at long distance, this 5 Series really does feel like you're having your cake and eating it.  

Our average consumption 47.0mpg

Mileage 6,820

4th report - Remote technologyIMG_5538

I remember sitting ina car with a fellow journalist less than ten years ago, testing out - and being suitably impressed by - automatic high-beam technology for the first time. It is now very much the norm.

The rate at which technology is progressing these days is simply mind-blowing. In a short space of time, we now have cars that can stop themselves, can keep in lane autonomously, and house infotainment systems that link to the internet and can be controlled by your voice or the smallest of gestures.

Our long-term BMW 5 Series comes loaded with the latest technology, a lot of which filters down from the firm's flagship car, the 7 Series.

Ensuring that my family and friends are impressed even before settling into the passenger seat is the digital key, easily the most advanced and, as my stepdaughter calls it, "cool" key available with new cars today.

The smart key comes with a touchscreen display that not only lets you check the fuel range without the car needing to be within sight, but also lets you preset the temperature in the cabin before you get in, and shows you if the car is locked.

Picture the scene. It's been a long day in a sweltering hot office due to a malfunction with the air conditioning, it's 27°C outside, and five minutes before you set off you can remotely turn on the air-con to a nice cool temperature, ready for when you slip behind the wheel. Bliss.

The resolution of the screen is excellent and the crisp graphics are simple to understand and navigate.

Service notifications are also displayed and further equipment, like remote control parking, can also be operated via the BMW display key if specified in the car. Sadly, our long-termer doesn't come with remote control parking, which costs an extra £395, but we've used the technology before while testing the 7 Series and it's very impressive.

The BMW display key can be charged wirelessly either in the vehicle or via the included USB cable. It forms part of a technology pack costing £1,495 that also includes Wi-Fi hotspot preparation, heads-up display, wireless charging and gesture control technology. Although I've accused the latter of being gimmicky, I find myself using it every day.

BMW is one of the first to introduce such a modern key, and I think it's fair to say that it's a sign of things to come. Very soon it'll become the norm and no longer a talking point but, for now, it's the best key out there and definitely worth showing off about.

Our average consumption 46.8mpg

Mileage 5,535

3rd report - Are you sitting comfortably?

You've got to love a British summer: trips to the seaside, lighter evenings, lobster-like tan lines and residential areas filled with the rather grating tunes of the ice cream van every five minutes - there's nowhere else in the world
like it.

One minute it's too hot and muggy, the next, downpours or windy and overcast. Plus, daily temperatures can change from 30°C one day to 15°C the next. The good thing is that our BMW 5 Series comes equipped with a number of comfort features designed to make life easier when you're behind the wheel; in particular, heated seats and dual-zone climate control, both of which are standard on our M Sport spec'd car.

If, like me, you feel the cold more than the average person, these two features will prove very useful. The heated seats work quickly and are not too overpowering, even on the highest of the three settings, while the dual-zone climate control evenly and quickly sets the cabin at the required ambience, even if your partner enjoys sub-zero temperatures.

BMW Heated Seats

And heated seats are not the end of our BMW's comfort talents either: other standard features on our long-termer include large and supportive leather seats and adaptive cruise control, the latter proving especially useful during my 118-mile commute, which includes long stretches of the M25, M11 and A1, it's so easy to use and makes driving in rush hour much more relaxing.

Ride quality is also very good, although the M Sport suspension is not quite as soft as the standard car and our long-termer's upgraded 19in alloys compromise the ride ever so slightly, too. However, overall the car still scores well in the comfort stakes and the optional adaptive dampers when in comfort mode transforms the 5 Series into an  excellent motorway cruiser.

So far our 5 Series is proving it can adapt to everything the British seasons throw at it and keep even the fussiest of passengers happy - top marks for comfort then.

Our average consumption 45.9mpg
Mileage 5,229

2nd report - Turning heads

The Audi A5 Sportback, with its elegant swooping curves and chiselled lines, was a huge hit with the locals of my Lincolnshire village and there was barely a day when I wasn't stopped by a passer-by wanting to admire our soon-to-depart long-termer.

But it seems the BMW 5 Series is proving to be just as popular. Parked up at my local Tesco I was approached by a middle-aged man wanting to see inside our 5 Series, which he then proclaimed was "absolutely gorgeous". On a different day, while sat waiting outside the post office, a couple of guys walked up to the car and started walking around inspecting it. After realising I was sat inside they sheepishly gave me a thumbs up and declared that out 5 Series was a "nice car".

My next-door neighbour, who is currently running the previous-generation 5 Series, also requested a closer look inside the cabin and was quite taken with our car's 'Dakota' Ivory white leather (which is a no-cost option) as well as the extensive tech onboard.

BMW Udate 2

I must confess that the reaction of my village has surprised me a little. The BMW 5 Series is no shrinking violet but it's not often praised for its understated looks. More eye-catching rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Jaguar XF grab most of the attention in that department.

Our test car comes in M Sport trim, which helps give our 5 Series more kerb appeal, adding a couple of striking design features like LED fog lamps, M bodykit, sports seats, black headlining and aluminium trim details as well as loads of M Sport badges inside and out.

Our car also comes equipped with the M Sport Plus package and upgrades the 18-inch alloy wheels to 19-inch, plus adds tinted glass and a loudspeaker sound system that we really rate highly for quality - the alloys in particular really help give the 5 Series extra sporty appeal, but this pack is not cheap to add, costing just £5 shy of £2,000.

The Bluestone metallic paintwork, which I thought was a little bland at first, is really growing on me now too, retaining its shine and elegance even in the grimmest of weather.
We're already deeply impressed with the 5 Series here at BusinessCar and after just one month on our fleet, like the residents of Lincolnshire, we think its understated and elegant looks are definitely worth the thumbs up.

Our average consumption 46.4mpg
Mileage 4,160

1st report - German flag flies high

What can we say about the BMW 5 Series that hasn't already been said?
Countless awards, record-breaking sales and a horde of diehard fans write their own headlines and just when the competition seemingly catches up, out comes a new model that further cements the 5 Series at the top of its class.  

Getting the keys to a new long-termer is always an exciting time for us in the office, and for the 5 Series, there also comes a certain level of expectation.

Now in its seventh generation, the changes to this latest model are subtle but expertly judged. Refinement is the buzzword here and it's arguably where the old car lacked a little over rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6. Inside the cabin sees a boost in quality, and fit and finish is superb throughout.


Add to that the level of modern and advanced kit now on board, which is worthy of a 007 agent, and you have an excellently packaged high-tech saloon.  

But before we take the car for a spin, first we need to get to grips with the paperwork.
Under the bonnet of our 5 Series is the popular 2.0-litre diesel, which is expected to account for around 85% of sales. Headline figures of 114g/km of CO2 and 65mpg help balance the books and a P11D of £38,970 seems justified on first inspection.
Once sat inside the classy and comfortable interior with the start button pressed, I'm greeted by my own personal welcome on the large 10.2-inch infotainment screen - it's amazing how much the little things matter and you cannot help but feel instantly special.

And if that doesn't do the trick, we've been spoilt when it comes to optional equipment on our M Sport-spec'd 5 Series Saloon too. A grand total of £9,470 worth of additional kit has been added to our car and we're looking forward to getting to grips with it all over the next six months.


I'm most keen to test out the Technology Package which includes, if I'm allowed to say this, the 'super cool' (my teenage stepdaughter is now cringing) display key which allows you to check the status of the car and set the cabin temperature remotely via the little touchscreen display; you can even park the car remotely using it. Also included in the £1,495 pack is wireless charging, WiFi capabilities, a head-up display and Gesture Control. The latter has been heavily criticised by the motoring press for being gimmicky - however, I'm still looking forward to finding out what it's like to live with day-to-day.

I love my music so the M Sport Plus package will undoubtedly come in handy too as it comes with a Harmon/Kardon surround sound system, as well as those eye-catching 19-inch alloys for £1,995.

When it comes to practicality, the 5 Series stacks up well against its rivals but doesn't lead the class - I guess there always needs to be a compromise somewhere. The boot is large at 530 litres, although 10 litres smaller than the E-Class, and interior storage seems a little limited too on first glance. Headroom is good throughout though, and legroom will be okay for most in the rear with just six footers perhaps struggling for room.

So that's a brief overview of the latest addition to join the BusinessCar fleet. But enough talking - now it's time to take the 5 Series out on the road to find out first-hand if this award-winning Saloon can live up to its hype.

Our average consumption n/a
Mileage 1,993