First Drive

BMW 5 Series Touring 530d 2021 UK review

What is it?

In the battle of the boots, the BMW 5 Series has traditionally lost out to its Mercedes-Benz E-Class arch-rival. This facelifted 5-er is no different, because the Merc still boasts the bigger cargo bay by either 80 or 120 litres, depending on how you’ve arranged the seats.

But if your personal tick list extends beyond a simple load bay comparison, then the 5 Series has always been right up there with the big Merc. The version we test here is the 530d Touring, running the Bavarian firm’s straight-six diesel, with 282bhp and 479lb ft. The 0-62mph sprint takes 5.6sec, another figure that’s a smidge down on the E-Class.

It now boasts mild-hybrid technology – previously, this was offered on only the 520d – with a 48V starter-generator so the car now coasts into a junction with the engine off. It also gives a temporary boost of 11bhp.

The 5 Series’ looks have been breathed on, with a wider and taller grille, reworked lights front and back, and trapezoidal tailpipe finishers. The most popular trim level – M Sport – gets new alloy wheels. Inside, the infotainment screen has increased to 12.3in and it comes with new connectivity, including over-the-air updates.

One tip: avoid white paint if you spec the Shadow Line with extended contents, because it makes the black grille look too pronounced and snouty, and we all know where that particular BMW styling argument ends. 

What’s it like?

Out on the road, the facelifted 5 Series delivers as you’d expect, with a slightly more driver-focused experience than the E-Class. The steering has a bit more weight and feel, while the chassis is sharper.

The engine is punchy and, like all big modern diesels, there’s a continuous thrust of torque permanently on tap. It’s a smooth lump, although not quite as whisper quiet as the Merc’s. 

But this car’s more enthusiastic lean comes at the expense of comfort. It’s fine on a motorway, but around town and on back roads, the continuous chatter and niggle you get back into the cabin isn’t reassuring – this despite the car having adaptive suspension. The Merc is more silken. Yes, it might miss out on the last fraction of handling ability, but the E-Class is an easier car to live with, whether you’ve got loads of kit to lug or not.

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