BMW 5 alive to great drive

IAIN DOOLEY checks out BMW's 5 Series saloon, a car that sets the benchmark for driving pleasure in the executive class.Engines - As the car matured BMW added more and more engine options.

IAIN DOOLEY checks out BMW's 5 Series saloon, a car that sets the benchmark for driving pleasure in the executive class.

Engines - As the car matured BMW added more and more engine options. For the majority, the firm's 520d diesel model offers a good blend of performance and economy. Predictably, six-cylinder cars are better but you'll need to consider the increased running costs. The impressive petrol units are ideal for keen drivers.


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Exterior - Initially the car received a lukewarm welcome but this view improved with time. The inclusion of a Sport variant, complete with modest bodykit, improved matters considerably. More striking than any of its rivals, it's hard to argue with the 5 Series' considerable road presence.

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Interior - Despite there being less of a driver-centric focus, the car's simple - some even say stark - fascia design is uncluttered by modern standards and most welcome. The cabin ergonomics are first rate, and there's no real shortage of room fore and aft for occupants.

Driving - Here's where the rear-wheel drive 5 Series excels. Even low power engines are capable of delivering a stirring drive, and it's surprising how competent the four-cylinder diesel really is. Ride comfort is on the firm side, but do remember that this car is more sporting than its rivals.

Ownership - Assuming you can secure a well kept example you shouldn't expect any problems. Easy and enjoyable to drive and also surprising practical for a saloon, the 5 Series is a car that you learn to appreciate more the longer you own it.

What to look for - High-mileage ex-company cars shouldn't be an issue so long as they've been maintained and all the paperwork is present and correct. With no shortage of choice there's no need to accept cars sporting kerbed wheels or parking dents, while a test drive is crucial to ensure there are no hidden issues such as engine or suspension problems.

Model history - 2003, BMW launches successor to its long running and popular 5 Series executive saloon model. New car boasts radical exterior styling and a less cluttered interior. At launch a modest range of petrol and diesel engines offered. Over time this was expanded to include fleet-friendly four-cylinder 520d variant, plus the range-topping V10 M5 flagship. Modest equipment levels supported by long list of cost options.

Reasons to buy - Benchmark car for the enthusiast, bold styling, diesel engine economy, practical cabin.

Reasons to beware - Styling not to everyone's liking, i-Drive controller interface requires practice.

Pick of the range - 520d SE.

What to pay - 2005 55 �12,100; 2006 06 �13,475; 2006 56 �14,075; 2007 07 �15,575; 2007 57 �16,225; 2008 08 �18,500; 2008 58 ��19,350. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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