- An excellent highway cruiser
- Always comfortable, quiet, and composed
- Standard digital gauge cluster; large infotainment screen
- Lacks the fun it was once known for
- Gimmicky tech features
- Heated seats, adaptive cruise control are optional
BMW 5-Series Expert Review
- Standard digital gauge cluster across the range
- Enhanced vehicle connectivity via smartphone app
- Keyless unlocking on 530i, 530e, and 540i
- Larger battery for 530e plug-in hybrid
- Heated seats standard on M550i
- Extra power and torque, plus sport differential, on M550i
The 5 Series is BMW's legendary midsize sedan, renowned for blending sport and luxury like few other vehicles can. First introduced in 1972, the 5 Series has earned deep fanfare over its seven generations thanks to its roomy interior, upscale appointments, driver involvement, and range of engine options. The current model, known as the G30, shares its platform with the larger 7 Series sedan and has been on sale since 2017.
For 2020, the 5 Series gains as standard equipment a digital gauge cluster display and enhanced smartphone connectivity, which allows remote access to vehicle functions. 530i, 530e, and 540i models get keyless unlocking. The 530e plug-in hybrid receives a larger battery pack. The sporty M550i is updated with heated seats, a sport differential, and a healthy increase in power.
There's a certain expectation of what a BMW 5 Series is supposed to be. At once it must provide luxury for occupants in any seat, and simultaneously a sporty character for the one behind the wheel. Although the current G30-generation 5 Series maintains comfort and enhances technology over earlier versions, it seems to have lost some of the dynamic attributes that made it a favorite for driving enthusiasts.
That's not to say it lacks them. As we found in our first drive of a 540i M Sport, the car has eager steering and a balanced chassis. The turbocharged I-6 engine provides more than willing acceleration. Its brakes were strong, if a bit grabby, but were easy to learn how to work with.
Soon after, we added a 530i, down two cylinders and an M Sport package from the vehicle we first experienced, to our long-term test fleet for a yearlong evaluation. In regular use as a commuter in Los Angeles and road tripper to destinations beyond, it proved exceptional. That's largely thanks to the calibration of its driver-assist technologies, and its supple, quiet ride quality.
However, the four-cylinder engine felt stressed by the size and weight of the vehicle around it. Numb handling and bizarre steering responses made it tough to enjoy on a curvy road. As a whole the 530i had no sense of urgency or excitement, something we've come to expect from BMW's iconic midsize sedan. That's not particularly remedied in the V-8-powered M550i and full-motorsport M5 Competition; those cars are undeniably quick but share the synthetic feel.
It's much the same with the 530e. This plug-in hybrid is luxurious, well-engineered, and efficient, but it's also somewhat lacking in driving enjoyment.
Dynamic pitfalls and some gimmicky tech features aside, the 5 Series is still quite enjoyable. It's every bit as luxurious as is expected from BMW, and the driver-assist features make it a nearly peerless highway cruiser. It's just too bad that BMW seemed to enhance those attributes and dull the feel that once made the 5 Series such a well-rounded sedan.
The 2020 5 Series' standard engine is found in the 530i. It's a 2.0-liter turbo-four connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission, producing 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. MotorTrend has tested a rear-wheel-drive 530i accelerating from 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds. EPA-rated fuel economy measures 25/33 mpg city/highway for rear-drive models, and 24/31 mpg for all-wheel drive versions.
Models badged 540i feature a turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6, again joined to an eight-speed automatic. Horsepower measures 335, and torque 331 lb-ft. As standard the 540i is rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available. MotorTrend has tested a rear-drive 540i 0-60 mph acceleration at 4.9 seconds. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 22/30 mpg for rear-wheel drive models. Choosing all-wheel drive reduces highway mpg by one.
The M550i badge denotes a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 under the hood. It's again paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, but all-wheel drive is standard. BMW gave the M550i a considerable power bump for 2020: It's up to 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, increases of 67 and 73, respectively. In MotorTrend testing, an M550i accelerated from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Fuel economy measures 18/25 mpg in EPA testing.
A plug-in hybrid drivetrain is featured in the 530e. It uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 that produces 180 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque, coupled to an electric motor good for 111 hp and 265 lb-ft. It gained a 12 kWh battery pack for 2020, up from 9.2 kWh in prior versions. The automaker estimates a 0-60 mph acceleration time of about 5.9 seconds. Like its combustion counterparts, an eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard, with all-wheel drive optional. For rear-drive models, mpg measures 27 combined, and mpg-e 69 combined. All-wheel drive models get 25 mpg combined, and 65 mpg-e combined. EV range should be a bit more than 30 miles.
Would the 5 Series be anywhere near as legendary if not for the mighty M5? We think not. This 5 Series variant is tuned by BMW's Motorsport division for higher performance and over its generations has become one of the most vaunted super-sedans ever created.
BMW produces two versions of the M5: The standard 600-hp M5, and the 617-hp M5 Competition. Both feature a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive. 0-60 mph acceleration drops to the 3.0-second range.
But the M5 isn't just about power. An enhanced chassis, bigger brakes, and distinctive styling further set it apart from standard 5-Series models. It's packed with technology to help it excel on road or track, but unfortunately suffers from the same disconnected feel as its lesser counterparts.
The 2020 BMW 5 Series earns 2019 Top Safety Pick + designation from the IIHS. Its crashworthiness test results only receive the top Good ranking, and its standard automatic emergency braking system gets the top Superior score as it avoided collisions in both the 12 mph and 25 mph tests. Its standard headlights get a Marginal ranking, the second-lowest score, but the optional upgrade headlights get a Good score. The NHTSA has not evaluated the 2020 5 Series.
Standard active safety and driver-assist features include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control remains an optional extra on all trims.
The 5 Series' trunk can hold 18.7 cubic feet of cargo. However, battery components in the 530e reduce trunk space by about 4.0 cubic feet. 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats allow storage of larger items.
The 5 Series offers 38.8 inches of headroom and 41.4 inches of legroom in the front row. Rear-seat occupants have 37.5 inches of headroom and 36.5 inches of legroom.
All 5 Series models feature a 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, which includes Apple CarPlay and GPS navigation. For 2020, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster display is included on all trims. Two front-row USB ports are included, and a 32-gb hard drive allows storage of music and multimedia. A 12-speaker audio system is standard, and two different 16-speaker premium systems are available. Optional technology upgrades include WiFi hotspot compatibility, a head-up display, night vision camera, autonomous parking with available remote forward and reverse, hand gesture controls for infotainment, and a rear-seat entertainment package.
2020 BMW 530i: The entry-level 5 Series model features a 2.0-liter turbo-four engine with rear-wheel drive; xDrive all-wheel drive is optional. It rolls on 18-inch wheels, has chrome trim around the side windows and grille openings, and includes heated power-folding side mirrors. Inside, seating surfaces are upholstered in leatherette, wood trim is applied throughout the cabin, and multi-color ambient lighting adds an upscale feel. The front seats are power-adjustable, and a moonroof comes standard. Convenience features include rain-sensing windshield wipers, two-zone automatic climate control, front and rear parking sensors, and a universal garage door opener.
2020 BMW 530e Plug-In Hybrid: The plug-in hybrid 5 Series is the 530e, which brings a model-specific drivetrain combining an electric motor with a 2.0-liter turbo-four engine. This provides all-electric range and better fuel efficiency. Content is otherwise shared with the 530i; rear-wheel drive is standard and xDrive all-wheel drive is available.
2020 BMW 540i: More power comes in the 540i by way of a turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6. Other than a standard leather interior, features and equipment is shared with the 530i. Optional xDrive all-wheel drive can replace standard rear-wheel drive.
2020 BMW M550i xDrive: A powerful twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 and standard all-wheel drive are highlight features of the M550i xDrive, but there's more to it than that. Performance is further enhanced by larger brakes, a sport differential, and electronic adaptive suspension. The M550i has an aerodynamically enhanced body kit that makes it look different from other 5 Series models. 19-inch wheels and a rear spoiler are standard, with glossy black and gray details applied to the window trim, side mirror caps, front grille, and air intakes. The interior includes a sport steering wheel and sport seats in the front row, with all seating surfaces upholstered in leather, and aluminum trim. Music plays through a 16-speaker audio system. Hands-free opening and closing functionality is added to the trunk.