Review: BMW 5 Series (2003 – 2010)


Nicely balanced and enjoyable handling, sharp styling, modern-looking interior, great range of engines including impressively efficient diesels.

Firm ride particularly on M Sport models. Swirl flap failures in 530d. Injector problems in N53 6 cylinder engine.

BMW 5 Series (2003 – 2010): At A Glance

BMW is known for building high quality cars that are great to drive and this is perfectly evident in the BMW 5 Series. It really is superb on the road with keen handling and great composure in bends, making it the really involving to drive. But the BMW 5 Series isn't just about handling, it also has good green credentials and thanks to Efficient Dynamics (the programme of efficiency technology introduced in 2007), offers some very economical engines.

The most popular is the 520d - and engine which belies its small size to provide impressive performance but with great economy of 47.8mpg. Of course if you want performance there's no shortage of choice either with the punchy 535d and sublime 535i the stand-out choices in the range.

And this sporty feel is always evident behind the wheel with an agile and composed feel, especially evident on twisting roads. Of course there is a downside to this - the firm ride. Standard models are acceptable, but those with stiffer and lower suspension, such as the M Sport cars with their larger wheels, can be crashy over rough roads and bumps.

But this doesn't detract from the superb build quality, spacious cabin and modern interior of the BMW 5 Series which is why it's such a popular upmarket saloon and one that's very highly rated by its owners.

What does a BMW 5 Series (2003 – 2010) cost?

List Price from £37,100
Buy new from £31,462
Contract hire from £278.32 per month
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BMW 5 Series (2003 – 2010): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4841–4907 mm
Width 1846–2102 mm
Height 1464–1468 mm
Wheelbase 2888–2968 mm

Full specifications

For a start, I haven't driven a car with so much headroom since the Citroen Berlingo. In the new 5-Series I felt like a dwarf. And 5' 9" used to be an average sort of height. The back seat is just as good, with such huge head and legroom it makes some other cars (W211 E Class included) seem cramped in comparison.

The boot is vast and well-shaped, only creating a bit of lower spine worry because of its length. Yet I still managed to dispose of a few thousand magazines that had been choking my office without suffering what back-quacks term ‘disc involvement'.

And it's quiet. The E39 has low wind noise, but the E60 is almost eerie. All the better to hear the joyful whooping yowl of its beautifully smooth 170bhp straight-six engine.

Child seats that fit a BMW 5 Series (2003 – 2010)

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What's the BMW 5 Series (2003 – 2010) like to drive?

Second is good for just on 60 on the clock, but you hit the limiter almost immediately afterwards. The fly by wire throttle feels unresponsive if you ask too much of the engine/body combination. It's a big, heavy car with not a lot of torque. But, as they say, familiarity breeds content and as you get used to the clutch, gearchange and throttle action you start to feel pleasure from getting it right rather than irritation at getting it wrong.

The steering is sublime: the perfect reminder that's how steering can be when you're not steering driven wheels. The ride quality on the standard 225/55 R16 tyres is superb, soaking up potholes and traffic-harming measures almost as well as a balloon-tyred 4x4. Handling is fine, with plenty of grip and all the information you need fed directly back to you through the steering wheel. (Remember that before you order huge alloys with painted on strips of rubber instead of tyres.) It's very comfortable once you've got to grips with a seat adjustment that curiously marries electric height and backrest rake adjustment with manual fore and aft and a simple lock on the rocking squab.

The standard seats are upholstered in very nice cloth, a bit akin to posh office chairs or perhaps something out of a G Plan catalogue. To my mind, much better than leather.

You're confronted with what you can see of a conventional instrument cluster, but bits of it can easily be obscured by adjusting the wheel to the height and reach that suits you best.

The I-Drive system is frustrating at first, but you soon fall into its quirks, a bit like a Mac computer (Macs used to be intuitive, but aren't any more). The radio reception is top quality. But the best bit is the expensive optional pictographic park-distance control which is both accurate and exceptionally clear (see the photo). The satnav is intuitive and so quick and easy to use you could conceivably set it on the move without being distracted. Its instructions are clear, precise and visually big so there's not much chance of taking a wrong turn.

The indicators take a bit of getting used to, because they're the new switch type and you have to switch them fully otherwise they don't easily cancel. There are no irritating gongs reminding you that you forgot to put on your seatbelt. And the ‘lights-on' or ice warning sound is the most soothing I've ever heard. What I'm trying to get to is that this isn't a mass of high technology arrogantly flung at you on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. A lot of thought has gone into almost every aspect of the car to surprise, delight and warm you to it.

Should you go for it instead of an E Class, or a Jaguar S Type? Well, perhaps not the 520i. The extra £1,400 for the greater power and torque of the 525i has to be money very well spent. That said, smaller six cylinder engines are much smoother than the supercharged four and the 2.6 litre six in the Merc. And the BMW is better value for money than the 2.5 litre Jag V6.

Upscale, the fight against the W211 E Class gets harder. And I still reckon the E 320 CDI estate is the best station wagon in the world. If you had £35k and could only have one car, then that would be the car to have.

But in £25k territory, with introductory discounts available, the 520i and 525i make an excellent account of themselves. And, believe me, the looks will grow on you.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
520d 48–58 mpg 8.1–8.6 s 129–158 g/km
520d Automatic 58–63 mpg 7.9 s 119–129 g/km
523i 37–38 mpg 7.9–8.2 s 177 g/km
523i Automatic 37 mpg 8.2 s 178 g/km
525d 46 mpg 7.2–7.6 s 162–165 g/km
525d Automatic 46 mpg 7.2 s 160 g/km
525i 37 mpg 7.1 s 179 g/km
528i 36 mpg 6.6 s 182 g/km
528i Automatic 37 mpg 6.7 s 178 g/km
530d 44–45 mpg 6.3–6.8 s 166–170 g/km
530d Automatic 46 mpg 6.3 s 160 g/km
530i 36 mpg 6.3 s 186 g/km
535d Automatic 46 mpg 5.7 s 162 g/km
535i 34 mpg 5.8 s 194 g/km
535i Automatic 37 mpg 5.9 s 177 g/km
540i 27 mpg 6.1 s 250 g/km
550i 26 mpg 5.2 s 260 g/km
550i Automatic 27 mpg 5.0 s 242–243 g/km

Real MPG average for a BMW 5 Series (2003 – 2010)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

18–55 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the BMW 5 Series (2003 – 2010)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Why is there no acceleration from my BMW 5 Series?

I have a 2006 BMW 525i and there's a problem with the acceleration. The car idles fine with no noticeable odd noises coming from the engine. When I press on the accelerator the revs very slowly climb to around 3-4000 rpm. There is virtually no power in acceleration and it seems like it is in "limp mode". There are no warning lights and no error codes from the ODB.
Without any warning lights and no fault code, this is difficult to identify, so we would check the following. Air filter - blocked/dirty Fuel filter - has it been changed in accordance with service schedule Check for any air /vacuum leaks Spark Plugs - have they ever been checked /changed Also if you have the N52 engine then it could be the CMP ( camshaft position ) oil pressure valve stuck/sticking (a known fault) This valve can be removed and cleaned.
Answered by Alan Ross
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