• More engine options, new features, subtle restyle
  • ConnectedDrive enhanced features
  • More efficient engines meet 2014 EU6 standards
GT is most changed 5: mid-life refresh brings reshaped dual-mode tailgate/boot lid and new lights

GT is most changed 5: mid-life refresh brings reshaped dual-mode tailgate/boot lid and new lights

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After selling over a million of the sedan versions alone worldwide since launch in 2010, BMW has updated the sixth-generation 5 series, the most successful in the model’s 41-year history, but so subtly you need to have new alongside old to pick the difference.

The biggest styling change is to the Gran Turismo version - you can make BMW officials blanch by calling it the 'hatchback' - which has a reshaped tailgate, still with dual boot-only or full gate opening feature, and a sleeker rear roofline.

Here in the UK, BMW's local unit has taken the opportunity to tweak the model line and add standard and optional features. So the range now starts with the new 518d with a 143bhp version of the two-litre I4 turbodiesel. Meanwhile, the former entry level model, the 184bhp 520d, now has modifications that reduce CO2 emissions with both standard six-speed manual transmission and optional eight-speed ZF automatic to 119g/km, the same as the new 518d - and the previous Efficient Dynamics version which has consequently been dropped. Official EU combined fuel economy is 62.8mpg.

On the other hand, if you don't give a monkey's about CO2 emissions or fuel consumption, there is a new 4.4 litre twin turbocharger direct injection V8 for the 550i versions with 449hp and 650Nm – increases of 42hp and 50Nm over the previous unit – yet significantly lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of 32.8mpg and 199g/km, depending on wheel and tyre choice. It's not that long ago an engine like that would be pumping out CO2 at a rate north of 300g/km and barely crack 21mpg with a light foot on the accelerator.

All engines now meet EU6 emissions regulations a year ahead of the September 2014 introduction date.

The 520d has aerodynamic additions to the wheel arches, under-body panelling and front apron which lowers its drag co-efficient (Cd) to 0.25 to enhance fuel efficiency while all diesel models have either a NOx storage catalyst or an SCR catalytic converter with urea injection to meet those EU6 rules.

Restyling, if you could call it that, is really a subtle facelift - additional contour lines around the brand's signature kidney grille and a re-done lower air intake. All variants have xenon headlights as standard and adaptive LED lights are now optional.

The door mirrors now incorporate indicator repeaters with the saloon and Touring (wagon) getting new tail lights with LED light strips and an additional crease in the rear apron. The Gran Turismo has a new front air intake and an extended tailgate and gains, as a result, an extra 60 litres of space in the 500 litre boot. The GT also has a chrome strip in the rear apron and new tail lights with LED strips.

Inside, all models now have chrome strips bordering the central control display while the saloon and Touring have larger storage areas and cup holders. The optional 'Comfort Access' [keyless entry] system can now close as well as open the boot or tailgate by a movement of the driver’s foot beneath the rear apron. There are new paint and alloy wheel options, and, for the UK, new Luxury and Modern trim packs.

UK-spec saloons and Tourings also now all get Business Navigation standard and it's also in I4 engine variants of the GT. The I6 versions get an upgraded Professional Navigation system. This upgrade gives all models BMW Emergency Call which uses the built-in SIM card to establish contact with emergency services in the event of an accident in a manner similar to the OnStar system in GM cars in the US. Drivers can also manually trigger an eCall to request assistance but the call goes out automatically should any of the crash sensors be activated. The service is active for the lifetime of the vehicle at no additional cost.

The optional Professional Media Package has been enhanced to include the latest Professional Navigation system complemented by ConnectedDrive Services including real time traffic information (RTI) and BMW's own apps. This system includes a new iDrive Touch controller, allowing written entry of addresses and telephone numbers and an intelligent Route-ahead Assistant which anticipates the forthcoming road conditions and provides advice on how to maximise an efficient driving style based on braking and acceleration points.

Advances have also been made with the optional safety systems. The new Driving Assistant delivers a combination of camera-based systems that significantly reduce the risk of potential collisions at both high and low speeds. The system’s attributes include a lane departure warning, front-end collision warning and pedestrian recognition with pro-active, autonomous braking to improve driver reaction times.

The 5 series family also now has an optional full colour head-up display which shows telephone contacts and entertainment details, such as track listings, as well as speed and navigation instructions.

The optional Night Vision with pedestrian recognition now includes 'Dynamic Light Spot' which uses a thermal imaging camera to detect heat emitting objects and, in addition to acoustically alerting the driver of potential hazards, the fog light beam is directed to illuminate the object ahead to maximise the reaction speeds of the driver.

UK sales of the 5 saloon peaked at 16,201 in 2007, dropping to 10,158 in 2009. They climbed back up to 15,706 last year. BMW (UK) expects the updated line to settle at about 15,000 a year with the Touring accounting for another 4,500 (sales have ranged from 3,700-5,400 in recent years) and the GT at 1,000-1,200 (historically since 2009 520 to 1,365).

The GT is all-auto but 90% of both sedans and Tourings now are sold with automatic transmission. The fleet/private sale split is 75/25 for the saloon and much the same for the Touring; 60/40 for the GT. Around 80% are diesel.

As for trim levels, BMW says 40-45% of buyers are expected to opt for the popular M Sport trim package with 30% voting for the SE. The new Modern pack is expected to appeal to under 5% while less than 10% are expected to pick the Luxury.