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January 19, 2022

Interior design and technology – BMW 5 Series

Launched in 2017 – and refreshed last year - the seventh-generation BMW 5 Series is even more high-tech, efficient and accommodating. We slip inside to sample its delights.

By Matthew Beecham

When the first 5 Series emerged, way back in 1972, it heralded the introduction of a naming system for BMW model designations that are still in use today. The BMW 520 was the successor to the BMW 2000 Neue Klasse model.

Classy interior

Once seated with the engine purring, you immediately feel engaged. The cabin is cloaked with high grade, tactile materials borrowed from its big brother, the 7 Series. The cockpit glitters with crisp detail and instrumentation that changes according to the desired driving mode.

The interior spaciousness is partly thanks to the lowered instrument panel and freestanding display, but also the cabin’s enlarged dimensions, particularly in terms of elbow and shoulder room. Tall rear passengers have more space to spread out, too, with several places to store stuff, including a central cubby hole, cup holders and sleek door bins. The generous sense of space flows into the boot, too. The loading lip has been lowered compared to its predecessor and provides some 530-litres of luggage capacity.

While forward visibility around the A-pillars is good, thick rear pillars make it less easy to reverse; the rearview parking camera and sensors take over in this respect. The boot lid can be opened at the press of a button on the driver’s door panel, on the key fob, or simply by manually releasing the boot handle. A button on the underside of the boot lid can power it shut.

Infotainment and connectivity

Positioned centre stage of the 5 Series dash is a 12.3-inch (previously 10.25-inches) touchscreen powered by the latest Operating System 7.0, enabling the driver to control a variety of media, phone, navigation, connectivity and vehicle settings.

The BMW Live Cockpit Professional provides a digital screen grouping comprising the instrument cluster and the touchscreen. Connected Package Professional is included on all models, comprising BMW TeleServices, Intelligent Emergency Call, Real Time Traffic Information with hazard warning, Remote Services and Concierge Services.

The switch to BMW Operating System 7 also brings the Remote Software Upgrade function to the 5 Series. All updates can be imported over the air, either on a smartphone via BMW Connected or directly into the car using its built-in SIM card.

BMW Live Cockpit Professional comes with optimised Smartphone integration; in addition to Apple CarPlay, the operating system for the 5 Series will also host Android Auto. This enables access to such digital services as Google Assistant, Google Maps, music streaming services like Spotify and Amazon Music, and the WhatsApp messaging service.

The latest version of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant expands the voice control function. You can now use your voice to adjust the air conditioning. The head-up display projection area was a joy to peer through and is around 70 per cent larger than in the previous model. The Harman Kardon surround sound system is another delight.

A nice gesture

If you like the idea of talking to your car to operate various functions, the new 5 Series allows you to wave and take a swipe at it. Given that prodding and pinching at a touchscreen while driving can be distracting, using hand gestures and even eye movements to control climate and switch radio channels is seen as the next best thing. While the gesture control on our car didn’t always react to the desired action, it did get a cheer and ripple of applause from the back seat occupants when it did behave. We still prefer using the steering wheel-mounted controls that are fast and intuitive.

Providing the driver with assistance when required

The driver assistance system takes the 5 Series a step further down the road to automated driving. This includes technologies such as dynamic cruise control and a speed limit info system. The latter can also take into account speed restrictions further along the driver’s route, encouraging a more proactive driving style. The optional Driving Assistant Plus safety package includes the Lane Keeping Assistant, the Lane Departure Warning system and the Lane Change Warning. Moreover, Side Collision Warning alerts drivers using a visual signal or steering wheel vibration to another vehicle encroaching from the side.

Another noteworthy function contained in the Driving Assist Plus package is the Evasion Aid. If a swift lane change is required because an obstacle has suddenly appeared in the driver’s path, the Evasion Aid – which operates at speeds of up to 99mph, perfect for the German Autobahn – supports the necessary evasive steering action.

The refreshed 5 Series is also equipped with a Drive Recorder option coupled with Parking Assistant Plus that uses in-built cameras to record video footage from different points around the vehicle, before storing the recordings so they can either be watched later on the control display or exported via the USB port. Recordings can be up to 40 seconds in length, comprising the 20 seconds of video saved immediately prior to the Drive Recorder being activated and the next 20 seconds. In the event of a collision, the 20 seconds up to the moment of impact and the next 20 seconds are automatically recorded and saved.

Size matters

Compared to its forebears, the latest 5 Series is slightly bigger, i.e. 36mm longer than the outgoing model (at 4,935mm), 6mm wider (1,868mm) and 2mm taller (1,466mm). Its wheelbase measures 2,975mm, an increase of 7mm.


Using a material mix consisting of aluminium, high-tensile steels and magnesium, the new 5 Series is 100kg lighter than the previous model, while body strength and torsional stiffness have been increased.

A low centre of gravity, a balanced axle load ratio and a further reduction in unsprung masses has benefits for both dynamics and comfort.  More specifically, the 5 Series has a newly developed modular engine range featuring a thermodynamic, lightweight aluminium construction. It uses light-metal components to maintain the lowest possible unsprung mass. Light-metal components are also used in the new five-link rear suspension, which is lighter and stiffer than the previous model and provides wheel location and excellent tracking stability in all driving situations.

Further examples of BMW’s attention to detail are the cast magnesium instrument panel support, which is up to 2kg lighter than the steel version used on the previous model. Also, the boot lid, which for the first time is made entirely from aluminium – saving 4.2kg. The lightweight doors weigh just 6kg each, and 9kg has been saved across the wheel/tyre/brake assemblies.

Constellium is supplying the aluminium automotive body sheets and crash management systems for the 5 Series, including its hybrid and touring models. Constellium also supplies the coils used for the inner and outer applications such as doors, roofs, fenders, deck lids and structural parts. In addition, Constellium designed and produces the rear Crash Management System, including an integrated holder for the exhaust system.

On the road

The 5 Series comes in a choice of three trim levels: SE, M Sport and M Sport Edition.  The variant we took out for a spin was the 520d XDrive M Sport Touring which turned out to be the perfect companion for some leisurely journeys. The interior ticks all the boxes and the build quality cannot be faulted. It also felt cossetted and poised at every turn with its adaptive suspension, providing a fabulous driving experience. Left to its own devices, the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission performed well.

For a diesel, the 5 Series is surprisingly quiet thanks to something the automaker calls Syntak (Synergy Thermoacoustic Capsule). The lightweight soundproofing materials, encapsulating the engine and transmission team up with a series of inventive touches to lower volume levels, while also producing weight and fuel savings. Syntak also improves the powertrain’s heat retention, which in turn leads to reduced fuel consumption.

Both the saloon and estate version are produced at BMW’s plant in Dingolfing, Germany. The saloon is also built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. A staple of the executive car class, this popular model competes against the likes of the Mercedes-Benz E Class, Audi A6 and Volvo S90.

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