3y ago


How will you cope with middle age? Will you capitulate without a struggle and slide your by-then girthier legs into comfortable dad jeans and the dial across to BBC Radio 2? Or will you still be squeezing your pins into skinny ripped denim and getting down with the (smirking) kids over at 1xtra?

The 5-series turns 44 this year and BMW’s only gone and bought it some dad denim to celebrate. The seventh Five isn’t a bad looking car – in fact it’s demonstrably more dynamic than the last one – but it’s hardly what you’d call an emotional design.

It’s the same story inside. You can’t fault the materials but it’s seriously short on the kind of wow factor offered by the latest E-class over at arch-rival Mercedes. New floating tablet display aside, there’s nothing here to move the game on.

Or so it would seem. Scratch below that same-again surface and this is in fact a much more intelligent 5-series. That iDrive system looks familiar but you can now control it via the rotary wheel, by touching the screen itself, or by gesturing at it like you’re trying to shake some nasty critter from the end of your hand. And though the body looks similar, it’s almost 100kg lighter thanks to greater use of aluminium and high-strength steels.

BMW is at pains to talk about how it improved the dynamics, but you’re far more likely to notice the massive leap in refinement. This thing is incredibly hushed and the ride on its double-wishbone suspension so supple it makes the strut-equipped 3-series feel like its running on caterpillar tracks.

It’s the perfect environment for a nap, which you can do for around 15sec at a time by setting the optional lane-keeping self-steer system then quickly looking at a picture of the exterior to knock you out cold until a barrage of beeps tells you to get your lazy inattentive hands back on the wheel.

The new 540i is an M240i in a coat two sizes too big

Chris Chilton

It’s worth fondling that wheel now and again though because hiding under layers and layers of cosy refinement the new G30 5-series is sharper than ever. The best seller in Europe will be the 520d but only because your fleet manager and the taxman have conspired to keep you out of the 530d you actually want. The gap’s closing though: that 530d now manages over 60mpg on the European cycle and 0-62mph in 5.7sec. Who’d have a petrol?

Well, we would if the stuff was free because the new 540i is an M240i in a coat two sizes too big. Three-thirty-five brake punts it to 62mph in 5.1sec (4.8sec in xDrive four-wheel drive form) and is matched by an even snappier-shifting eight-speed ZF auto. The six’s growl is disappointingly muted but the steering is noticeably more responsive than before, particularly when matched to the optional four-wheel steer system. Bottom line: this is still the best German-born exec to drive, if not to look at. They might be dad jean-fit, but they’re selvedge all the way.

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