New 5-Series vs rivals

Discussion in 'Car Comparisons' started by dani san, May 2, 2010.

  1. In its first uk test, BMW’s new 5-series meets the might of Mercedes and Audi. which is the executive class leader?

    It's time for the latest BMW 5-Series to take on its German peers! The newcomer notched up a maiden victory against the Jaguar XF on the sun-kissed streets of Portugal’s Atlantic coast in Issue 1,100, but how will it fare against its domestic rivals on the UK’s rainswept roads? To find out, we’ve lined up the cream of the executive saloons.

    Facing the BMW 530d SE are the Mercedes E350 CDI and Audi A6 3.0 TDI. All have smooth six-cylinder engines and premium badges. They also come with a vast array of hi-tech options, but which is the best all-rounder in Britain? With a price of £38,670, the 530d is more expensive than its rivals – and our test car does without BMW’s trick Adaptive Drive chassis technology, which helped to make the launch model such a hit.

    All three promise the kind of pace, comfort, luxury and economy which customers demand from cars at this end of the market, so it’s sure to be a close battle. Join us as we find out which model deserves top billing...

  2. Which has the best engine?

    Diesel engines dominate this sector of the car market, and will account for no less than 90 per cent of new 5-Series sales in the UK. The mainstay of the firm’s fleet will be the four-cylinder 520d, which arrives this summer, but the six-cylinder car offers a tantalising combination of power, low emissions, refinement and economy.

    The 525d and 530d models use the same 3.0-litre all-aluminium straight-six, yet in the more expensive variant tested here power output is rated at 242bhp. The unit also produces 540Nm torque, making it the most potent car in our line-up on paper.

    In comparison, the Mercedes’ 3.0-litre V6 diesel puts out only 228bhp, yet it matches the BMW’s punch with an identical 540Nm of torque. The Audi slots between the two, with 237bhp, although its 500Nm output trails those of its rivals.

    At start-up none of these silky smooth six-cylinder units lacks refinement, but on the move the BMW is the most impressive. The CDI unit in the E-Class sounds ever-so-slightly gruff after a stint driving the 5-Series, while Audi’s TDI can’t quite match the BMW for refinement, either.

    The A6 loses out when it comes to power delivery, too, as it lacks the linear nature of its rivals. While the BMW serves up an almost seamless wave of torque, the Audi’s muscle arrives in a more noticeable surge. This is accentuated by our test car’s six-speed Tiptronic gearbox, which is too keen to kick down. With fewer ratios than its rivals, the Audi seems to hunt for gears more.

    The BMW’s smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic is a £1,495 option, and it’s a delight to use. Spend an extra £110 and you can specify steering wheel-mounted paddles to control manual changes, but even without them the wand-like gear selector gives excellent transmission control.

    A self-shifter is standard on the E350, and the 7G-Tronic set-up is keener to shift down a gear under heavy acceleration. It cleverly skips gears when appropriate, too. However, without complete manual control, we could record performance figures for the Mercedes only in kickdown.

    While all three of our contenders are closely matched, the heavier E-Class was outpaced at the track. It was four-tenths-of-a-second slower than the 530d from 30-50mph, and took six-tenths longer to accelerate from 50-70mph. The 5-Series covered 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds, and it feels the fastest and most responsive choice.

    It is effortlessly rapid with strong mid-range responses, and with so many ratios to choose from it was considerably quicker than the Audi in all our in-gear tests. The eight-speed box aids refinement and economy, too. At 70mph, the newcomer cruises at just 1,500rpm, while the six-speed Audi registers 2,200rpm. The BMW is also the most efficient car, emitting 160g/km of CO2 – considerably less than the Mercedes and Audi, which both put out over 180g/km.

    Plus, during the course of our test, the 530d delivered the best economy, so it’s a clean sweep for pace, emissions and efficiency...

    BMW: 5 stars
    Faster, cleaner and more fuel-efficient than its rivals, the 37.4mpg BMW has a clear advantage in this company. Performance is superb – and that’s before you consider its CO2 emissions. A figure of only 160g/km is amazing for an executive saloon. Unusually, the auto model is greener than the manual variant; go for the standard gearbox and output rises to 166g/km.

    Mercedes: 4 stars
    While the BMW has a clear lead in the engine department, the Mercedes’ 3.0-litre V6 CDI delivers punchy performance. It gives the E-Class the edge over the Audi in the sprint from 0-60mph. However, at
    the pumps we averaged only 32.2mpg during our time with the E350. Unlike its rivals there’s no manual gearbox, so the standard 7G Tronic unit is the only choice.

    Audi: 4 stars
    The tried-and-tested 3.0 TDI delivers decent refinement and strong performance, yet it’s not class-leading in either category. The £1,400 optional six-speed Tiptronic box raises CO2 emissions by 10g/km, to 189g/km. That makes this the dirtiest engine on test. It’s also the least frugal on the combined cycle, although we averaged 33.9mpg – which was better than the E350 managed.
  3. Which has the best interior?

    When you travel business class you expect space, comfort and quality – and these cars need to deliver all these attributes by the bucket load.

    In the back, the A6 provides the least amount of legroom, and its relatively high-mounted chairs encroach a little on headroom, too. Thanks to their longer wheelbases, the BMW and Mercedes lead the way with rear seats which offer ample space.

    However, large transmission tunnels in all three result in the middle passenger having a less comfortable journey than those sitting by the windows. The Audi trails when it comes to passenger space, but it’s the
    only car here to feature split-folding rear seats as standard. BMW and Mercedes charge £340 and £400 respectively for the helpful set-up. The A6 also has the largest boot, which at 546 litres trumps the E-Class’s by six litres and the BMW’s by 26 litres.

    Our three models have a huge array of hi-tech options in the rear to enhance occupants’ comfort – including TVs, window blinds, soft-close doors and heated seats. This means passengers in the back can be treated to the kind of luxuries which used to be the preserve of cars in the class above. There’s an incredible range of technology available up front, as well. Both the 5-Series and E-Class can be fitted with a lane departure system, blind spot warning devices, night vision and adaptive cruise control. The BMW can also be specified with a useful head-up display, while its vastly improved iDrive control system is now far easier to use.

    Mercedes’ COMAND set-up offers similar functions, but our SE-spec Audi is the only car here that features satellite navigation as standard. Plus, despite being the elder statesman in this trio,
    it can still accommodate modern add-ons such as lane departure and blind spot warning. A word of caution, though, because getting carried away with the options can escalate the price alarmingly on all three contenders.

    The quality and desirability of the standard cabin are all- important, then, and the 5-Series doesn’t disappoint. With the familiar BMW formula of a minimalist dashboard, classy switchgear and clear instruments, it scores highly for simplicity.

    And its materials and build quality are class leading. A huge range of wheel and seat movement makes for a perfect driving position, while visibility is also excellent. In contrast, the upright dash and angular lines of the E-Class cabin mean you don’t feel as cosseted as in the 5-Series. The fact some of the switchgear and materials don’t seem as classy adds to the disappointment. However, the interior is faultlessly put together and we can’t criticise seat comfort.

    The A6 immediately feels dated, though. Its driving position is higher set than its rivals’, while the dash layout is cluttered in comparison. There’s nothing wrong with the materials or build quality, but that alone is not enough to win in this category.

    BMW: 5 stars
    The 5-Series’ minimalist cabin features high-class materials and a great finish throughout, while the driving position is perfect and comfort first-rate. The seats have part-electric adjustment, and leather upholstery comes as standard in SE trim. Our car’s oyster-coloured hide is a no-cost option, but the Anthracite wood inlays are £350 extra.

    Mercedes: 4 stars
    There's no faulting Mercedes’ build quality, while cabin space is on a par with the BMW’s. The dashboard isn’t especially stylish though, and it lacks the feelgood factor of the 5-Series. Avantgarde trim includes heated seats, and leather is standard, while the foot-operated parking brake and single-stalk controller
    are both pure Mercedes.

    Audi: 4 stars
    inside the A6, there’s not quite as much passenger space as in the BMW or Mercedes in this test, while the dash layout is dated. However, it compensates for this with the biggest boot, and is the only car in this test
    to feature satellite navigation as standard. Plus, we can’t fault its build quality or high-class materials, with leather trim included in the price.

  4. Which is best to drive?

    Expectations are extremely high here, with customers wanting the latest hi-tech aids to deliver a refined, exciting and engaging driving experience

    These models have to master every skill in the book. Customer expectations are sky-high in this class, with buyers demanding cars which are comfortable and refined, yet engaging and fun.

    Traditionally, BMW has managed to inject its large saloons with more involvement and sharper handling than rivals, and the latest model doesn’t disappoint. When we drove the car on its European launch, it raised the class’s dynamic bar even higher, handling with superb poise.

    It achieved this while striking a near perfect balance between taut responses and ride comfort.

    That car featured the manufacturer’s clever Adaptive Drive set-up, which proved to be very effective. It is a £2,220 option, and includes variable dampers and active anti-roll bars. However, the model tested here doesn’t have these important additions – so has that changed our opinion?

    On bumpy UK roads and fitted with larger, optional, 18-inch wheels, the suspension fidgets over rough surfaces more than cars boasting the variable damper technology, but the ride is still accomplished. It is
    smoother than the Audi and, while the air-sprung E-Class is well cushioned on the motorway, the trade-off in terms of body control makes the BMW the best compromise of the trio.

    Body control is predictably tighter with active roll bars fitted, but the new 5-Series is still the class leader when it comes to cornering composure. Get caught out by a tightening bend, or encounter a big bump, and the BMW maintains its poise where the Mercedes bounces and fidgets.

    On twisty roads, the 5-Series turns into corners with precision and sharpness. In contrast, the E-Class (fitted with the £1,395 AirMATIC suspension) suffers from slower-witted steering. And it is never as agile or responsive as the BMW.

    The Audi’s over-light steering can’t rival the 5-Series for feedback and feel. However, thanks to tighter body control than the E350, it’s more reassuring than the Mercedes when driven hard. It also provides the security of four-wheel drive, although the 530d’s impressive mechanical grip means a lack of traction will be an issue only in slippery conditions. Even then, the efficient stability control system can be relied on to
    keep things in check.

    In fact, it’s testament to the levels of grip the BMW’s chassis generates that the Mercedes calls upon its traction control more frequently than its sportier rival.

    Aside from some judder through the firm walls of the BMW’s run-flat tyres, the 5-Series’ ride is impressively comfortable, too. Its cabin shuts out noise so effectively, it is the most refined car here.

    The Audi isn’t as hushed or settled at high speed as either of its opponents, but still makes a fine executive saloon. And quattro four-wheel drive adds to its all-weather prowess.

    BMW: 4 stars
    Without its additional Adaptive Drive goodies, the 5-Series lacks that sparkling balance between ride and
    handling. However, it still manages to set the dynamic benchmark in this competitive sector. Sharp steering, huge levels of grip and beautifully weighted controls are blended with a comfortable ride and class-leading refinement.

    Mercedes: 3 stars
    The E-Class lacks the dynamic precision of the 5-Series. With slower steering, less grip and extra body roll, it never feels as agile. Even though our car has air-suspension, it’s still matched by the BMW when it comes to overall refinement. Sport models get a stiffer set-up, but in Avantgarde trim the Mercedes simply feels cumbersome in this company.

    Audi: 3 stars
    Decent body control and reassuring grip ensure four-wheel-drive Audi isn’t totally outclassed here. The trouble is, over rough surfaces the suspension lets shudders into the cabin and the steering is too light and lacks feedback. The over-assisted, sharp brakes are not especially progressive, and recorded the longest
    stopping distances of our trio

  5. Which has the best styling?

    Mature, sleek looks are the order of the day in this sector. Which of our trio gets our vote?

    If you drive one of these cars, chances are you live in a world of management meetings and financial decision making. Buyers here want grown-up looks and a premium badge – so it’s no surprise that the executive segment isn’t usually a place where manufacturers take big design risks.

    There’s always the odd exception, though, and when the previous-generation 5-Series debuted in 2003, it caused quite a stir. Its so-called ‘flame surfacing’ was a bold move – although the initial adverse response quickly melted away, and the outgoing 5-Series no longer provokes the kind of reaction it once did.

    Against that background, the all-new sixth-generation car is somewhat conservative. It hardly merits the “exploration of beauty” slogan currently being peddled by the German company’s advertising. If you take the time to study the saloon we think you will end up admiring its clean profile and sleek surfaces, but it’s a slow burner rather than an instant hit.

    Smart details such as the striking light clusters provide some glitz, while the chrome window surround is a classy touch that’s standard in SE spec. Alternatively, for £285 you can specify either a matt aluminium or high-gloss finish instead.

    As with any big saloon the 5-Series is colour-sensitive, and our testers agreed that it looked best in light metallic shades.

    Our sombre dark blue model was helped by its optional 18-inch alloy wheels, which cost £1,410. These fill the arches much more successfully than the standard 17-inch rims.

    Parked next to the BMW, the E-Class has a slightly squarer profile, a bluff front end and a somewhat fussy tail. But that prominent bonnet badge helps give it the solid and dependable air you would expect from an executive Mercedes. As with the 5-Series, 17-inch wheels come as standard and the window line is wrapped in chrome trim, yet the E-Class still lacks the presence of the BMW. This is partly down to familiarity, but regardless of how fresh-faced the 5-Series looks in comparison, the Mercedes is a bland choice in a market which includes cars such as the sleek A6 and pretty Jaguar XF.

    Audi’s contender has been on sale since 2006 so is approaching the end of its lifespan, but the elegant proportions and a facelift in 2008 mean it has stood the test of time. Mixing the marque’s trademark bold grille with a sharp waistline and smooth curves, the A6 is understated but attractive.

    The company’s sporty S line trim injects some extra aggression to the formula by adding a bodykit, 18-inch alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights. But our SE comes with conventional headlamps and smaller 17-inch rims, and looks much less racy.

    BMW: 4 stars
    SMART new 5-Series is well proportioned and oozes quality from every panel gap. Neat touches include the pronounced bonnet creases and jewel-like indicators. The car uses a shortened 7-Series platform, and from some angles it looks like a smaller version of its big brother. Yet from other angles it resembles a large 3-Series.

    Mercedes: 3 stars
    THE E-Class has the air of solidity which we have come to expect from a large Mercedes, but its styling cannot match the BMW’s dynamic edge. Sport trim improves matters by adding deeper AMG side skirts, and the 17-inch alloy wheels are stylish. Avantgarde and Sport variants get distinctive LED daytime running lamps.

    Audi: 3 stars
    The A6 is showing its age. It’s attractive, yet needs the firm’s S line extras to really stand out. Choose the £1,325 adaptive light option and you get R8-style daytime running lamps, while attractive LED tail-lights are standard across the range. The car doesn’t have the visual impact of the 5-Series, but its understated styling still appeals.

  6. The BMW is clearly the best car, but it looks just like a big 3 series. Give me the benz.
  7. The new M56 might be a good option.
  8. I like the voting options.
  9. The new 5-Series is pretty boring looking. At least it's not as ugly as it used to be. Yet its new look is still bland, mundane, and forgettable.
  10. welcome to
  11. Better looking than the previous one in my opinion, aside from the headlights which definitely look like they belong on a smaller, cheaper car.
  12. They say the A6's interior is dated, and yet it still looks the best and is probably the best built.

    I think overall I'd probably take the new 5er though.

    Dad has an E-Class and I really don't particularly like it.
  13. 5series with a6 interior.
  14. Disagree, i think the A6 interior does look very dated and the 5 series now has the best interior.
  15. The 5 series looks better irl than it does in pictures. Still they could've done a lot better on the looks.
  16. I'd rather get a fully equipped 9-5
  17. Thats like saying i would like to eat a bowl of someone else's 2 week old vomit instead of a new pipping hot meat feast pizza.
  18. Please tell me about your experience of the new 9-5.
  19. where is the jag XF?!

    and the lexus GS?
  20. Surr'sly...I'd easily take either of those two cars over any of the others mentioned in the article.
  21. Anyone who takes any lexus over any other car is a complete idiot.
  22. I don't know, I'd take this over many cars of its class/era
  23. yes yes yes

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