The 5 Series that drives itself: BMW's E-Class fighter breaks cover

  • New executive saloon looks similar to old model
  • Bigger changes under the skin mean lower tax bills
  • As with its rivals, it’s gadgets galore. Launched in 2017

Although it might not look very different to the previous version, this is the all-new BMW 5 Series. An incredibly popular company car, the subtle styling tweaks hide far more innovations under the skin set to boost its appeal to fleet drivers.

It’ll have to be very impressive, too, because the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is an excellent car that has moved the executive saloon market on a step or two. We’re expecting Audi to replace its A6 over the next 12 months, and Jaguar’s XF remains a viable alternative to the usual German suspects.

Running cost improvement

As you’d expect, there’s a huge amount of tech available on the seventh generation of this popular saloon, but the big news here is that while it’s fractionally larger than before, it’s also a slipperier shape, so the CO2 output and fuel economy figures have both been improved.

The headline versions for most fleet drivers are to be launched around a month after the February on-sale date for the core range. First there’s the 520d Efficient Dynamics Edition, which will feature a 2.0-litre diesel engine capable of emissions as low as 102g/km, and fuel economy of a claimed 74.3mpg. That’ll keep running costs low.

For even more extreme tax savings, there will also be a 530e iPerformance model that is powered by a combination of 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor with batteries capable of a range of 28 miles on plug-in power alone. This equates to some startling figures – not only a sportscar-like 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds but fuel economy of a claimed 141.2mpg and CO2 output of 46g/km.

You won’t realise such parsimonious petrol consumption in the real world unless your use of the car involves almost exclusively electric running, of course, but it still sounds great on paper at the least - and helps with your tax bill. 

Extensive range of engines and all-wheel drive option

Other diesel models include the regular 520d, which is the only version available with a manual gearbox (all others get an eight-speed automatic) and a six-cylinder 3.0-litre called the 530d.

The petrol line-up will include the 530i and 540i six-cylinders along with a 550i V8 that is quicker from 0-62mph than the out-going M5 performance model. These versions won’t suit the majority of company car drivers, however, due to their higher tax bills.

The firm’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is set to be available on the following models: 530i, 540i, 520d and 530d, while it’s standard-fit on the 550i.

BMW’s 2017 5 Series loaded with latest technology

There’s a lot of electrical trickery on this new model. For example, you can park your car remotely using your mobile so you can squeeze it into the tightest of spaces without worrying about how wide the doors will open.

Gesture Control is carried over from the 7 Series and allows you to give the car’s multimedia system commands using hand movements.

Autonomous driving tech also features heavily, with the car able to help with steering, throttle and brakes at speeds of up to 130mph; perfect for the unrestricted Autobahn in Germany, but slightly overkill for the UK’s 70mph motorways.

Still, an enlarged head-up display will prove useful, and so will the 10.25-inch screen in the dash that comes as part of the BMW Professional infotainment system – now standard-fit across the whole range.

Finally, this 5 Series can communicate with other BMWs using the Car-to-X network, sharing traffic and weather information, which ultimately aims to pave the way to fully autonomous driving by deciding on the ideal route for your needs. This tech is in its infancy at present, but we expect far higher proliferation in the coming years as firms try to work out how to make the transition between drivers controlling what’s happening and their cars doing it for them.

Pricing and spec details are expected closer to the February 2017 launch date. An estate version – likely to be called the BMW 5 Series Touring  hasn’t been announced at this point, but it’s fair to say we’re expecting one to follow soon.

Keep an eye out for an early BMW 5 Series review coming soon on Parkers.