- Handsome interior
- Great powertrains
- Excellent safety scorecard
- Good standard and optional features
- Power bump for some models
- Gets expensive quickly
- Conservative exterior
- Small electric range (530e)
- Big price tag for power (M5)
features & specs
The 2020 BMW 5-Series is the goldilocks mid-sizer with a roundel on the hood: comfortable, powerful, and luxurious.
The 2020 BMW 5-Series sedan gets relatively lost next to new convertible sports cars and crossovers in the same showroom. That’s a shame.
The 5-Series is BMW’s stalwart mid-size sedan, and still a beacon for relative value, performance, safety, and even efficiency, for now.
It gets a 7.3 TCC Rating, boosted by great safety scores and impressive features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Like last year, the 5-Series is available in 530e, 530i, 540i, M550i, and M5 configurations. Base cars use a turbo-4 with or without hybrid batteries and electric motors, on up through turbo-6 in the 540i to twin-turbo V-8s in M-branded cars. All-wheel drive is available on every model, except the M550i and M5, where it’s standard equipment.
The biggest news this year is a big bump in power for the M550i, which now makes more than 500 horsepower. It’s the sleeper of the bunch, and perhaps the best performance value for less than $80,000 to start.
All 5-Series get straightforward sedan looks with luxury touches inside. A big 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility may take center stage, but the supporting cast of soft leather, real wood, and brushed metals is better.
Some interior colors are busier than others, although soft ambient light can cool everything off in a hurry. (Pro tip: Blue is the best.)
The 530e’s efficiency is king and can travel about 20 miles on electrons alone. Those sedans cost about $55,000 and qualify for some tax breaks. The M5 Competition’s 617-hp V-8 drains wallets and gas tanks faster; it’s entertaining for more than $110,000 to start.
Every 5-Series gets active safety features that include automatic emergency braking, and the IIHS called it a Top Safety Pick+ with advanced headlights.
Base cars get 18-inch wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, a moonroof, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable front seats, an 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and that big touchscreen. We’d recommend a 540i for more oomph, leather hides, active safety features, BMW’s excellent driver-assistance features, and a few more convenience items that ring up to less than $70,000. That’s rich for any new 5-Series, but less than comparatively equipped crossovers sitting across the showroom.
2020 BMW 5-Series
The 2020 5-Series is the best kind of dinner party: quiet from the outside, classy and comfortable on the inside.
The interior of the 2020 5-Series keeps up to speed like a crowded Twitter feed, but the BMW mid-sizer’s exterior looks are still dial-up.
Starting from an average score, the 2020 5-Series gets a point above average for its insides. It’s a 6.
The 5-Series grows wilder in looks as the horsepower grows. The base 530e and 530i sport lower noses and sharper lines, compared to the last 5-Series from a few years ago, and vastly tighter tail. M-badged versions get swole: bigger wheels, tougher flares, beefier exhaust notes.
It’s all relative; the current 5-Series isn’t a huge departure from the last one by outside looks alone.
Inside, the new 5-Series gets more daring and up-to-date, especially in lighter shades. The dash is tech-forward without being too busy, and the interior cascades toward the middle without any visual frippery. Most surfaces are natural and calming, like a spa day, although some quilted patterns can spoil that.
2020 BMW 5-Series
The mid-size 2020 BMW 5-Series has a full arsenal of available powertrains. Spoiler: They’re all good.
Performance in the 2020 BMW 5-Series is directly proportional to the depth of your pockets.
With available 4-, 6-, or 8-cylinder power—all turbocharged—the 5-Series transforms from a comfortable and efficient plug-in hybrid to asphalt chewing, sport sedan.
Our performance rating for the 5-Series is based on the 530i and 540i versions, which are relatively less expensive than the fire-breathing M versions, but still very good. They get a point above average for their power and ride. It’s a 7.
The base 530i sedan uses a 248-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-4 found in other BMW models that should be a first-ballot hall-of-famer; it’s smooth, powerful, and perfectly fine in the 5-Series. It powers the rear or all four wheels and propels the 530i up to 60 mph in about six seconds.
The next step up is a twin-powered twin; the 530e pairs the same turbo-4 to hybrid batteries and an electric motor to make 248 hp but can travel about 20 miles on electricity alone. Acceleration compared to the 530i isn’t dented much, even with 600 pounds of batteries added in, but the 530e’s weight is more apparent around corners and in turns. (The plug-in hybrid qualifies for federal tax credits and some state rebates too, effectively making it the least-expensive way into a 5-Series.)
Longtime BMW fans will associate the 540i’s badge with a V-8 underhood. Not here. The 2020 540i uses a turbo-6 that makes 335 hp and spins out 331 pound-feet of torque to spring to 60 mph in about five seconds. The turbo-6 is potent and refined; it’s our pick for the best 5-Series value.
For more power, the M550i xDrive and M5 both use a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 that makes 523 hp or up to 617 hp in certain M5 models. We’d opt for the M550i, which gets uprated performance this year from a revised engine tune and improved exhaust, and uses the same all-wheel-drive system as the M5. The M550i launches up to 60 mph in less than four seconds, and costs less than $80,000—or about $30,000 less than the M5 Competition. It’s smart money among sports sedans, if that’s a thing.
Regardless of the engine, all 5-Series use a telepathic 8-speed automatic with all the right moves. It knows only clean shifts, right on time, and it works well in every application.
Every 5-Series uses a four-wheel independent suspension (double wishbones up front, five-link in the rear) that can be supplemented with a sportier, lower suspension or adaptive dampers. Most of our drives have been in cars equipped with adaptive dampers (standard on M550i and M5 models). With the adaptive dampers, the steering weight builds around corners in predictable ways, but feels light in normal and comfort settings that are geared toward around-town detail.
A rear-wheel steering system is available in the 5-Series, but it’s not one of our favorites. At low speeds, it makes the 5-Series feel shorter than its long 117-inch wheelbase, but around corners it can make the back end feel like it’s skating.
2020 BMW 5-Series
Comfort & Quality
Comfortable and quiet, we’d take the long way in the 2020 BMW 5-Series.
BMW’s stalwart mid-size sedan has a secret: it’s nearly as big as its full-size 7-Series from just a few years ago. There’s enough room for five adults to sit comfortably in the 2020 5-Series, with more than enough room for cargo. Tony versions of the 5-Series get luxury fittings like a casino in Monaco, but every version is comfortable. It’s an 8 for comfort.
The front seats in the 5-Series are shod in synthetic leather and adjust in 16 ways, all-day comfortable—but we’d still sub in real hides.
The front seats can be optionally heated, cooled, or equipped with built-in massagers better than a Brookstone. It’s the place to be in the 5-Series: grab the keys or at least call “shotgun” early.
The back seats are comfortable, especially in the outboard positions, which can be heated. We’ve fit three normal-sized adults back there dashing to the airport in the wee morning light.
Lighter leather tones work better in the 5-Series, as some of the quilted patterns and textures add unnecessary busyness in the 5-Series’ interior.
BMW piles on options such as ceramic controls, rubber grips, and a massive touchscreen keyfob to tempt shoppers, and they’re all nice things. We’d opt for some but not all—skip the mouse-sized keyfob—in the 5-Series; little things make a big difference.
Most 5-Series will offer 18.7 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk, which is enough for several roll-aboards and suitcases. Plug-in hybrid batteries in the 530e cut that space down by a third or more.
2020 BMW 5-Series
All the scores aren’t yet in, but the 2020 5-Series is exceptionally safe.
Incomplete scores from federal safety officials keeps the BMW 5-Series from a perfect safety score, but what’s available is great.
The IIHS called it a Top Safety Pick+ with optional headlights and BMW offers advanced safety features that we’d call exceptional. Paired with good outward vision and automatic emergency braking on every model, the 2020 5-Series gets an "A" even without the fed’s report card. It’s a 9 for now, but we’ll update this space if more data becomes available.
The Top Safety Pick+ award applies to 5-Series equipped with optional LED headlights that the IIHS rated as “Good.” (The rest of the lineup get headlights that rate “Marginal.”) Those headlights are part of the $1,050 Lighting package. The 5-Series aced the crash tests performed by the IIHS, including driver- and passenger-side small overlap crash tests.
Every 5-Series gets standard automatic emergency braking that the IIHS rated as “Superior” at preventing forward crashes at 12 mph and 25 mph in tests by the IIHS. A recommended optional system—included in an advanced driver assistance package—adds a low-speed driver-assistance suite that can steer, brake, and accelerate the 5-Series in traffic with minimal driver input for long periods at speeds slower than 37 mph on divided highways. That’s a mouthful, we know. The short of the long? It helps a bunch in stop-and-go slogs on commutes to work and home.
Like most sedans, the 5-Series has great outward vision, which is an overlooked and undervalued safety feature.
2020 BMW 5-Series
It’s surely rich, but the 2020 BMW 5-Series lacks little for features and options, and includes a superlative warranty.
All the bases are covered in the 2020 BMW 5-Series and its warranty is a home run compared to competitors.
Starting from an average score of 5, the 5-Series gets points above average for good standard features and a wealth of options— and we mean “wealth” in every sense of the word. A good touchscreen and a better warranty climb our ladder to near-perfection for features at 9 out of 10.
Base 2020 530i sedans lack little without adding any extras for $54,895, including destination, although they’ll be tougher to find than a Talking Heads reunion tour; nearly every 5-Series will have some kind of option added from the factory. Base cars get 18-inch wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, a moonroof, active safety features (covered above), dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable front seats, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.3-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. BMW charges for just about everything, including any color that’s not black or white, and all-wheel drive costs $2,300.
We’d go one step higher and sub in a more powerful turbo-6 in the 540i and add all-wheel drive, which costs $62,745, including destination. Leather upholstery is standard on those cars and that’s nice. A $950 convenience package adds heated front seats, a power trunklid, and satellite radio with one year subscription included. Add it. Advanced driver assistance features ($1,700) and adaptive LED headlights ($1,050), and multi-contour seats ($1,600) finish our spending spree and land the best 5-Series we could buy for less than $70,000.
Want to spend more? BMW will gladly take it. The 2020 M5 Competition races the bunch to empty shoppers wallets fastest and it costs more than $110,000. Smarter money can find an M550i xDrive with the same all-wheel-drive system, twin-turbo V-8, nearly as much speed, but a lower price tag at about $77,000 to start.
Every 5-Series gets a 4-year/50,000-mile bumper to bumper warranty with three years (or 36,000 miles) of maintenance included. That’s generous among competitors and peace of mind for new-car owners wary of how much luxury cars can cost to maintain.
2020 BMW 5-Series
The 2020 5-Series lineup comprises plug-in hybrid or twin-turbo V-8 variants, and most are fuel-efficient.
The 2020 BMW 5-Series’ fuel-economy tale is relatively long and stretches from frugal to prodigal, depending on what’s underhood.
Our fuel-economy figure of 5 is based on the 2020 BMW 530i that we think will be more popular. The EPA rates that model at 25 mpg city, 33 highway, 28 combined with rear-wheel drive or 24/31/27 mpg with all-wheel drive.
The turbo-6-powered 540i is rated by the EPA at 25 mpg combined with rear- or all-wheel drive, which is respectable among luxury sedans.
With hybrid batteries, the 530e has about 20 miles of electric range and manages about 25 mpg combined in all-wheel drive, according to the EPA. It’s the most efficient way to drive a 5-Series, although its rated electric range is on the thin side.
Opt for the M550i or M5’s fat V-8 with twin turbos and the fuel economy sinks. The M550i manages 20 mpg combined and the M5 notches just 17 mpg combined, according to the EPA’s calculators.
Comparable Mercedes-Benz E-Class models range from 18-25 mpg combined, which keeps pace with BMW.