The new BMW Series is here, adding another generation to the long line of 5ers before it. Throughout the decades, there have been many excellent looking 5 Series. In fact, the 5 Series has been pretty solid throughout its existence, with very few bad looking models. Now that the new G60 is here, where does it stack up among its predecessors and which are the best looking 5 Series generations?
Obviously, design is subjective. So our list might differ from yours. So if this list doesn’t fit your tastes, you can peacefully list your 5 Series generations in the comments section below.
8th Place—F10 Gen
BMW 5 Series customers have been spoiled for decades, as the worst looking 5 Series is still better than the best looking generations of many other cars. I’m putting the F10 generation last, despite thinking it’s a very handsome car, because it’s boring. No one has ever really looked at the F10 and felt it was ugly but I can easily understand people yawning over it. I like sedate looking cars, especially executive sedans, but the F10 is a snoozefest even by my standards.
7th place—G60 generation
Putting the new G60 generation here feels odd because I don’t hate it. It’s not a bad looking car but it’s a very polarizing one. The G60 just beats out the F10 by being more interesting to look at, though. There are some very cool angles and I really like its roofline, shoulder line, and C-pillar. Having said that, there isn’t a single other 5 Series I’d take the G60 generation over. It’s an interesting and cool looking car but when viewed in the grand scheme of 5 Series models, there are too many good lookers for the G60 to place any higher than this.
6th place—G30 generation
Similar to the F10, the G30 generation 5 Series’s only fault is being boring. Otherwise, the car looks great. Its proportions are excellent, its front end is simple and handsome, and it lacks any of the garish, over-styled designs that so many modern BMWs have. I think the new G60 is more visually interesting but the G30 is better designed and will certainly age better.
5th place—E60 generation
Chris Bangle is owed an immense apology. The E60 5 Series is one of the cars that earned the “Bangle Butt” name for its weird back end but Bangle was onto something. All of the BMW designs that came during his tenure have aged incredibly well and he proved to be far ahead of his time. So, the E60 has an incredible story. It was the work of designer Davide Arcangeli, who tragically died after penning the E60. He worked hard on the E60 to create a design that worked the difficult chassis constraints, so he played with concavity and came up with something extremely creative. After his untimely death, the BMW design team pushed the E60 through without any alterations, to honor their friend and colleague. How do you knock a design like that? Unfortunately, that’s part of my job and its big, flat butt did ruin much of its design and the “flame-styling” headlights are still kind of odd. However, it oozes character in ways its successors never did.
4th place—E34 generation
The E34 5 Series comes from a time when BMW made simple looking cars. Its rectangular, three-box sedan shape is still handsome and looks regal even today. Seeing the old-school exposed dual-halo headlights is so charming and it looks absolutely killer with throwing star wheels. It’s a testament to BMW’s old-school designs because the E34 looks quite boring at first glance but its character begins to reveal itself the more you look at it. Despite being such a boxy design, it has more charm than almost any modern 5 Series.
3rd place—E39 generation
This one might ruffle some feathers because the E39 5 Series is often considered to be the best 5 Series. In terms of driving dynamics, it probably is. In terms of styling, however, it’s fantastic but it isn’t the best 5er. That said, it is an incredibly handsome, perfectly proportioned sedan that’s only gotten better looking as it’s aged. Its kidney grilles look almost comically small by today’s standards, which is a good thing, and its headlights are perfectly simple. It could use a bit more flare, which is why it’s third and not first, but it’s still an absolutely lovely looking sedan.
2nd place—E28 generation
I wanted to put this one first, because I absolutely adore the E28 5 Series. Its shark nose grille, upright pillars and windows, classic Hofmeister Kink, and perfect proportions make it positively drip with character. You know a BMW design is good when it looks just as good in standard form as it does as an M car and that’s the case with the E28. It debuted in the ’80s but it’s as gorgeous as ever and I’d love to drive one daily. However, there is one better.
1st place—E12 generation
It all starts with the original. The first-ever 5 Series has to be the best. How could it not be, when its designers were the legendary Marcello Gandini and Paul Bracq. Gandini designed the Garmisch concept, which eventually became the E12 5 Series, whose final design was led by Bracq, who was BMW’s chief of design at the time. Those two brilliant minds helped to create the E12 and it shows. Its proportions are absolutely spot on, its subtle shark nose is delicate but sporty, its C-pillar and tapered rear deck make it look rear-driven, and from the front its circular headlights flank lovely kidney grills, inside a larger louvered grille, Camaro RS style. It’s fantastic. It’s a perfect balance of straight lines, sharp angles, and curved panels. Gandini was a master at making a car that looked incredibly simple but unfolded itself as a far more complex design upon further inspection and that’s the case with the E12. It’s wonderful and it’s the best.