BMW has been slowly releasing a series of videos and photo galleries of each generation of 5 Series. The reason for this is to give perspective on the model line as a whole, now that the new G30-generation has finally debuted. But Top Gear was recently fortunate enough to drive each and every generation of BMW 5 Series, from the original “E12” all the way to the brand-new “G30”.

It’s pretty fascinating to see the evolution of the 5 Series, with the original’s boxy, almost utilitarian style to the new G30’s highly luxurious and technology-laden style. Yet each and every generation has its own charms that make it delightful and worthy of driving.

It’s also good to get a fresh look at these old cars and see how they drive now, not remembering how we thought they drove then. For instance, when the original E12 5 Series first debuted, it was technically impressive, with unstoppable build quality and superb luxury. Yet, looking at it now, its wipers are so spindly thin they barely work and its ride and handling are floaty and boat like. Was it great for its time? Of course, it was superb. But looking back, it’s no match for any of its successors.

My personal favorite, the E28 5 Series, was improved but still not the precision machine we remember it to be (well, I don’t remember it, I wasn’t born then). It’s still great to drive, but Top Gear had some issues, as it was raining and the E28 lacks any sort of traction control and was wearing absolutely brand-new tires, so it was a bit of a handful. Still, though, look at it. It’s still my favorite looking sedan.

With the E34-generation, the 5 Series began inching toward the 7 Series. It had a much higher level of build quality than its predecessor and its level of luxury and technology was also way up. However, it lacked a bit of the charm of its two previous generations. The E34 was technically superior in every way and built like a tank, but the steering feel lacked and so did its excitement levels.

Then came the E39 5 Series, which is basically the gold-standard for the model. It looks great, even today, and has a perfect blend of ride quality and handling. BMW swapped out its rear trailing-arm suspension for a multi-link setup that suited the car far better. It was able to ride beautifully and also handle with crisp precision. In BMW 528i spec, it uses the 2.8 liter M52 engine, which is still brilliant even by today’s standards. It revs beautifully and makes a fantastic, metallic noise.

Following the E39 was the E60-generation. Designed by Chris Bangle, the E60 is probably the largest leap in design of any 5 Series generation. However, that isn’t exactly a good thing. Most BMW enthusiasts were pretty upset with the styling, as the E60 is anything but pretty. Some people are coming around to its styling as of late, as it’s sort of getting better looking with age. But it’s still toward the bottom end of the 5 Series family, in terms of looks. It also was filled with technology and was the first BMW to introduce iDrive. In its first iteration, iDrive was a bit of a mess (though now it’s the standard of the industry) and there was just too much technology for the car’s own good. The E60 M5 was a masterpiece, though, thanks in no small part to its high-revving, fire-breathing V10.

The generation of 5 Series currently on sale is the F10-generation, though its on its last days. With this generation, BMW clearly made its way back to luxury, as it was back with the E12 and E28 generations. It was designed to be smooth, comfortable, confident and stable and it is all of those things. It greatly improved on technology and luxury over the E60-gen and it is the far better car. It lacks a bit of the sharpness that we’d like from a 5 Series, but it’s a superb all-around car and one of the best-selling BMW models in history.

Now, the BMW 5 Series model we welcome today is the brand-new G30-generation. While it doesn’t look all that different than the F10-generation, it’s vastly different underneath. The G30 5 Series seems to be the start of BMW injecting some sport back into the 5 Series. Both its steering and handling are sharper than the F10 it replaces and it’s even more luxurious. While some of its autonomous tech still needs some work, the actual act of driving the G30 5er is impressive.

It’s interesting to see how the 5 Series has evolved over the years and to take a look at each and every generation. It’s also interesting to see how BMW’s main goal for the 5 Series has changed a couple of times throughout its history.

[Source: Top Gear]