Traditionally there have been enough penalties in financial and efficiency terms to always make manual cars a far more sensible bet than automatics, even at the more affluent end of the market where both models are offered.

But the new BMW 5-series auto is as near to the manual as makes no difference in emissions terms, with both being in the same benefit-in-kind band, and it costs just 1.1p per mile more at 63.4p against the manual 520d Touring SE’s 62.3p. It’s only the £1495 premium for the auto box that can really separate it from the manual, and the auto’s residuals are better, which makes up some of it.

The auto is also impressively smooth and quick-shifting, and works well with the 520d’s 184hp engine, rarely feeling like more power would be helpful. The ride quality is also much better than the previous

5-series, much more acceptably on the firm side.

The auto follows the rest of the 5-series range in comfortably winning on costs against its rivals, coming in 4.7p per mile in front of Audi‘s A6 Avant and 6.3p ahead of the equivalent Mercedes.

BMW 520d Touring SE automatic
P11D price £31,710
Model price range £28,045-£53,615
Fuel consumption 53.3mpg
CO2 (tax) 139g/km (19%)
BIK 20/40% per month £100/£201
Service interval variable miles
Insurance (1-50) group 32
Warranty 3yrs/ unlimited mls
Boot space min/max 560/1670 litres
Engine size/power 1995cc/184hp
Top speed/0-62mph 137mph/8.3secs
On sale Autumn 2010
Score 9/10
Verdict The 5-series brilliance extends
across the range, and this auto
is the most competitive
self-shifter yet