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BMW 5-series: Test Drive Review

Date: 19 March 2010   |   Author:

Category: Executive
P11D price: £38,475
Key rival: Mercedes E-class

It's never easy replacing one of the giants of the corporate market, but the new, sixth-generation BMW 5-series has just that task.

Clearly the market leader in the prestigious executive segment, the 5-series defines that sector in the way that the Ford Mondeo defines the upper medium. However, BMW is looking to its latest model to not just match its predecessor, but exceed it.

One advantage for the new car will be that the all-important entry diesel model, the 520d due June, will be just three months behind the rest of the range, rather than a distance measured in years for the last 520d.

That model will account for around 80% of corporate 5-series registrations, and with CO2 figures and fuel economy figures of 132g/km and 56.5mpg as well as 184hp of power, it's easy to understand the £28,165 model's popularity. But its slight delay means the new 5-series will launch without it.

The good news for business drivers and operators continues up the range. The 530d, driven here, sneaks under the 161g/km capital allowance boundary in automatic form, far in excessive of any of its rivals (see below). The downside is the P11D price that is also in excess of its rivals, although BMW has improved the standard spec, with leather interior and Bluetooth now handed out across the range. The company claims it has added £2540 of additional equipment for the £1230 price increase from old model to new.

Interior space is plentiful for four adults, and the cockpit, with controls now once more angled slightly towards the driver like BMWs of previous years, is reminiscent of the 7-series from the class above.

The prestige German brand has opted to try and make the new 5-series slightly more compliant on the road, which means the previous model's harsh ride is replaced with something that, while still sportier than any of its rivals, isn't the hard-riding machine it used to be.

There is a decision to be made with this car. The driver will find it cheaper to run than any of the rivals thanks to peerless fuel economy and emissions, but business car operators will find the cost per mile equation works better for both the Jaguar XF and Mercedes E-class thanks to the lower P11D.

The good news is that there's no bad choice, and in many ways driver preference will, as far as is allowed, make the difference. BMW holds the upper hand by a distance in the efficiency, performance and driving enjoyment stakes, but, at least with the 530d, it comes quite literally at a price.