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BMW calls its new 5-Series "the perfect business saloon" and it's hard to disagree. A cool 5.6-million sales under its belt since it first arrived in 1972, the mid-range Beemer has established itself as the executive saloon that everyone wants to have.
But while its long history of sales success is impressive, the biggest story is that the past two generations of 5-Series have accounted for almost half those total sales. The 5-Series seems to become a stronger proposition with every incarnation and it will need to be too with the competition from such talent as the Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar XF.
With corporate customers accounting for 70-75 per cent of all 5-Series leaving showrooms and the diesel models taking 90 per cent of all sales, there's no question about the 5's business appeal. As well as four petrol engines, at launch there are three turbo-diesels from the entry-level 520d up to the two 3.0-litre 204bhp and 245bhp engines in the 525d and 530d respectively. The flagship 535d will follow along with the Touring estate in the autumn.
Although the 520d accounts for a staggering 70 per cent of all 5 diesel sales with its combination of respectable performance (0 to 60mph in 8.1 seconds, 141mph top speed), economy and emissions (56.5mpg, 132g/km), it's the 525d and 530d that are especially worthy of note. In standard manual form, they produce 162 and 166g/km respectively, but go for the new optional £1495 eight-speed automatic gearbox (virtually a de-rigueur option anyway) and both drop to an all important 160g/km.
This sixth generation 5-Series is longer and lower than its predecessor, but BMW hasn't hidden its sporting intent. The steering feels communicative and the handling smooth and trustworthy, the only slight let-down being the ride which can be occasionally exposed on some rougher, potholed surfaces thanks to BMW's continued insistence to fit run-flat tyres. Putting the suspension into full comfort mode thankfully eases matters, so it's a minor issue for what is otherwise a sublime drive. The new gearbox is also fantastic, with steering wheel paddles for when you feel in the mood for a sportier experience and a smooth change when you're not.
The good news doesn't end there. Inside, the build quality of the new 5 is at least a match for anything from Audi or Mercedes and the new version of the iDrive system for sat nav, stereo controls and so on, is much more intuitive than before. BMW has upped the standard equipment list too, so all models now include leather upholstery, Bluetooth, Dynamic Stability Control, cruise control and automatic air conditioning.
Those extra dimensions on the exterior haven't gone to waste for the interior. Although the driving position can still feel a little high for taller drivers even in its lowest position, those in the back have got more head and legroom than before - a bugbear for the previous car. The only slight restriction is for foot-space if the front Seat is all the way down, but there's still more room here than for those in the back of, say, a Jaguar XF.
We're big fans of the XF, but the wide appeal of the 5-Series and its historic strengths are sure to win it plenty of fans. It's bigger than the Jag and a far more involving drive than the similarly-impressive Mercedes E-Class. Undoubtedly the best 5-Series that BMW has ever produced, whether you love or loathe that emotive blue-and-white badge, 5.6 million drivers can't be wrong.