It's impossible to talk about the BMW 5 Series without comparing it to its most significant rivals – the Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6. The Jaguar XF is also a worthy competitor, especially since it's now offered with a choice of cheap-to-run diesel engines. But the 5 Series still offers the most complete package of them all.
The majority of executive cars like this are bought by company-car users, and with entry-level diesel versions emitting just 119g/km of CO2, the 5 Series is cheap to run whether you’re a company driver or a private buyer. But the beauty of the 5 Series is that it's not simply a one-trick pony – the more powerful six-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines are smooth and still return impressive fuel economy compared to rivals. The V8-powered M5 has enough performance to keep up with supercars.
However, the 184bhp 520d, with its 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, makes most sense for UK drivers. Performance is more than adequate, while fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 62.8mpg and 119g/km respectively mean road tax of just £30 a year.
Whichever engine you go for, the 5 Series drives brilliantly, with responsive steering, strong brakes and excellent high-speed agility that's sure to please driving enthusiasts. Yet that doesn’t come at the expense of comfort, making it an excellent motorway cruiser.
Four trim levels are available – SE, Modern, Luxury and M Sport. It's the well equipped yet cheapest SE model that we’d recommend, thanks to its standard sat nav, DAB digital radio and leather upholstery. The M Sport is popular in the UK for its sporty styling add-ons, but if you don’t want the firm M Sport suspension, make sure to add the softer SE springs as a no-cost option.
The 5 Series saloon achieved a full five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, but that's not the only body on offer. The 5 Series Touring adds a bigger boot with hardly any effect on the driving experience, while the 5 Series GT adds a bigger boot plus a more luxurious and spacious environment for rear-seat passengers.