First Drive: BMW 5 Series

BMW 530d xDrive

The BMW 5 Series has long sat at the top of the premium executive car sales charts. So when a new one comes along it's a pretty big deal, and for its latest iteration, the benchmark business car has been totally reworked beneath the skin.

AOL Cars travelled to Lisbon to see if these changes keep the 5 Series on top of the game.

What is it?

According to BMW, its most iconic car. According to its own surveys, more people associate the brand with the 5 Series than even the ubiquitous 3 Series.

With this in mind, it's no surprise to see that BMW has overhauled the outgoing car while being careful not to change its character much at all. The exterior styling is now more taut and muscular, and the technology available is second to none.

The bits you can't see are totally new, too. The chassis has been renewed and the extensive use of lightweight materials contributes to an overall weight saving of 100kg.

What's under the bonnet?

The most popular engine variant will be the 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit in the 520d because it keeps both the taxman and the fleet manager happy thanks to claimed economy figures of 68.9mpg and 108g/km of CO2.

However, those who can get away with it should go for the 530d. The 3.0-litre diesel makes 258bhp, but it's the way the 620Nm of torque is so deliciously delivered that delights. Around town there's not a great deal of difference between this and the smaller engine, but find a fun road to exploit the surprisingly capable chassis and the extra punch is welcome.

First Drive: BMW 5 Series

First Drive: BMW 5 Series

What's the spec like?

As standard there's more kit than ever before, but the best goodies in the 5 Series are optional extras.

Our car came with a long list of optional extras including automatic, four-zone air conditioning (£695), a brilliant head-up display (£995) and 'comfort seats' (£1,705). The base 5 Series is hardly spartan, but buyers will have to tick a lot of boxes for the full experience of technology and comfort.

Any rivals?

The BMW 5 Series is the benchmark in the segment, but that doesn't mean there aren't a number of manufacturers trying to take a bite of the sales pie.

Its closest rival is the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The German rival isn't as enjoyable to drive and its ride isn't as comfortable, but there's no denying the interior is a step above the BMW.

Elsewhere, the Audi A6 is smart if a little dull to drive, while the Jaguar XF packs character but falls behind in the build quality stakes just enough to be noticeable.

What's it like to drive?

Here's where the 5 Series really excels. It handled well before, but now it's even better thanks largely to improvements in the chassis.

The car's 100kg lighter than before thanks to the extensive use of lightweight materials, while a new double-wishbone front axle has been tuned to find the balance between driving dynamics and comfort – we reckon the engineers have nailed it.

The 5 Series' bread and butter is devouring motorway miles, and here it's at its best. The ride quality is unparalleled and means that however many hours a driver has to stare out of the windscreen, they'll feel relaxed at their destination

AOL Cars verdict

The BMW 5 Series has long been the premium executive segment's sales leader, and we see no reason why that should change with this new iteration.

It's best-in-class to drive, offers excellent levels of interior quality and comfort, and comes with a range of both economical and performance-orientated engines.

It may lack some of the extrovert luxury found in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but it's beautifully put together and drives like a dream. It's not just best-in-class, it's top marks all round.

Model: BMW 5 Series
Price: £43,835
Engine tested: 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel
Power: 258bhp
Torque: 620Nm
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 5.2s
Economy: 56.5mpg, 132g/km