To see the original article by Debbie Wood, click here.
The all-new BMW 5 Series is due to arrive in the UK next month, and this latest model is perhaps the best version of the firm’s big-selling saloon to date.
Although the D-segment is, as a whole, in decline, the premium brands seem to buck the trend somewhat, and the 5 Series, along with some of its key rivals, has remained a popular choice in the company car market. In fact, BMW sold 14,532 last year, making the 5 Series Saloon the firm’s third biggest-selling model here in the UK - pretty impressive when you consider the current generation almost reached its seventh birthday.
Its got some stiff competition from the likes of the Audi A6, Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, though, all of which carry some impressive virtues and headline figures.
So what sets the 5 Series apart? The answer to that question is simple: it’s how the car drives. It has long been regarded as the best car to drive in the sector, and although this new model takes a step forwards in refinement and comfort and an inch back on driver engagement, it’s still an excellent car to take out on the road.
Available with a choice of diesel and petrol engines, as well as an imminent plug-in version, it’s the best-selling 520d that we focus on here, which is predicted to account for a huge 80-85% of sales.
Now in its seventh generation, the new model is lighter, more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor. It boasts some pretty impressive figures, with the 190hp 2.0-litre engine capable of a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.5 seconds, making it one of the quickest of our list, while producing just 108g/km of CO2 and a 68.8mpg combined official fuel economy figure.
Mated to all versions of the 5 Series is a quick-shifting and smooth eight-speed automatic, which is one of the best you can buy, although the absence of a manual gearbox will be disappointing for some.
The improvement to ride quality is one of the reasons why this latest 5 Series scored so well in our review, while it also has a superb interior and a plethora of advanced kit filtered down from the firm’s flagship 7 Series.
There’s a choice of two trims: SE and M Sport. Here we’re assessing the former, which comes loaded with standard kit including sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone aircon, leather upholstery and LED headlights. Options include the head-up display, which is now 70% larger than before, autonomous driving aids, and gesture control, all previously seen on the car’s luxurious big brother.
Interior space is perhaps not as strong as its rivals and boot space is competitive rather than class-leading. But in a segment as closely fought as this, the margins at the top are exceedingly small.
And that’s the case when it comes to quality and refinement behind the wheel too - the 5 Series is arguably a fraction better than the XF and A6, but not quite up to E-Class standards.
When it comes to the all-important whole-life costs, the new 5 Series sits in the middle of the pack for residual values, running costs and overall pence per mile. Not a criticism by any stretch, but it’s here where you can really appreciate the strength of the E-Class and XF, both of which perform excellently on paper.
BMW 520d Saloon 190 SE Auto8 - CPM 71.4p
|CO2 (tax): 108g/km (21%)|
|BIK 20/40% per month: £126/£252|
|Fuel consumption: 68.8mpg|
|National Insurance: £3,425|
|Boot space: 530 litres|
|Engine size/power: 1,995cc/190hp|
|0-62mph: 7.5 seconds|
Residual value: 38.6%/£13,900
Fuel costs: £4,613
Mercedes-Benz E-Class - 69.7p
The 5 Series may be the driver’s choice in the sector, but when it comes to fuel efficiency, none of its rivals can even get close to the E-Class.
Offering the lowest CO2, the best fuel economy and impressive residual values, the new E-Class also majors on comfort and exceptional interior quality. The sophisticated cabin is currently the best the sector has to offer, which helps in some way to justify its higher P11D price. Despite being the most expensive, this E-Class is actually the cheapest in BIK and is only bettered by the XF when it comes to whole-life costs.
The E-Class is also the quickest of the cars here, completing the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in just 7.3 seconds. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel was all-new when the car was launched and is smoother and more powerful than the 2.1-litre unit it replaces. It’s mated exclusively to the firm’s nine-speed automatic transmission.
This latest model was launched in 2016 and not only brought a class-leading diesel engine to the party, but also moved the game forwards in terms of technology, too. Available in two trims, SE and AMG Line, there’s an impressive amount of standard equipment, including a reversing camera, satellite navigation, heated seats, adaptive cruise control, and a clever collision prevention system.
With styling cues from the flagship S-Class, the E-Class’s reserved yet elegant design should to appeal to many, while the boot is joint top with the Jaguar in terms of size.
Mercedes-Benz E220 SE Saloon
|CO2 (tax): 102g/km (20%)|
|BIK 20/40% per month: £121/£241|
|Fuel consumption: 72.4mpg|
|National Insurance: £3,295|
|Boot space: 540 litres|
|Engine size/power: 1,950cc/190hp|
|0-62mph: 7.3 seconds|
Residual value: 39.0%/£14,100
Fuel costs: £4,383
Key Rival: Audi A6 - 73.4p
It might be the oldest of the executive saloons but the current-generation Audi A6 was given a refresh in the summer of 2016 to keep it in line with the competition.
Introducing greater connectivity and a couple of styling tweaks, this latest Audi A6 also brought a new SE Executive trim to the range. Replacing the previous entry-level SE, the new trim adds LED interior lighting, front seat heating and Apple CarPlay to the specification alongside the already standard sat-nav, four-zone climate control, parking sensors, LED lights and leather upholstery, making it the best equipped of our four cars here.
Renowned for its interior quality, practicality is also on a par with the competition, with boot space of 530 litres, the same as the 5 Series.
The 2.0-litre ultra diesel engine that sits under the bonnet of the A6 offers some competitive running costs too, although not quite up to the 5 Series and E-Class’s standards. To drive, the A6 is comfortable and refined, and although it lacks the same level of enjoyment that the BMW and Jaguar provide, it’s excellent on the motorway.
On paper is where the A6 starts to show its age, though, and comes out as the most expensive per mile, mainly because of its disappointing 32.3% residual value figure. Its SMR costs and fuel costs are competitive with rivals, though, and despite its age, the A6 still has some great kerb appeal.
Audi A6 Saloon 2.0TDI ultra 190 SE Executive
|CO2 (tax): 109g/km (21%)|
|BIK 20/40% per month: £123/£246|
|Fuel consumption: 67.3mpg|
|National Insurance: £3,351|
|Boot space: 530 litres|
|Engine size/power: 1,968cc/190hp|
|0-62mph: 8.2 seconds|
Residual value: 32.3%/£11,350
Fuel costs: £4,715
Jaguar XF - 67.3p
Arguably the most striking in design of the four cars here, the latest XF has been a huge success for Jaguar, picking up numerous awards and proving a hit with both retail and fleet customers.
It may not be a class leader for driveability, interior luxury or advanced tech - one of its rivals always manages to pip it to the post - but that’s not to say that Jaguar’s executive saloon doesn’t have all of these qualities in abundance.
Its lightweight aluminium body not only helps increase the efficiency of this latest model, the car’s handling has also been much improved. The current generation’s cornering ability and engaging drive is arguably only bettered by the 5 Series.
The 2.0-litre engine picked here is part of the firm’s Ingenium diesel range and, although it’s the highest-emitting of our group of cars and the most expensive in tax, the XF’s impressive RV figures and low P11D value come to the rescue, making its whole-life costs the cheapest overall.
In entry-level Prestige trim, the XF comes well equipped with rear parking sensors, cruise control, keyless start, 17-inch alloys, leather seats - the front two are heated - and the InControl infotainment system with an eight-inch touchscreen.
Add to that those good looks, arguably the best infotainment system of the bunch and the standard manual gearbox, something both the new 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class have done away with, and the XF has more than enough tricks up its sleeve to win customers away from its German rivals.
Jaguar XF Saloon 2.0d 180 Prestige
|CO2 (tax): 114g/km (22%)|
|BIK 20/40% per month: £126/£253|
|Fuel consumption: 65.7mpg|
|National Insurance: £3,427|
|Boot space: 540 litres|
|Engine size/power: 1,999cc/180hp|
|0-62mph: 8.1 seconds|