None of the engines is short of power, as even the entry-level 2.0-litre diesel unit produces 181bhp. The 525d and 530d are quicker still, but if even they aren’t enough, the 535d is astonishingly quick for a diesel. If you'd prefer a petrol engine, the line-up includes three 3.0-litre units, and again none is short of power or performance.
On standard suspension, the Five’s ride and handling are nowhere near as good as they should be. However, you can add Variable Damper Control to four-cylinder models and Adaptive Drive to six-cylinder models, and these options transform the car. They aren’t cheap, but they’re essential, as they make the ride more cosseting and the handling sharper.
For the most part, engine-, tyre- and suspension noise are brilliantly suppressed, but there is some, very minor engine noise in the 520d, and you do notice a bit of wind noise over the door mirrors. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is superb and has something of a split personality: stroke the accelerator pedal and the shifts are baby-bottom smooth, but jump on it hard and the shifts become clinically precise.
The Touring is not cheap to buy, but it's massively desirable and that's reflected in its outstanding resale values. They – along with the Efficient Dynamics systems that help deliver class-leading economy – make it a clear winner as a business proposition. For example, the 520d averages 55.4mpg, and its CO2 output of just 135g/km places it in a low company car tax bracket.
The Five has high-quality materials and exemplary attention to fit and finish throughout its cabin, and it's debatable whether any other manufacturer is making better cabins than BMW at the moment. The previous 5 Series didn't score well for reliability in the 2012 JD Power survey, but the faults owners experienced were mostly minor ones.
All Fives come with a minimum of six airbags and a host of electronic driver aids, including stability control and a system that primes the safety kit if a crash looks inevitable. The Five is also kind to pedestrians thanks to a spring-loaded bonnet that provides additional cushioning in the event of a collision. Deadlocks, locking wheelnuts and an alarm are on hand to ward off thieves.
The dashboard on the Five is the epitome of clarity. There are lots of functions available through the iDrive rotary controller, and they can be viewed on the central widescreen monitor. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you're familiar with the system, it's much easier to use than a touch-screen set-up. Every model has electric adjustment for the seat height and backrest angle, but you have to slide yourself back and forth manually.
There's plenty of space for everyone inside, but BMW's claim that the Touring is a genuine five-seater is a little optimistic - there’s a big transmission tunnel running through the centre of the car. A substantial 560 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place (and 1670 when they’re folded down) provides oodles of cargo space, while the standard self-leveling suspension helps cope with heftier loads.
All models come with four electric windows, climate control, steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo and cruise control, and a CD player. The list of options is almost endless, including a head-up display that projects vital information on to the windscreen in the driver's line of sight, active steering and adaptive drive, which incorporates adaptive suspension and self-adjusting anti roll bars.
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The BMW 5 Series 520d SE is an extremely good car, even in its standard form, but you have to pick the right dynamic chassis options to turn it into a great one.