M Sport vs SE
Of the two trims, the cheaper SE is comfort-oriented, while the M Sport is more dynamic. M Sport costs an extra 3300 (2810 on the 550i) and includes 18-inch alloys, sportier bumpers and sills, dark chrome detailing, a multi-function sports wheel, part-electric sports seats and firmer M Sport suspension.
Around 55% choose M Sport trim, but in resale value terms, dealers say it makes little difference.
'M Sport is not everybody's cup of tea,' said BMW dealer Scotthall of Watford, 'and many people like the comfort of SE trim.'
We agree; M Sport suspension spoils the ride, so whether you de-select that, or order variable suspension control or adaptive drive to compensate, youre paying a lot of money for some sporty trim and seats.
Saloon vs Touring
You pay a 2275-2400 premium for the estate, which is a big hike for the added versatility even if self-levelling rear air suspension is fitted as standard.
Steering and Chassis
Variable Damper Control 985 (on four-cylinder cars only)
The electronically adjustable suspension works well and makes the 5 Series much better to drive. It's a must-have for four-cylinder models and ought to be fitted as standard.
Adaptive Drive 2265 (on 530d, 535d and 535i only)
Combines variable dampers with body roll-limiting anti-roll bars; transforms the 5 Series into the car it should be. It's a vital addition for six-cylinder models, which you shouldnt need to pay this much for.
Integral Active Steering 1330
A variable steering rack ratio and counter-steering rear wheels increase manoeuvrability below 35mph; above 50mph the rear wheels steer with the front for enhanced stability. This is a great combination with Adaptive Drive, but weighty when parking, and pricey, too.
Larger/alternative alloy wheels 420-2310
The bigger the wheel the better the look - but the ride also gets harsher. Wed suggest 18-inch wheels offer the best compromise between ride and aesthetics.