Whatever you think of the way a BMW 5 Series looks and feels, there’s one thing that is virtually guaranteed to impress: the way it goes.

The best-selling 520d is a pleasant motor to use. It can become gruff if pushed very hard, but in general it has plenty of punch for overtaking and never feels overwhelmed by the 1625kg kerb weight, settling into an easy gait for cruising around at motorway and urban speeds. In 2013 BMW introduced a 518d to sit beneath it in the range, but we'd recommend the 520d instead, which returns the same economy, almost every time.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The 530d has a class-leading gearbox and engine

You’ll have to work the gearbox a bit for fast progress – many will opt for the eight-speed automatic – but the manual has the typically tight BMW shift, so it’s no chore to use.

The 530d 3.0-litre diesel’s headline figure of 254bhp is impressive enough on its own, but when it’s coupled to nigh on 400lb ft of torque, flat-lining from only 1500rpm, one can realistically expect fireworks.

They arrive in the order of a claimed 0-62mph time of 5.8sec, which is in the same ballpark as Jaguar’s XF 3.0D S and the Mercedes-Benz E 350 CDI.

With two turbochargers, the 535d engine has been comprehensively re-engineered and produces 309bhp. The performance for a diesel saloon car is extraordinary; if anything, the claimed 0-62mph time of 5.3sec undersells the real-world, on-demand response. Perhaps of more relevance, though, is that this new 535d is significantly more refined than any previous big diesel.

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In these days of CO2-driven company car choices, the petrols sell in smaller numbers. This seems a shame given the investment made by BMW in downsizing its petrol engines. The 528i, now powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, offers 242bhp ft. This combination of small capacity and forced induction results in a 0-62mph time of just 6.2sec and fuel economy of 43.5mpg combined. There is also the 300bhp 535i and the 442bhp 550i petrol options to choose from. The M5, with 552bhp from its twin-turbo V8, will get from 0-62mph in 4.4sec.

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