According to project director Johann Kistler, the decision to retain a familiar appearance rather than opt for an all-new look was based on feedback from customers and a record 2.1 million sales for the previous-generation car.
Kistler said: “In the final choice of designs we had three proposals. The production car is the middle of those three – we also had a more conservative proposal and one that pushed the boundaries more.”
The new 5 Series has grown in size, but only slightly. Length has increased by 36mm to 4935mm, width grows by 6mm to 1868mm and height increases by 2mm to 1466mm.
The wheelbase is 7mm longer than that of its predecessor at 2975mm, while the track widths of the 520d are up by 5mm at the front and 3mm at rear at 1605mm and 1630mm respectively.
For context, the latest Mercedes-Benz E-class stretches to 4880mm in length, 1850mm in width and 1470mm in height.
Thanks to the increases, the 5 Series' interior space is improved, notably rear leg, shoulder and head room. There’s sufficient space for five adults on newly developed seats front and back. Crucially, the rear bench has been reshaped to provide a more defined centre seat, rather than being shaped primarily for the two outer seats, although a wide centre tunnel continues to rob foot space at the base of the centre rear seat.
Boot capacity is also up, by 10 litres to 530 litres, although that's still 10 litres shy of the Mercedes-Benz E-class saloon.
A comprehensive aerodynamic development program has netted the new 5 Series a class-leading drag coefficient of 0.22. This has been achieved with the help of active grille elements with louvres that open when more cooling air is needed but otherwise remain closed to smooth out airflow.
The new BMW will be launched in saloon guise, before a Touring model joins the range in the second half of 2017.
Unlike today’s line-up, the successor to the 5 Series GT, which is already undergoing testing in prototype form, will have more individual styling. Sources suggest it will adopt the name 6 Series GT and indirectly replace the slow-selling 6 Series Gran Coupé when it arrives in 2018 – a move that hints it will also become more expensive.
The new 5 Series adopts BMW’s new Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform structure underneath its predominantly aluminium body. The structure incorporates more aluminium, magnesium and titanium within its floorplan, bulkheads and connecting nodes than the platform of the previous 5 Series.
BMW says CLAR, along with other weight-saving measures, such as a lighter wiring loom, have resulted in a reduction of the 5 Series's kerb weight by up to 100kg, depending on the exact variant.
The engine line-up largely mirrors that of the outgoing model, with a combination of BMW’s latest-generation B48 four-cylinder, B58 six-cylinder and N63 V8 petrol units alongside B47 four-cylinder and B58 six-cylinder diesels.
Among the confirmed petrol engines is a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit, making 248bhp in the 530i and 335bhp in the 340i.
They will be joined in March by an updated version of BMW’s turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 in the initial flagship 550d xDrive M Performance model.