From £32,5359

Don’t worry, we haven’t gone blind. While the side gills, imposing front grille and conservative profile might scream 7 Series, this is in fact the latest 5 Series.

A quick flick through the spec sheet reveals that while the 5 Series might sit on an all-new platform, its 2.0-litre diesel engine is the same 1995cc lump that sits in everything from the Mini Cooper D upwards. In the 520d, it produces 188bhp - enough for brisk performance - and is mated as standard to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.

The rest of the engine range is made up a six-cylinder diesel dubbed the 530d, a 244bhp four-cylinder petrol and a 330bhp six-cylinder petrol topping the range. There is also a petrol-electric model named the 530e, which matches the power output of the 530i.

More interestingly, there’s the option of four-wheel steering (dubbed Integral Active Steering, costing £995) to improve manoeuvrability at low speeds, and stability as the pace ramps up. It’s also possible to have all four wheels driving should you want the added traction of BMW's xDrive system, at the cost of £2000.

Explaining how the 5 Series copes with UK roads is a little trickier than you might expect. Opt for an M Sport car on 19in wheels and non-adaptive suspension, and you might be more than a little disappointed, because it'll pick up on most of the surface imperfections you'll find on a typically tortured stretch of British blacktop.

The trick is to avoid the temptation of speccing wheelarch-filling rims, and stick to 17in or at most 18in wheels. Combine the thicker sidewalls these bring with the optional £985 adaptive dampers, and you suddenly have a car that all but floats down the road when left in Comfort mode.

Where the 5 Series really impresses is in its ability to combine this fantastically comfortable ride with good body control. Drive a Mercedes-Benz E-Class and you’ll notice plenty of wallow and roll instead of the upright stance and tight damping of the BMW.

That’s not to say it’s perfect; a Jaguar XF responds even more keenly, and filters far more feel up from the front tyres. In comparison, the 5 Series has slower and less feelsome steering, although it does make for more relaxed progress when you’re not going for it, and it's precise enough to allow you to place the nose of the car very accurately. BMW being BMW has also delivered 50/50 weight distribution, leading to well-balanced handling.

As for the engine, it may not be the newest unit out there, but it’s certainly effective. Performance is strong enough for full-throttle to rarely be required and BMW’s mastery of the eight-speed ZF auto 'box continues. Shifts are smooth when they should be and swift when you start playing with the manual mode.

Refinement is impressive, too; it isn’t quite as hushed and vibration-free as the equivalent Audi A6, but it manages to be quieter than the E-Class and XF during normal use. Yes, it gets a bit coarser when you’re pushing on, but what four-cylinder diesel engine doesn’t?

Inside, things don’t look too different at first glance. The layout is familiar enough, but there have been plenty of detail changes including the raising of the infotainment screen, addition of a fully digital instrument display and a wholesale lift in material quality.

It’s that good that it’s time for a cliché alert: it really does feel like a miniature 7 Series. You’ll be looking a very long time before you see anything approaching a hard surface, the switchgear feels delightfully precise and all the key touch points feel top-notch. This is how executive interiors should be done.

It’s a shame then, that rear seat space isn’t quite as generous as in some rivals. It’s not that it’s pokey, but an E-Class or Volvo S90 would have a good lot more leg room. If you’re likely to carry particularly tall rear passengers, it’s something that's worth considering.

On the equipment front, there are two trims to choose. Entry-level SE models include 18in alloys (17s if you opt for the 520d), dual-zone climate control, cruise control, LED headlights, parking sensors, heated front seats, and BMW’s updated iDrive infotainment system complete with sat nav, Bluetooth, DAB radio and USB connectivity as standard.

Upgrade to M Sport and your 5 Series will be adorned with 19in alloy wheels (18s on the 520d), dual-exhaust system, LED foglights, an aggressively styled bodykit and an M Sport tweaked braking system.

If you’re after the best-handling executive saloon out there, then the 5 Series probably isn’t for you. Yes, it’s exceedingly good, but a Jaguar XF is a bit more involving and agile.

If we’re honest, though, most cars of this type won’t be spending much of their time on motoring nirvana roads. If anything, it’ll be the exact opposite - the hellish reality of our crowded motorway network. Here, the 5 Series really appeals in its ability to play the cosseting luxury barge to a tee, while also providing enough engagement to keep a keen driver entertained on their favourite stretch of asphalt.

Factor in the top-quality interior, and this is the most-rounded executive saloon currently on sale.

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