During the past decade BMW has branched out into every market niche, from the coupé-SUV crossover that is the X4 and the X6 to the estate-saloon-soft-roader hybrid that is the 5 Series GT. But it is still the classic, default models like this 5 Series that form the backbone of the brand.

From the look of the latest model, introduced in 2010 and mildly revised late in 2013, you would be forgiven for thinking that BMW is playing it safe. But underneath the skin the 5 Series is more complex than ever. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is available on the whole range, and the engines offer world-class tech. All this technology ensures the 5 Series remains the executive saloon of choice ahead of the Audi A6, and the revamped Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

BMW also says the 5 Series is a more sophisticated all-rounder than it has ever been before. And with Efficient Dynamics on board, every model gets an impressive blend of performance and economy – astonishingly so in some cases.

The vast range comprises of three bodystyles including a saloon, a hatchback and an estate, not forgetting a storming twin-turbo V8 M5. Trim levels are the easy bit to deal with – mainly there are three to choose from, although company car and eco minded buyers will gravitate towards the sole, saloon only Efficient Dynamics model, which is tuned for optimum efficiency. BMW also offers a hybrid 5 Series in the shape of the ActiveHybrid 5, which has a 300bhp, 3.0-litre, six-cylinder petrol engine assisted by an electric motor.

The plethora of options is a massive ball of confusion, as we’ll go on to explain.

To find out what our sister site, What Car? thought of the 5 Series, watch the video below.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Kia Ceed 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    18 June 2018
    Third-generation Korean hatchback can now compete for class honours
  • Lexus LS500h 2018 road test review hero front
    Car review
    15 June 2018
    Lexus aims to reset the luxury saloon benchmark with its bold new LS flagship
  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    15 June 2018
    A more efficient petrol engine, enhanced electric powertrain and improved refinement make the world's best-selling plug-in car stronger than ever
  • Honda Civic Type R
    First Drive
    15 June 2018
    It’s a warm welcome to this steaming hot hatch. But is it too fiery for Britain’s roads?
  • Mercedes-Benz X-Class longterm review hero front
    First Drive
    14 June 2018
    Is Stuttgart’s decision to build a pick-up a shrewd one? We’re about to find out as we add the X-Class to our long-term fleet