Embarking on a schedule of autobahn pounding and climbing tight switchbacks in the southern German Black Forest in a new BMW 520i is prompting more questions than normal today.
With a 530i already one group test down, humbled by the Jaguar S-type, today's exercise isnt just about the 520i's merits over its rivals, or the previous incarnation. More a question of whether the range's foot soldier is better in bog-standard form, shorn of the £810 Active steering option, £1550 Dynamic drive package and £1350 six-speed auto 'box fitted to the model humbled by Coventry's finest just 48 hours before I caught the plane to Baden-Baden.
The steep climb up the thickly forested hills is a harsh test of the least-powerful motor that BMW will slot into the new Five. Essentially it's the same 170bhp 2.2-litre straight six carried over from the outgoing car, but all going through a newly developed six-speed manual 'box.
Even with a clutch pedal the 520i's struggling on these inclines. It needs stirring beyond 3000rpm to give adequate urge, which means there's constant downchanging whenever the gradients start getting serious.
Not a total disaster considering the precision of the new six-slot self-shifter, and at least there's no complaints when you do begin to ask the straight six to start grafting. Once you're into the sweet spot it's quick-revving, smooth and sonorous all the way to the rev-limiter.
When the road flattens out it's happier. There's still a frantic scrabble for a lower cog for the sort of overtaking that would be effortless in a 530 petrol or diesel. This 520i's high gearing is instantly apparent on multi-laners, too. The additional sixth cog acts as an overdrive ratio, designed to improve high-speed economy and refinement.
Three-figure autobahn work is showing some of the benefits of a Five free from an Active steering option though. The system's designed to give low-geared steering at high speed, improving the feeling of stability. Not so.
Our group-tested 530i needed constant nibbling at the helm to keep it on track, while the non-Active-equipped 520i steers truer and feels more unflappable even at what would be imprisonable speeds in Blighty.