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Dashboard, infotainment, sat-nav and passenger space

As with exterior, the BMW 5 Series’ cabin is all about restraint. Beyond the joystick-style gearlever, there is little here that is likely to offend.

The Mercedes E-Class' dashboard is now dominated by two 12.3in large screens and the virtue of fewer and larger buttons, but once you’re familiar with it the 5 Series presents no problems to navigate. And for what it’s worth, in our opinion it is the BMW that has the more attractive appearance and upmarket feel.

There’s no need to insert a key to start the engine so you can leave the fob in your pocket, or insert it in a storage slot ahead of the gearlever

Ergonomically there is just one fault: the pedals are slightly offset to the right. In other respects the seating position offers adequate space and adjustment for most shapes, and the major controls are well sited.

But it is in the rear of the cabin that the 5 Series’ extended wheelbase pays most dividends, with more shoulder and legroom than the previous model. There’s enough to accommodate two full-size adults in comfort (three at a push), and enough to trouble the E-Class.

Luggage space of 520 litres is fractionally less than the class average, but by only a few litres; the E-Class holds 540 litres. Although the space is uniformly shaped, it is quite narrow between the rear arches.

The boot in the 5 Series Touring is a way off the best in class for load capacity. With a load bay that can take at least 560 litres, or up to 1760 litres with the seats folded, it can certainly swallow more than most would ever usually want to carry around. But the Mercedes E-Class betters it by no small margin, with a capacity of 695 litres (seats up) and up to 1950 litres (seats folded).

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In general use, the 5 Series is a pleasantly convenient car to use thanks to touches such as the hydraulically operated cover that hides a compartment under the boot floor, a rear windscreen that can open independently of the tailgate and a rear bench that splits 40/20/40 as standard.

There is a generous amount of equipment as standard on the 5 Series SE including, dual-zone climate control, 6.5in touchscreen iDrive system with sat nav and DAB, front and rear parking sensors and auto headlights and wipers. Go up to Luxury and the 5 Series gets BMW's Professional Multimedia system which sees iDrive gain a 20GB hard drive and real-time traffic updates, while the range-topping M-Sport models get partially electrically adjustable front sport seats, M-Sport alloys, suspension and bodykit, plus dark chrome exhaust tailpipes.