BMW’s claims of greater cabin spaciousness are borne out in the flesh.
The principal improvement cited by the manufacturer is in the headroom afforded to passengers in the back (we measured it at a deeply admirable 950mm), although most owners will be inclined to better appreciate the lowering of the model’s instrument panel and the gentle enhancement of elbow and shoulder room that confidently invokes roominess.
Regardless of the difference between generations, the 5 Series feels every bit a large saloon car – and a luxurious one at that.
No previous owner of the model would fail to recognise the 5 Series lineage, but it is from the larger car’s glossy styling that most of the new design cues originate.
For the most part, the transference is appealing. Like its larger sibling, the 520d retains physical switchgear in familiar positions (most notably the climate controls) and continues BMW’s tradition of locating drive mode buttons and infotainment controllers on the centre console.
The floating 10.25in touchscreen is a welcome addition to the 5 Series cabin, ditto the instrument cluster and the latest head-up display (the latter being part of the £1495 Technology pack that includes other 7 Series debuts such as the Display Key and Gesture Control functions).
The 5 Series comes with the latest generation of BMW’s iDrive system, meaning that, among other things, it now shares a new menu interface with the 7 Series.
Functionally, the update is mostly an aesthetic and organisational tweak, the software gaining a slightly clearer home screen layout while retaining the same basic navigation rules to which BMW owners have become accustomed.
In fact, use of the iDrive controller is now so intuitive that to familiar drivers the introduction of touchscreen and gesture controls feels almost entirely surplus to requirements. That’s no reason not to include them, though, and that goes double for the extended web-based services of BMW Connected and ConnectedDrive (even if they replicate the functionality most buyers already carry around in their pocket).
The 5 Series comes with the six-speaker Professional audio system as standard. There are several upgrade options, including for the first time a 1400W, 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround sound set-up.