BMW’s claims of greater cabin spaciousness in the BMW 5 Series 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.

What is impressive is the semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control. It could be a real game changer for high-mileage drivers

Regardless of the difference between generations, the 5 Series feels every bit a large saloon car – and a luxurious one at that.

The trickle-down of technology and aesthetic previewed in the BMW 7 Series has helped in that respect.

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 BMW 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).

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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.

Elsewhere the car is a thoroughly agreeable amalgam of high-grade plastics and man-made leather.

As you might expect, the embellished rear quarters are commodious enough for adults of all sizes, and only a tall transmission tunnel prevents the 520d from respectably seating three across its rear bench.

The boot remains a capacious affair, with a claimed 530-litre capacity, even if the intrusion of the wheel arches into the load space seems a little excessive. Lowering the back seats (via two pulleys adjacent to the lid) accesses more than two metres of near-flat, if shallow, boot volume. 

As for trim levels, there are two to choose from - SE and M Sport. Entry-level models get 17in alloy wheels (18s on the more powerful versions), cruise control, LED head and brake lights, auto lights and wipers, chrome exhaust trim and parking sensors on the outside as standard. Inside, there is dual-zone climate control, velour floor mats, heated front seats, aluminium interior trim and BMW's superb iDrive infotainment system complete with DAB radio, sat nav, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, BMW's online services and a 20GB hard drive.

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Upgrade to M Sport and the 5 Series gets quadrilateral exhausts, LED fog lights, vinyl dashboard trim, a beefy bodykit and a bespoke braking system for all models bar the 520i and 520d. Those choosing the hybrid 530e will find a bunch of charging cables plus various hybrid menus to check battery status, charging time and to locate the nearest charging point.

The hardcore BMW M5 gets much the same equipment as its lesser siblings plus numerous M5 badges, quad-zone climate control, a Merino leather upholstery, head-up display, electrically adjustable front seats, a digital instrument cluster, driving assistant and head-up display. This is alongside the aggressively-styled bodykit, rear spoiler, M specific xDrive set-up and adaptive LED headlights.