This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest BMW 5-Series Saloon review.

Parkers overall rating: 4.7 out of 5 4.7

There’s a wide range of engines in the line-up – both petrol and diesel – and the good news is that every one is a joy to drive. BMW 5 Series performance then won’t be an issue even in the lower powered cars. The diesels are the most common and the entry level 520d is the starting point. It may be a four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine but it’s by no means the poor relation in the line-up.

In fact, we think it offers the perfect blend of economy and pace for most drivers. It develops 184bhp and manages the 0-62mph sprint in a swift 8.1 seconds – the same as a Volkswagen Golf GTD – with plenty of in-gear pulling power for easy overtaking. But the best bit is an average economy figure of 57mpg and CO2 emissions of just 132g/km, making it a superb choice for company car drivers.

This is helped by an automatic engine start/stop system – a first for this class of car – which cuts the engine when stopped at junctions or in traffic. Next is the 525d which uses a straight-six 3.0-litre engine with 204bhp. It’s wonderfully smooth and enjoyable to drive plus it will accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds. But the best diesel for sheer performance is the 530d.

This uses the same engine as the 525d but power is boosted to 245bhp giving it a 0-62mph time of just 6.3 seconds, but it can still average 45mpg. It has huge reserves of pulling power and is incredibly responsive, yet at motorway speeds it’s barely noticeable thanks to its refined nature. The petrols aren’t as popular but there’s still a good mix of options.

The 523i and the 528i use the same 3.0-litre engine but with differing power outputs of 204bhp and 258bhp respectively. However, the star of the petrol range is the excellent 535i. This uses a unique 3.0-litre engine that’s fitted with a clever twin-scroll turbocharger, boosting power to 306bhp and giving it a 0-62mph time of just 6.0 seconds. It doesn’t feel quite as muscular or as effortless as the 530d, but there’s no denying its sheer pace and ability to deliver superb acceleration across the rev range.

It’s a real feelgood engine when pushed, yet at lower speeds is docile and smooth, offering the best of both worlds. Economy of 33mpg isn’t bad either considering the power it offers. The top engine is in the hefty 550i, which comes with a 4.4-litre V8 delivering a maximum of 407bhp. It has plenty of character yet is still refined and will effortlessly accelerate from 0-62mph in a mere 5.0 seconds.

A new eight speed automatic gearbox is available as an optional extra on all models (it’s standard on the 550i) and it delivers super fast and smooth shifts. It’s incredibly responsive too and never needs to be forced to kick down. A further option is a sport automatic which adds steering wheel paddle shifts. The 295bhp 535d was introduced in September 2010 and that accelerates from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds with a massive peak torque of 600Nm for prodigious amounts of low-end pulling power.

The previous 5 Series was often criticised for its overly firm ride, but this model addresses those issues with ride quality worthy of a luxury saloon. In fact the ride is so smooth that it’s often easy to think you’re travelling in the larger 7 Series. But this is in no way at the detriment of BMW 5 Series handling and the car feels immensely agile with incredible grip and poise in corners.

Its long wheelbase and short overhangs mean it’s incredibly flat in corners and even higher speed driving feels composed and relaxed. The one very minor criticism is that the steering lacks some of the feel of the previous model, but this is rarely noticeable in everyday driving. A system called Drive Dynamic Control (or DDC for short) is available as an optional extra and allows you to fine tune the ride and handling further with a choice of normal, comfort, sport and sport+ settings.