The BMW 5 Series has ruled the executive car roost since launch four years ago. Yet despite this success, BMW has just released a revised version of its all-conquering saloon.
With updates inside and out, plus better efficiency, the latest 5 Series aims to increase its advantage over rivals. As before, it comes with a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, plus the option of a practical Touring estate. We test a saloon in popular 520d M Sport trim.
Yet the 5 Series isn’t the only premium four-door that’s been under the knife, because earlier this year Mercedes pulled the wraps off its heavily revised E-Class. With its fresh looks and upgraded engines, this latest model promises to be more desirable and efficient than ever, particularly in E220 CDI guise. Not to be overlooked, Jaguar has subtly tweaked its stylish XF. At the heart of the changes is a more efficient version of the brand’s 2.2-litre diesel, which now emits a company car tax-busting 129g/km.
So which of our contenders will be crowned king of the company car park?
These three cars all try to balance sports saloon performance and tax-busting running costs. The BMW comes closest to pulling it off, with its smooth, punchy power delivery, low emissions and 46mpg test fuel economy. What the Jag lacks in efficiency it makes up for with effortless pace, although this is largely down to its eight-speed auto’s closely stacked ratios. The Mercedes is the gruffest performer here and barely any less thirsty than the XF.
If you want to minimise your Benefit In Kind company car tax bills, the BMW 5 Series is still the top choice. Go for a 520d SE with a manual gearbox, and the P11D value is just 18 per cent – which is one per cent lower than the equivalent E-Class.
The Mercedes and BMW have both been facelifted, but you only really notice the changes to the E-Class. An S-Class-inspired nose and more rounded edges give it a fresher look, although it’s still a little straight-laced. The fact that BMW has barely altered the 5 Series speaks volumes about the original design. It’s sporty and well proportioned, and still looks great. However, neither of these cars can match the seductive Jaguar when it comes to head-turning kerb appeal.
Blink and you’ll miss the changes to the 5 Series, but that doesn’t stop it taking victory here. Not only is it great to drive and fairly inexpensive to run, it features a top-notch interior and is superbly refined. It’s also roomy, well equipped and beautifully built. It’ll take a special car to knock the BMW off the top. Despite its size and weight, the 520d returned 46mpg in its time with us. That’s nearly 10mpg up on both rivals. Alongside our 520d, plus the familiar 525d, 530d and 535d diesels, there’s now an entry-level 518d. Petrol fans can pick from the four-cylinder 520i and 528i, and the straight-six 535i and 550i. There’s also the sizzling M5, with its twin-turbo V8.
It’s a close contest between the Mercedes and Jaguar. In the final reckoning, though, the XF has the edge with its sleek style, cosseting interior and gutsy engine. It’s not as roomy or efficient as its rivals, but the upper-crust Jag makes every journey feel special. It’s great value, too. Plus, owners not only give Jaguar brand and dealers the thumbs-up in our Driver Power satisfaction survey; those running an XF love their cars, and the big saloon finished in the top three in Driver Power 2013.
Despite its comprehensive makeover, the E-Class still looks a little old-fashioned alongside the Jag and BMW. Few cars in this class can match the Mercedes for comfort, plus the automatic box is really slick – but not even this can compensate for the gruff diesel engine. Mercedes has simplified the E-Class line-up, offering only SE and AMG Sport trims. The E220, E250 and E350 diesels are joined by the E300 diesel-electric hybrid, with petrol options limited to the 2.0-litre E250 and wild E63 AMG.
|Figures||BMW 520d M Sport||Jaguar XF 2.2D Luxury 163PS||Mercedes E220 CDI SE|
|On the road price/total as tested||£34,330/£41,095||£32,945/£42,635||£34,270/£39,040|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)||£16,135/47.0%||£14,726/44.7%||£15,079/44.0%|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£1,371/£2,742||£1,250/£2,500||£1,300/£2,600|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£1,648/£2,747||£2,022/£3,370||£1,975/£3,291|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||34/£453/D/£105||41/£471/D/£105||34/£471/C/£105|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£475 (5yrs/50k)||Free (3yrs/48k)^||£29pcm (36 months)*|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/1,995cc||4cyl in-line/2,179cc||4cyl in-line/2,143cc|
|Peak power/revs||182/4,000 bhp/rpm||161/3,500 bhp/rpm||168/3,000 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque/revs||380/1,750 Nm/rpm||400/2,000 Nm/rpm||400/1,400 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||6-spd man/rwd||8-spd auto/rwd||7-spd auto/rwd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||70 litres/run-flat||70 litres/sealant||59 litres/space saver|
|Boot capacity||520 litres/N/A||540/963 litres||540 litres/N/A|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||12.0 metres/0.25Cd||11.5 metres/0.28Cd||11.3 metres/N/A|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (unltd)/3yrs||3yrs (unltd)/3yrs||3yrs (unltd)/4yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||Variable/153||16,000 (1yr)/97||Variable/136|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||15th/24th||3rd/5th||5th/12th|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||95/83/78/5||79/73/62/4||86/77/59/5|
|0-60/30-70mph||8.8/8.4 secs||8.8/8.7 secs||8.7/8.5 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||4.2/7.3 secs||3.4/4.0 secs||4.1/5.2 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th||9.1/16.3 secs/N/A/N/A||5.5/7.5/11.3 secs/N/A||7.7/10.8/13.4 secs/N/A|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||145mph/1,800rpm||130mph/1,500rpm||141mph/1,600rpm|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||46.0/10.2/708 miles||37.5/8.3/577 miles||38.4/8.5/498 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||165/129g/km/20%||202/129g/km/19%||197/128g/km/19%|
|Airbags/Isofix/rear parking sensors||Six/yes/yes||Six/yes/yes||Seven/yes/yes|
|Automatic box/stability/cruise ctrl||£1,550/yes/yes||Yes/yes/yes||Yes/yes/yes|
|Climate control/leather/heated seats||Yes/yes/yes||Yes/yes/£240||£645/no/£930|
|Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go||£675/yes/yes||£650/yes/yes||Yes/yes/yes|