BMW 525d SE

How does our traditional favourite, BMW's 5-Series, manage in this company?

  • Handling and steering, sound insulation, seat comfort and support, inclusive servicing scheme
  • Bulky dash design, minimal stowage, some cheap plastics, ungainly styling

From entry-level 520d to flagship 507bhp M5, the BMW 5-Series never fails to impress – dynamically at least. In terms of styling, it’s a different matter. The kindest thing we can say is that the design has grown on us over time, although the bodywork remains clumsy and heavy-handed.

Exactly the same criticism can be levelled at the driving environment. With its tall, slabby console and bulky binnacles, it’s the least attractive layout here. Worse still is the interior’s lack of stowage – there’s no handily accessible compartments on the transmission tunnel console.

As a result, the BMW’s cockpit isn’t as welcom­ing as that in any opponent here. That’s a shame, because the driver is very well catered for. The seat is very comfortable and also the most supportive on test, with a spot-on position.

Occupants in the back have plenty to be happy about, too, thanks to the well shaped, high-backed rear seats. And the 520-litre boot is generous.

The engine is the best here for keen drivers – smooth and cultured, with minimal turbo lag and consistent power delivery across the rev range. But the 525d doesn’t perform any better than its riv­als, and the springy clutch action of the otherwise good six-speed manual box is hard work in traffic.

BMW now seems to be getting to grips with run-flat tyres. The ride still isn’t as smooth as the Merc’s, but most ripples, ruts and ridges are dealt with well. The car’s sporty image means firm suspension, yet the handling makes this worthwhile. The 5 really enjoys being thrown into corners, and has the best steering feedback and body control.

Details

Price: £29,535
Model tested: BMW 525d SE
Chart position: 1
WHY: As with the Audi, the mid-range 5-Series diesel (one of four oil-burners in the line-up) employs a six-cylinder engine. The BMW is our current class leader and was voted Best Executive Car at New Car Honours 2006, so will provide a very stern test of Volvo’s improved package.

Economy

Considering it has a six-cylinder engine, the 525d did well to beat the Volvo, returning 35.6mpg. Thanks to its 70-litre tank (equal to the Volvo and Audi) it had the longest range – nearly 550 miles.

Residuals

Despite its pedigree, the BMW can’t beat the Audi – each mile costs 3.6 pence more in the 525d SE. Yet there’s not much between them in resale value; the 5 loses only £700 more in three years.

Servicing

A pay up-front servicing scheme means the BMW is the cheapest and easiest of the four to maintain. The £895 fee means no bills to expect for three years, taking the worry out of owning the model.

Tax

Although the 525d is £2,000 cheaper to buy than the Mercedes, business users will be more interested in the fact it sits two bands above its rival – and so is fractionally more expensive to tax.

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