Five star BMW

BMW 5 Series, front
BMW 5 Series, interior
BMW 5 Series, side
BMW 5 Series, rear
BMW 5 Series in France, front

TOWARDS the end of the last decade a host of newly-introduced models started to make strong inroads into the premier executive sector and BMW had to respond.

So with the introduction of the brand new 5-Series Saloon, the German marque managed to do just that.

The newcomer retained the elegant lines of its predecessor along with the German manufacturer's perfectly-balanced 50:50 weight distribution, while upgrades to the tried-and-tested engine range offered more power coupled with lower emissions and better fuel consumption.

Inside the 5 Series proved pretty remarkable. Occupants found themselves cosseted in sumptuous leather seats while the leather trim continued to the door panels and centre console box.

Deep pile carpets and liberal use of brushed aluminium on the dash and round the dials also helped add a luxurious ambiance to the cabin's interior.

The leather-rimmed sports steering wheel housing the controls for the sound system, cruise control and Bluetooth mobile phone connection, was yet another work of art.

On the hoof, the luxury express simply gobbles up the miles, but offers little indication of just how fast it it actually going.

Quiet and secure at speed, the big saloon simply revels over twisty roads where the chassis takes everything in its stride without any hint of fuss.

However, on some rougher road surfaces you'll find a little bit of road noise, but that's due mainly to the standard-fit run-flat tyres.

The powerful engine, mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox - with steering wheel-mounted paddles should you wish to have a bit of fun by changing gears manually - combine to give seamless changes and you can drive all day long and still finish your journey as fresh as a daisy.

As expected on a vehicle then costing more than £36,000, the 535i SE came extremely well equipped with an abundance of safety and technology features to the forefront.

Advanced head protection system, dynamic stability control plus - which includes electronic brakeforce distribution, brake drying, cornering brake control and dynamic traction control - helped make the BMW one of the safest cars you could buy.

A mass of options were also available for buyers to personalise their car further, and one which certainly impressed me was the head-up display which projects information such as current speed, cruise control settings and navigational directional arrows onto the inside of the windscreen.

BMW sold around 12,000 5 Series models annually, with more than two thirds being snapped up by the fleet market.

Of these, nearly 90 per cent of buyers opted for one of the three turbo diesel versions, but with its straight-six turbocharged petrol unit honed under the bonnet producing a whopping 306bhp on tap, it still takes something really special to better the petrol-powered 535i SE.

And it shows in the second-hand market where they are in great demand. As a common choice for managers and company executives alike, there are now plenty of well-looked-after three-year-old models starting to filter into the market place.

Depending on condition and mileage, prices vary between £17,500 to £21,450 for a 2010 10-plate 5 Series 535i SE. Move up a year to a 2011 11-plate version and prices jump by around £3,000.

However, for those looking for more economy, then a three-litre oilburning 530d SE may be more your bag. You'll have to pay something between £18,500 and £22,790 for a 2010 10-plate example and from £21,200 to £26,000 for a 2011 example.

But, rest assured, whether petrol or diesel, you won't be disappointed.

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