BMW 520d M Sport

 BMW 520d M Sport, side static
 BMW 520d M Sport, rear static 3
 BMW 520d M Sport, front static
 BMW 520d M Sport, front static 2
 BMW 520d M Sport, front static 3
 BMW 520d M Sport, rear static 2
 BMW 520d M Sport, rear static
 BMW 520d M Sport, rear seats
 BMW 520d M Sport, front seats
 BMW 520d M Sport, dash detail
 BMW 520d M Sport, dashboard
 BMW 520d M Sport, boot

YOU hear it often these days - cars are now so good there's no point in paying a bit more for a better one.

Because it won't be better, says the saloon bar expert, only dearer. Well, he's wrong.

Take the latest BMW 5 Series as a perfect example. You can buy something like a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia for thousands less and either will give you a comfortable, well equipped family car.

Good to drive, too, and decently economical. But you'd have the BMW if the company coffers ran to it, wouldn't you?

Indeed, after driving the BMW you might conclude that this really is the sweet spot in the value equation - spending more quickly turns the graph towards pointless excess.

For here is a car that will approach 150mph on an autobahn but with only the slightest restraint showed 46mpg after a testing time with many miles at the UK motorway limit (or thereabouts).

Better still, it does it all in such well controlled comfort that back seat passengers without any interest in cars volunteer it's the best riding car they've ever ridden in.

While they soak up the limo-like experience the driver can click the variable damper control (an essential £985 extra) from comfort to sport and enjoy the drive still more; the passengers hardly noticing the subtly firmed suspension.

All this action takes place in a car with stretching room in the rear, a generous boot and an approach to quality and style that lets good materials speak for themselves without a hint of bling.

You can buy a new 5 Series from £35,835 and climb to the heights of more than £53,000 if the Lottery smiles on you but you'll probably find the lower reaches of the range are enough for long term contentment.

As ever with BMWs - indeed any marque with an eye on well salaried business users - there are plenty of ways to spend extra cash on an options' list that can extend deep into your pocket.

The good news is you don't need to splash out to enjoy one of today's better family cars, perhaps even saving the £3,020 the M Sport costs over a 520d SE version.

Most of the M Sport extra cost goes on styling flourishes, from bigger alloy wheels and high gloss exterior trim to finding the M Sport logo on everything from floor mats and pedals to a thick rimmed steering wheel.

Firmer suspension (rendered optionally softer by the variable damper control already mentioned) and some sporty body additions help make the M Sport stand out - you might think the slightly humbler SE looks just fine already.

Especially when it comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission, automatic air conditioning, satellite navigation and a 20GB hard disc drive as part of a fine entertainment system.

Pay extra and you can have an ignition key the size of a bar of soap that tells you how much range is left in the tank as you sip a latte in a nearby coffee house - or increase the radio volume by rotating a finger in front of the display screen on the dash. You may decide you could live without them.

FAST FACTS

BMW 520d M Sport

Price: £39,835

Mechanical: 187bhp, 1,995cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving rear wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 146mph

0-62mph: 7.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 65.7

Insurance Group: 31

C02 emissions: 114g/km

Bik rating: 24%

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