While the Russian doll-style design approach has been much praised as a business model in order to achieve account-balancing economies of scale, it is much maligned by enthusiasts decrying a lack of imagination.

Nonetheless, BMW has favoured the former approach and opted for it with the new 5 Series, something that has served Mercedes so well with the S-Class, E-Class and C-Class.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
I accept the transmission’s refusal to go from drive to reverse during parking manoeuvres if it thinks forward speed is too high, but does it have to default to ‘park’? The abrupt halt makes it look like a stall

The sleek, conservative design undeniably acknowledges the model’s heritage, but, unsurprisingly given the shared architecture, there’s an extremely strong whiff of 7 Series about BMW’s new saloon.

The similarity, however, aside from a lack of individual identity for both models, doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Being able to make use of BMW’s new Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform, which is predominantly aluminium, is a real benefit. It uses more aluminium, magnesium and titanium in the floorplan, bulkheads and connecting nodes than the previous model.

CLAR helps to make the car much lighter – by up to 100kg on a model-for-model basis – and increases torsional rigidity.

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The 5 Series also gets a revised front double wishbone design using more aluminium components – again as a weight saving measure – along with a redesigned, and lighter, five-link set-up at the rear.

Similarities with the 7 Series continue with BMW’s aim of giving the 5 Series a silky smooth ride.

Four suspension set-ups are available: a standard one with fixed-rate dampers; a firmer, lowered sports suspension for M Sport cars; an adaptive damper option, called Variable Damper Control, which we recommend every 5 Series buyer chooses; and, for the 540i and 530d, a pricey combination of adaptive dampers paired with electronically operated active anti-roll bars.

Also offered is xDrive all-wheel drive, plus, as an option on all models except the M5 where it's standard, an active four-wheel steering system that countersteers the rear wheels at lower speeds and parallel steers them at higher speeds, the former to the benefit of tight manoeuvres in town, the latter to sharpen turn-in on the open road.

All models come with an updated eight-speed automatic gearbox.

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