The current, sixth generation, of BMW's mid-sized 5 Series has been on sale since late 2010 and so was due for a spruce up, especially as its main competitor, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, did so earlier this year.
Exterior styling changes are minimal with a new lower air intake, LED front foglights, redesigned tail lights, an extra crease in the rear bumper and side indicators built into the side mirrors. The most noticeable change is in the Gran Turismo models with a longer tailgate giving it a sleeker look as well as revised two-section taillights.
BMW has been progressively adding its Lines styling packages to its range since their debut two years ago as an option in the 1 Series. Buyers of the 2013 5 Series get a choice of two packages, Modern Line and Luxury Line, but this time they come as a no-cost option.
The Lines packages provide the buyer with the opportunity to add a degree of individualisation to their car through different treatment of the grille, side window surrounds, B-pillar, side mirrors, door handles, front and rear aprons and exhaust pipe tips. Inside there's a choice of wood decorative surfaces and leather with exclusive stitching and black accents.
Each of the two Lines gets a different style of alloy wheels in sizes that range from 18 to 20 inches depending on the 5 Series model. The BMW M Sport package with its enhanced handling and performance features is still available but as a costed option.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
As before the BMW 5 Series comes with a wide range of engine options, with four petrol and three diesel units producing from 135 kW to 330 kW of power and 270 Nm to 650 Nm of torque. Add the petrol/electric ActiveHybrid 5 and there's something for everyone. All engines come with twin turbochargers.
The 2013 engine upgrades have increased performance in some models, most notably the 550i which jumps from 300 to 350 kW and 600 to 650 Nm, topping the diesel-powered 535d's new peak torque figure of 630 Nm. Other model engine outputs are unchanged but all get reductions in fuel consumption and emissions with the BMW 550i again leading the way, down an impressive 17 per cent to 8.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle.
All engines have a Start/Stop function for improved fuel efficiency. And eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission is standard on all models with a Sport version in the 528i, 535i, 535d and 550i.
Keeping up with the latest and greatest in entertainment and information systems is no easy task with new features arriving all the time. BMW has updated its ConnectedDrive to now include a digital radio tuner, internet access (when the car is stationary) and a suite of office functions including email, calendar entries and to-do notes all via the car's Bluetooth connectivity function.
BMW's Driving Assistant uses a camera-based system to warn the inattentive driver that they are wandering out of their lane or about to have a collision with either a car or pedestrian ahead of them. It is standard on all models above the entry-level 520i and 520d.
The higher-specced models also get the very handy Head-Up Display while the 535i, 535d, 550i and Active Hybrid5 have Parking Assistant as standard to semi-automate parallel parking.
We were able to drive a number of the 2013 BMW 5 Series models at the re-launch out of Canberra and, while there were no surprises, it reminded us how just how impressive these cars are and what driving and cruising pleasure they provide.
There's a good marriage of refinement, luxury and dynamic panache, and it doesn't suffer from the wallowing behaviour or disconnected feeling of some prestige sedans. There's near perfect front to rear balance, steering that's precise while providing plenty of feel to the driver. Unlike earlier BMW 5s, the ride on standard run-flat tyres is easily on par with that of the competition – even on the big 19-in optional wheels.
Each drivetrain has its particular good points and character – the 528i and 550i give out a satisfying performance and soundtrack, while the other capable engines are geared for smooth economy. It's just a matter of choosing your preference.
With the two German luxury giants jostling each other buyers are the big winners as each adds significant value. BMW has priced the added-value of the new 5 Series at between $12,800 for the 520i and $25,800 for the 550i.
The complete 2013 BMW 5 Series range is:
520i 2.0-litre twin-turbo petrol four-door sedan: from $79,900 (automatic)
520d 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel four-door sedan: from $82,400 (automatic)
528i 2.0-litre twin-turbo petrol four-door sedan: from $97,400 (automatic)
535i 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol four-door sedan: from $116,900 (automatic)
ActiveHybrid 5 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol / electric four-door sedan: from $119,900 (automatic)
535d 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel four-door sedan: from $121,900 (automatic)
550i 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol four-door sedan: from $159,900 (automatic)
520d Touring 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel five-door wagon: from $90,900 (automatic)
535i Touring 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol five-door wagon: from $122,900 (automatic)
520d GT 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel four-door sedan: from $93,900 (automatic)
530d GT 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel four-door sedan: from $108,900 (automatic)
535i GT 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol four-door sedan: from $117,900 (automatic)
BMW 5 Series - see other verdicts
Price: from $79,900 (520i)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol turbo; 135kW/270Nm (520i)
Transmission: 8-spd automatic, RWD
Thirst: 6.2L/100, 144g/km CO2
Price: from $79,900 (E200 Sedan)
Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder petrol turbo, 135kW/300Nm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, RWD
Thirst: 6.4L/100km, 148g/km CO2
Price: from $77,900 (2.0 TFSI)
Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder petrol turbo, 132kW/320Nm
Transmission: CVT automatic, FWD
Thirst: 6.4L/100km, 149g/km CO2
Price: from $77,045 (GS250 Luxury)
Engine: 2.5L V6 petrol, 154kW/253Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, RWD
Thirst: 9.3L/100km, 215g/km CO2