The basic specs say the BMW 528i is a blinged-up version of the base 520i. Read in that light, the almost $20,000 premium on the entry car is a genuine "bugger me" moment.
Being BMW, you can't read it in that light. The 528 is a performance version of the 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine found in the 520i yet uses only marginally more fuel.
Time behind the wheel shows there's more to appreciate in the 528i than just extra grunt - the default features make it cheaper to buy than to option up a 520i to the same specification.
The starting point for the 528i is $98,200. That's about $3000 more than a Mercedes-Benz E250, while the same money will buy an Audi A6 with a 2.8-litre engine and quattro all-wheel drive.
Standard gear on the BMW (and not found on the 520) runs from bi-xenon headlights to internet connectivity when the car is stopped, a satnav system with a 10-inch display, powered front seats, a heads-up display and 18-inch alloy rims.
The Beemer is the newest kid to the mid-size prestige party and has a couple of tricks the others can't match. An eight-speed automatic is teamed with idle stop/start and brake energy recovery to minimise fuel use and the new direct-injection turbo engine is still more than capable of shifting what is a substantial chunk of car.
A "Driving Experience Control" dial on the centre console has four settings to adjust engine, throttle and suspension set-up. It takes you from laid-back fuel miser mode to full-on fang with the flick of a switch and the changes can instantly be felt through the wheel, pedals and chassis.
Understated is an understatement for this segment. The European styling brief for mid-sized cars is "sharp conservative" and, while the Beemer is a sporty drive, it isn't a look-at-me-mobile. The lines are cleaner than its predecessor and increase the family resemblance to the 3 Series.
Horizontal layers and colour contrasts in the interior are meant to enhance the impression of width and the front seat passengers certainly don't want for space. Fitting three average adults across the rear will involve some negotiation on whose shoulders are against the seat cushion, though. Build quality is spot on but so it should be at this price.
If performance has an edge over comfort, the BMW is a winner. The grip levels are tenacious from the latest generation of run-flat tyres and the new multi-link suspension lets the driver know what surface they are rolling over without letting that disrupt the drive.
The 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo engine generates 180kW/350Nm (the 520i's outputs are 135kW/270Nm). Despite the jump in grunt, the 528i only uses 6.7 litres/100km against 6.4 litres/100km in the 520i.
It is a similar story down the strip, with the 528i's 6.3-second run to 100km/h well up on the base model's 8.0-second time. And the BMW gurus have even given it a decent exhaust note under hard acceleration. The eight-speed auto is all but unnoticed unless it's being hammered, which is about as much as you can ask from any transmission.
The 528i sits in the sweet spot in the 5 Series range. It isn't far off the 535i in performance, meaning it has the power to match its well-planted chassis, but has a huge fuel saving over the six-cylinder engine. Standard features in the 528 are more in keeping with the prestige image than the base 520 model.
Warranty: Three years/unlimited km
Resale: N/A (5 Series average 56 per cent) Service intervals: 25,000km/12 months Safety rating: Five stars
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 180kW/350Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Dimensions: 4.9m (L), 1.86m (W), 1.46m (H)
Thirst: 6.8 litres/100km (95RON), 158g/km CO2