However, the new 5-series is not expected to exceed sales of the old car, at about 15,000 units in a full year. But that is not because BMW GB thinks it is not an improvement on its predecessor. Instead, the firm is aiming to increase volume in niche areas around the core 3, 5 and 7-series products.
Over the next couple of years BMW will roll out the 6-series and the X3 alongside the X5 and 5-series and Bernard Bradley, general manager, corporate sales, believes some sales that would have previously headed by default for the 5-series will be redirected there.
And as a result of this more targeted approach, Bradley reckons residual values on the 5-series will be strong. He said: 'We have no intention of pushing this car beyond the natural level of demand, so there will be no impact on residual values.'
CAP is currently predicting residual values at three percentage points under the equivalent Mercedes-Benz E-class, at 41% for both the petrol 530i and diesel 530d. BMW's higher profile approach to the corporate market can be seen in the way it has launched the car, getting the industry involved at an early stage so it could have a say on specifications and prices.
Bradley explained: 'We've got high expectations for this car. The 5-series is a central part of the executive car market. So far the reaction we have had has been excellent, and we have spent a lot more time launching this car.
'We were showing some corporate customers and industry experts the car at the end of April, five months ahead of the launch, which is an enormous improvement over previous launches. We wanted to make sure we could get the car in front of customers with pricing well in advance.'
Bradley reckons half of all sales of the new 5-series will be to corporate clients, although the figure could be much higher if cash-for-car purchases are factored in. Prices will start at £25,455 on-the-road for the base 520i SE, which is likely to be the best-seller, and reach a hefty £41,555 for the top-of-the-range 545i.
Pricing is, as expected, astute. BMW and Mercedes-Benz do not often go head-to-head with exactly the same engine sizes, so the 545i is cheaper than an E500, while the 530i is cheaper again than the larger-engined E320.
So far the only engines available to test have been the mid-range 3.0-litre straight six diesel and petrol units. In the automatic gearbox versions, carbon dioxide emission levels are 208g/km and 240g/km respectively with P11d values of £32,120 for the 530d SE auto and 530i SE auto.
Not surprisingly, this makes the diesel the most desirable as a company car, especially when combined fuel consumption is 28.5mpg for the petrol and 36.2mpg for the diesel.
This is still short of the heavier E320 CDI though, which has a combined fuel economy around the 40mpg mark and an excellent CO2 emissions level of 183g/km. For a 40% taxpayer, a 530d SE saloon would cost £300 per month in tax as it falls into the 28% tax band. An E320 CDI would cost the same driver £256, as it registers at 23%.
But company car drivers often pick their new steed on more than just tax, and as a driving machine the BMW is the easy winner. Add in the Active Steering option (£810) and Dynamic Drive (£1,550) and this is one swift-shifting car on twisty roads. However, I am yet to be fully convinced that the Active Steering is as accurate as it should be on fast, sweeping sections of motorways. Tarmac test miles in the UK will have to sort that one out.
And what about its looks? Having driven the car for a couple of days two months apart, there is no doubt it is a grower and looks ahead of its time without being shocking.
I disagree with BMW designers who claim that the new car has retained the short overhangs that made the old model look so poised on the road: it is fine at the front but from the rear wheelarch back it is far too long and heavy.
But it has presence and BMW has a clear idea of where it is going, even if the rest of the motoring world is not so sure.
Bradley explained the thinking behind it: 'The new 5-series is about delivering a modern interpretation of BMW. It has very clear BMW DNA, but research has shown that people are looking for more individuality and do not want a smaller version of a bigger car.'
With its individualistic style, would the new 5-series be more likely to attract single user-choosers rather than block-ordering fleets?
Bradley didn't think that would happen, although some of the offers with the new car would make it much more attractive to drivers opting out or user-choosers. While he thought that cash-for-car schemes had not taken hold as many thought, with other schemes which are a private purchase but still essentially a company car, Bradley reckoned the service maintenance and repair packages were proving very popular, as bills were more predictable.
BMW claims that not only will the new car cost less to service than its predecessor, but fleets can also go for the option of the Service and Maintenance Inclusive (SMI) package.
Costing £750, the five year/ 60,000 mile Europe-wide pack covers most servicing requirements and includes brake and clutch replacement, if necessary, in any BMW dealership throughout the European Union.
Bradley added: 'SMI packages have been tried and tested and have been very successful.
'The take-up of the MINI TLC and 7-series Concours programs have been virtually 100%. The 5-series will have such a package and over the next six months we will standardise all the SMI packages: we are convinced this is the right way to go forward.'
|5-series fact file|
|Model||520i SE||530 SE||530d SE|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||170/6,100||231/5,900||218/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||155/3,500||221/3,500||369/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||143||155 (152 auto)||152 (151)|
|0-62mph (secs):||9.0||6.9 (7.1)||7.1 (7.3)|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||31.4||29.7 (28.5)||40.9 (36.2)|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||219||231/240||184 (208)|