In Depth

BMW 5-Series vs Mercedes E-Class: Which is the best saloon?

German car giants enter the year with new models, but how do they compare?

BMW and Mercedes have announced new versions of their executive saloons, both introducing luxurious styling upgrades and more frugal engines.

The Mercedes E-Class is already available and has undergone a slight redesign, now baring a striking resemblance to its flagship sibling, the S-Class saloon. Meanwhile, the BMW 5-Series has undergone a more modest facelift, but it is thought that a lot of development has been put into the chassis and interior.

With both cars having a strong chance of taking the top spot of the executive saloon pile, which model offers the best value for money?Here's how they compare.

Design

On the surface, the facelifts on each car appears minor rather than the complete design overhauls usually expected with a new generation.

BMW's newest saloon features a slightly more slippery shape and is 200lbs lighter, thanks to an increase in aluminium. It's also marginally bigger than the previous model, providing an increase in passenger legroom and a 520-litre boot.

The E-Class, however, has a larger boot, at 540-litres, and a flat, square loading bay with a lid that opens high enough for unusually-shaped items. It can also be specced with a self-closing lid.

It benefits by taking several exterior design queues from the flagship S-Class saloon, giving it a more premium aesthetic than the evolutionary appearance of the 5-Series. This continues inside, which has adopted a wide, sweeping dashboard incorporating a digital dashboard and infotainment system.

Interior 

Mercedes continues to improve the cabin design, with the new E-Class incorporation features such as a continuous dashboard panel that spills outwards on to the doors and an abundance of leather on the seats, dashboard and doors. 

A 12.3ins display - an optional extra located next to the already large digital instrument panel - allows drivers to connect their smartphone using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which can be controlled using an array of gestures on the car's touchpad or through voice activation. 

While the 5-Series may lack a revolutionary exterior design, its cabin has undergone a substantial change that brings with it a slimmer steering wheel over the bulkier version in the older model. 

The premium look is similar in style to the 7-Series, with a leather-covered centre console angled towards the driver. Lashings of wood can also be seen across the dashboard and doors, although this will probably be interchangeable in the options list. 

Like the E-Class, drivers can expect a digital instrument cluster and a 10.25ins infotainment screen above the centre console. It also comes with Apple CarPlay and is controlled using BMW's iDrive system. 

Technology

Satellite navigation comes as standard on both models, although What Car? says the 5-Series has BMW's "range-topping Professional Multimedia system" with a 10.2ins display. 

It also comes with DAB radio and a 20GB hard drive on which to store music, something the website says makes it "one of the best systems in the world". 

On the E-Class, you'll find a slightly smaller screen at 8.4ins, although buyers can opt for an optional 12.3ins display. The larger screen comes as standard on E350d models, bundled in with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone integration. 

Both cars offer autonomous safety equipment, while Pocket-Lint [http://www.pocket-lint.com/review/140287-bmw-5-series-2017-review-saloon-car-perfection] reports that the 5-Series can be piloted by the onboard computer for 30 seconds at speeds of up to 130mph. 

Mercedes offers its Drive Pilot optional extra on the E-Class, which can take over from the driver on motorways. You will still need to remain focused on the road, as drivers will need to flick the indicators to change lanes. 

The E-Class also has remote parking through a smartphone app, as well as autonomous emergency braking. 

Performance

The 5-Series is available with two petrol and two diesel engines, as well as a plug-in hybrid iPerformance that comes with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, paired to an electric motor.

Diesels start with the 520d, which produces 187bhp and can achieve a claimed 67.3mpg. The entry-level E-Class E200d is slightly more frugal, with a claimed fuel economy of 72.4mpg, but it isn't as fast as the 520d, which features a 2.0-litre turbo engine producing 148bhp.

There's also a 3.0-litre six-cylinder 530d which boasts a power output of 261bhp and a 0-62mph of 5.7secs, although it won't be as efficient as the smaller capacity 520d. Mercedes also offers a six-cylinder diesel, the E350, which is less powerful at 254bhp and is noticeably less efficient when specced in AMG-Line trim.

Petrol variants include a 2.0-litre 248bhp 530i and a 335bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder model. Both models are expected to have a faster throttle response over the diesel 5-Series models, but will ultimately be less fuel efficient and generate more CO2 emissions.

Mercedes offers a limited range of petrol motors, including the plug-in hybrid E350e and AMG-fettled E43 and E63 super saloons. BMW is expected to announce its own high-performance variant of the 5-Series, possibly a new M5 which could feature its X-drive all-wheel drive system.

Prices

The cheapest model available is the E200d at £34,065, which is around £2,000 less than BMW's base-model 520d. The E200d is also more frugal, making it the pick of the pair for those looking for a cheap to run motorway cruiser. 

5-Series petrol models start at £40,120 for the 530i, while the equivalent Mercedes is the plug-in hybrid E350e, which starts at £44,260. Range-topping AMG models start at £54,525 for the E43, with the E63 launching later this year.

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