SINGAPORE - It used to be that the Mercedes-Benz E-class was for old-school business owners, and the BMW 5-series was for tech-hungry yuppies.
But the lines have been blurred over the years and the facelifted 5-series blurs it further.
The revised 5 does not have as many new tech toys as the facelifted E-class, but offers more refinement in areas of ride quality and cabin acoustics. It also handles better, exuding more confidence at higher speeds. It is, however, far from perfect.
The test-car is a 530i, which is more powerful than the E200 reviewed on the previous page and is priced a tad higher.
There is no change to performance or engine output, but the new model now comes with a 48-volt starter-generator which offers an extra 8kW or 11hp briefly to help the car overcome inertia.
On paper, this helps reduce fuel consumption from 6.2 to 5.6 litres/100km. The test-car, however, averages 10.9 litres/100km.
While the BMW does not have as elaborate a suite of shiny new gadgets as the E, the car is far from rudimentary. The 530i has a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system which still offers in-built navigation - a tad redundant given that it now pairs wirelessly with smartphones.
The system may not look as modern as the Merc's panoramic screen, which spans more than half the length of its fascia, but it is intuitive and functional.
The car has remote software upgrade, which allows BMW to improve the car's functions over the air. But most convenient of all, it has a proximity key system found in newer-generation BMWs. This unlocks the car as you approach it and locks it when you walk away.
There are more driving aids, including Reversing Assistant, which takes control of the steering while backing up for distances of up to 50m. BMW is still the only one with this feature.
Cosmetically, the car now has slimmer full-LED headlights with L-shape daytime-running lights and non-dazzling high beam. They flank a more prominent grille.
On its fenders, the M Sport variant features air vents and new Air Performance Wheels, which are lighter and more aerodynamic. In the rear, you will see L-shaped tail-lamps and trapezoidal tail-pipes.
Like the facelifted E-class, the 530i retains its model design DNA, but looks different enough to attract glances.
Inside, the 530i remains as engaging as before. Despite its size (it is bigger than the E), it is agile, responsive and manoeuvrable.
Putting aside its power superiority over the E200, the 530i charms you with its exquisite chassis control. Its suspension is firm yet offers the right amount of yield when needed.
While you can detect a bit more vibration on its steering wheel than the E200's, and its gear changes at lower speeds may not be as consistently smooth as the E's, this does not detract from the car's overall refinement.
For passengers, its extra millimetres in width and wheelbase over the E translate to a slightly roomier cabin.
On the whole, this makeover is less elaborate than the E's. But you wouldn't want to change a winning recipe too much, would you?
BMW 530i M Sport
PRICE $298,888 with COE
ENGINE 1,998cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged
TRANSMISSION Eight-speed automatic with manual select
POWER 252bhp at 5,200rpm
TORQUE 350Nm at 1,450-4,800rpm
0-100KMH 6.4 seconds
TOP SPEED 250kmh
FUEL CONSUMPTION 5.6 litres/ 100km
AGENT Performance Motors