So my local dealer had an open day today, so thought I'd pop down to get an idea of where I wanted to go next. Oddly I was unable to test drive either of the cars I actually wanted to - they didnt have a decent 3 Series Coupe and they kept coming up with odd excuses why I couldnt take the 6 Series Cab out (It hasnt got any tax, oh wait yes it has, oh its booked, oh the MD is taking it home..) but they did offer the F10 5 Series. Ironic given however much I want an F10 I cant afford one, but hey So, the F10. I've done a little intro before so I'll try not to duplicate it, but I'll summarise the important points. It's not a bad looking car at all - its elegant, understated and executive in appearance. I guess thats pretty much what you want from a 5 Series. It certainly isnt wacky or bizarre like the E60 it follows. I still don't think its as handsome a car as the facelift E39 from the exterior, really, but then I guess its pretty unfair to keep comparing the F10 SE with the E39 Sport. We'll have to wait for official pictures of the F10 M Sport. The car in question today was a 530d SE with Dynamic Pack (Electronically controlled suspension), Park Assist with rear view camera and the 8 speed, yes 8 speed, automatic gearbox. The interior is fantastic. I absolutely love the interior of the F10 and apart from the OMG stupid position of the climate control sensors as per the E39, which I've discussed before, its probably one of my all time favourite car interiors. Everything is right - its angled towards the driver, the widescreen iDrive is stunning, the TFT screen in the instrument cluster is great, the leather centre console and door handles are great, its well built, it has the touches you expect like carpeted door bins, etc etc. I love it. Fantastic place to be. The car in question also had Sport seats - which is nice - so hopefully with the Dynamic Drive and Sports seats gives at least some indication of what we can expect from the M Sport variant next year. A word about Park Assist. I'm clearly easily impressed by geeky tech, because this was fantastic. Slip the car into reverse and you get a widescreen view of exactly whats behind you - along with a pictured trajectory of the car. You know exactly where the car is going, and whether you'll run that cat/woman/wallaby over etc etc. Loved it. Brilliant. Front and rear parking sensors are of course standard and come with the radar-style display showing how close objects are as per the E60. Right. It's a 530d. That means it has a diesel engine (The latest 245bhp variant of the M57 to be exact) and as you'll no doubt be aware, I am not the greatest fan of the diesel engine. Fire it up. Inside the car, almost inaudiable. For the first time in any diesel car (Go away VAG fanboys, your cars do it as well) there was ZERO diesel shake at idle. Absolutely none. The last late model diesel I drove was a 320d Automatic and that did the annoying shake at the traffic lights and filled the cabin with the gloriously crap sound of dagdagdag - this didn't. At last! So lets go (Without a salesman, hurrah!). Initially it feels pretty big - mind you, I guess this is because it IS pretty big. The ride is comfortable in 'Standard' mode and it absorbs bumps and potholes pretty well I find. Certainly rides better than my 530i Sport. But this is a 5 Series - you buy it for its ability to combine sporting dynamics with decent refinement, not to waft around like an S Class. So it goes into Sport mode. There are 3 modes available - Standard, Sport and Sport+. Standard gives you the more comfortable suspension option, and the gearbox in normal mode. Sport mode firms the suspension up and puts the gearbox into Sport mode. Sport+ disables the DSC. You can, however, edit the settings - I think probably the best day-to-day setting is to set Sport mode so that it leaves the gearbox in standard mode (You can engage Sport by using the steering wheel paddles or simply knocking the joystick sideways) and puts the suspension into Sport mode. Even in Sport mode the ride is never harsh - merely slightly firm. Excellent well judged, in my opinion. First up, the A38 - the closest thing we have to a Motorway down in farmer country - and a nice long uphill sliproad with which to test the performance. Foot down and... wow. Seriously. It actually sounds good. This is the most cliched saying in the world, and its usually a load of rubbish (Yes, I *can* tell your 320d is a diesel, and your Golf) but... you could fool people into thinking it wasn't a diesel. It sounded like a muted 6 cylinder petrol engine when accelerating hard. Brilliant. I could almost live with that. Performance is predictably brisk - this really is one of the, if not the, worlds best diesel powerplants. The 8 speed gearbox changes absolutely seemlessly, no harsh changes, just silky and smooth. The 3.0d and the 8 speed box seem perfectly suited to each other. As expected, the F10 cruises brilliantly. It's quiet, refined, and the ride is excellent. There is little intrusive wind noise. Cruise control is radar guided, and has the usual features of modern BMW cruise in that it both tells you what its set to speed wise in the centre display *and* puts a little red mark on the speedo where the cruise is so you can see at a glance what speed cruise was last set to. You can increase or decrease speed in two ways now - push up once and it'll go up in 1mph increments. Push and hold and it'll increase speed in 5mph increments. Lovely stuff. So lets get it off the dual carraigeway and see if its still a 5 Series on the backroads. Suspension and gearbox in Sport mode, I head to some pretty decent roads. First thing is the steering. The F10 has electronic power steering across the range for efficient dynamics purposes. BMW insist this is not a compromise in terms of sporting ability - but I am afraid it is. The steering lacks feel compared with the E39, and feels a bit vague at times. It's not bad - it's better infact than the electronic system in the previous shape Z4 - but its definately a step down. Next is the handling - the F10 recently got panned in the Autocar Group Test for having lost that '5 Series handling' - it ended up coming an unprecedented 3rd. Never before has a new 5 Series launched and not gone straight to the top of the class. But the test car wasn't fitted with Dynamic Drive (Something I am sure somebody in the press office got fired for..) and this one is - and with Dynamic Drive, the handling is great. It's a big car and it doesn't always hide this, you can sometimes tell, but it still handles really well. Turn in is sharp, body control is excellent - very releived here. Not quite as sharp to drive as my 530i Sport but this is an SE model - there is no M sport yet. Compared with perhaps a fairer comparison - the E39 530d SE - steering aside it actually handles a tad better, IMHO. I really, really like this car. It's absolutely loaded with kit (You can check your oil level, you can read the owners manual, you can see how many miles your brake pads have left, you can browse news headlines all from the iDrive screen - oh and the navigation system is particularly nice with big, clear, good looking graphics), the interior is beautiful, its well built, it cruises well, it handles nicely. Infact the only real let down is the steering and its so good in other areas, it wouldn't put me off. I can't learn to love the E60 - I think I get on with the looks now but the interior is still a mess, is still full of cheap crap and bizarre shortcuts - and I used to think this is just because I was nostalgic about the E39. But I dont think I am, because this F10 really impressed me. A brilliant car. Can't wait to see what the M Sport looks like. I really do want a 535i M Sport - surely a candidate, potentially, for the title of 'Best car in the real world' - something that was frequently laid at the door of the E39. But sadly it will be some time - the M Sport is a year away, and then several years from there until they are in my price range. Oh - and from the outside? The damn thing still sounds like a tractor.