Having photographed both the and within a few days of each other, it is fun to stand back from the pair.
Both company's design departments have nailed down what the face of their car's should be, their head-on signatures. No mistaking their origins.
Along its sides the has more going on, perhaps too much? kept the 5 Series flanks what some would call more elegant and others would tag as plain. In back, well to each his own, but I can't get used to the E's taillights and here BMW wins.
Inside it's even-Steven. Again the designers know what Mercedes and BMWs should look like and both are good, ergonomic layouts. Easy to use, a fine place to be. Both suffer, of course, from their overly fussy driver interface systems, the BMW getting a slight nod for its not-quite-as-obtuse-as-it-used-to-be iDrive.
Now to focus on the 5 Series, as it is so new. Refinement, refinement, refinement about wraps it up. We begin with the 300-bhp, 300lb-ft inline-6 for the 535i, while the 550i boasts 400 bhp and 450 lb-ft.
You'll be at 60 mph in 5.0 seconds if you stomp on it, which we did at New Jersey Motorsports Park. For all its power, the 550i on a track feels like a smaller vehicle, thanks to all the suspension refinement. Naturally the 535i lacks the punch of the V-8 machine, but is easily hustled through the esses and on. If you get into trouble in either of these machines, you've asked for it.
BMW and Mercedes have spent years refining their 5 Series and E-Class vehicles and it truly shows. They aren't inexpensive, but their buyers are getting the concentration of all that good work.
Turns out that BMW sells just a skosh better than the Mercedes and combined the pair take more than 50 percent of their market segment.
They've earned it.