It’s not that BMW forgot to design the new 5 Series. It’s just that they finally and obviously realised the glorious Eighties and Nineties were glorious for a reason. And that reason was Claus Luthe. And also Ercole Spada. The two designers gave us all the BMWs that made BMW BMW… You know, the E30 ‘matchbox’ 3 Series, E32 7 Series, and E34 5 Series.

A couple of hours up the derestricted Bundesautobahn 8 in Stuttgart, at the same time Mercedes’ all-business E-Class and S-Class were following a similar route of refined styling, thanks to Bruno Sacco’s brilliant design department. It was a different, simpler time, where you could recognise any car from what designers call DRG, Down the Road Graphics, even at night, just from their lights.

Sacco, Luthe and Spada and those guys didn’t need pointless flame surfacing to outdo one another. They had elegance and restraint. And we reckon the G30 5er’s got it too (for extra nerd points, say 5er as fünfer, foon-fair…).

BMW’s current head of design Karim Habib calls the G30’s styling “formal and precise” and he’d know because he designed it, and we agree. Compared to the outgoing 5 Series the new car is 36mm longer, and a fraction wider and taller. The front end mimics the new G11 7 Series with an oversize kidney grille and LED headlights as standard (adaptive LEDs featuring anti-dazzle high beams with a 500m range are optional).

At the back you get a modern interpretation of the traditional L-shape taillights filled with LED bars and emphasising the car’s width. And even though it’s grown in every direction the car improves aerodynamically with a 10 per cent leaner drag coefficient. Every model comes with active air flaps for the front radiator, which opens louvres in the kidney grille as cooling is required, and there is a similar system in place in the wheelarches, all in pursuit of the claimed 0.22 coefficient of drag, which is a class-leading figure and comparable to the BMW i8.

When it goes on sale early next year the new 5er will be available in 21 exterior colours, and with wheels ranging from 17in to 20in, plus of course all the Beemer Individual options. BMW is introducing Sport Line and Luxury Line trim levels as well as an M Sport pack available from launch featuring larger air intakes, body kit bits, a rear apron with a faux-diffuser, lowered M suspension and 19in wheels, and of course loads of Alcantara and aluminium inside.

The restrained design however hides a technological powerhouse underneath. At launch the engine range comprises a bunch of diesels with up to 620Nm of torque and 0-100kph in 5.4 seconds, or as quick as a V8-engined E39 M5… The petrols are meaty, too, a range of fours and sixes and then the headline-grabbing BMW M550i xDrive with a twin-turbo V8 and eight-speed gearbox putting 462bhp and 650Nm of torque to all four corners. Zero to 100kph takes four seconds dead and you get maximum twist from 1,800rpm. Put another way, this thing is seven-tenths quicker than a V10-engined E60 M5 and four-tenths faster even than the current-gen M5. So while the designers may have held back, the engineers went hog wild.

Then there’s rear-wheel steering; electric and active anti-roll control (as opposed to the old hydraulic system — the all-new Porsche Panamera also uses electric actuation); active cruise that works at speeds of up to 210kph with semi-autonomous traffic capabilities; too many driver assists to list and all the connectivity features you would and wouldn’t expect, like fully wireless integration of your smartphones.

The new structure itself is up to 100kg lighter than the old car depending on trim, and like the 7 Series the 5er features remote control parking. It’s the future, all right, even if you don’t recognise it coming.