At the time of writing there's a lot of debate about the Irish road tax system. When the Green Party still formed part of the Government the current emissions-based system was put in place. That was way back in July 2008 and though it was far from perfect it did have the desired effect of encouraging buyers to reduce their car's carbon footprint. Today, over 80 per cent of new cars sold have CO2 emissions of less than 140g/km.
However, the Government has been very slow to react to the rapidly changing automotive landscape, which means that on one hand there is little incentive for a distributor to sell cars with emissions of less than 119g/km in Ireland (or any incentive for customers to buy them), while the country's tax take on motor vehicles has dramatically reduced. There's no doubt the tax bands and means of calculation needs to change once again, despite the instability that will cause. A perfect illustration of the silliness of the situation is the BMW 520d EfficientDynamics saloon pictured here. With a few minor compromises, this version of the 520d now sits in the lowest tax band.
You'd have to be a serious BMW anorak to differentiate the EfficientDynamics model from a regular 520d. The wheels are new... Saying that, there are limitations to the specification on the EfficientDynamics version that don't apply to the rest of the 5 Series range. That means you can't specify bigger wheels (until the 'aftermarket'), you can't have it in M Sport specification and you have to have a manual gearbox.
That final point is probably the biggest potential issue for a segment in which automatic transmissions are a necessity for resale value. For the record the manual gearbox is slick enough, though it feels distinctly high-geared thanks to a new final drive ratio. That's one of the measures that helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Another is the Eco-Pro mode, which will now come on all 5 Series models. It goes much further than just telling you when to change gear. It'll suggest that you lift your foot if it reckons you're being a little lead-footed and as a reward it tells you how many extra kilometres of fuel you're saving. 'Softer' throttle response encourages more relaxed driving too.
And that defines the BMW 5 Series really. It's a far more comfortable car than its predecessor, but the chassis can also be engaging when the mood takes you - though the steering on our test car was more lifeless than I remember from this generation of the 520d. As before the engine is muted the vast majority of the time and it's still as quick as anyone needs in the real world.
Beyond the tax savings, the 520d EfficientDynamics saves its driver money thanks to seriously impressive fuel economy. It's pretty much the only 5 Series to consider - especially if you pile on the kilometres every year. We applaud BMW for producing such an incredibly efficient 5 Series and urge buyers in the market to make the most of the tax situation, because it can't last forever.