Reductions in insulin sensitivity in periparturient dairy cows develop as a means to support lactation; however, excessive mobilization of fatty acids (FA) increases the risk for peripartal metabolic disorders. Our objectives were to investigate the effect of prepartum body condition score (BCS) on systemic glucose and insulin tolerance, and to compare direct and indirect measurements of insulin sensitivity in peripartal lean and overweight dairy cows. Fourteen multiparous Holstein cows were allocated into two groups according to their BCS at day −28 prepartum: lean (n = 7; BCS ≤ 3.0) or overweight; (n = 7; BCS ≥ 4.0). Liver biopsies were performed on day −27, −14 and 4, relative to expected parturition. Intravenous insulin or glucose tolerances tests were performed following each liver biopsy. Relative to lean cows, overweight cows exhibited lower dry matter intake, lost more BCS and displayed increased plasma FA and β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations and elevated liver lipid content during peripartum. Glucose clearance rate was lower for all cows postpartum. Prepartum BCS had minimal effects on insulin and glucose tolerance; however, the ability of the cow to restore blood glucose levels following an insulin challenge was suppressed by increased BCS. Glucose-dependent parameters of insulin and glucose tolerance were not correlated with surrogate indices of insulin sensitivity. We conclude that prepartum BCS had minimal effect on systemic insulin sensitivity following parturition. The observed inconsistency between surrogate indices of insulin sensitivity and direct measurements of insulin and glucose tolerance adds support to growing concerns regarding their usefulness as tools to estimate systemic insulin action in periparturient cows.