2014 BMW 520I REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Four door luxury sedan
Price: $79,900 (plus on-roads) | $85,100 (as tested)
Engine/trans: 135kW/270Nm 2.0 litre turbo 4cyl | 8spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 8.4 l/100km
BMW’s 520i is a big car and commands a presence. But take just a quick scan of the features and specs and it's apparent that this is the base model for the 5-Series sedan range.
The bonnet may be long, and there's a kerb weight of 1615kg slung between the wheels, but there are just 2.0 litres doing the work up front.
That's asking a lot of an engine more at home in the smaller 1 and 3 Series. It’s also missing the torque from the not-much-more expensive diesel.
So, is the petrol 520i just a sop to buyers who "must have" a Beemer - even if an underpowered one - or can it stand as a premium sporting sedan?
Quality: Our test car had an unusually soft leather trim (unusual for BMW who favours stiffer leather surfaces). It certainly felt appealing.
In a light tone throughout, and matched to the under-dash and door trims, makes the interior feel even bigger and more spacious.
It’s certainly a cut above the 3 Series’ interior for luxury feel. Also, everything is bolted together well and there isn’t a squeak, rattle or unpleasant surface.
Comfort: The 5’s front seats are big and wide and the rear seats made for lounging (rather than optimising space). The front seats can be adjusted for narrower body-shapes and are very comfortable.
The rear has plenty of leg and shoulder room for outboard passengers but the middle passenger has to straddle the transmission tunnel.
Equipment: The 520i is surprisingly well-equipped for a base model BMW.
Standard is a 10.2-inch screen with iDrive and sat-nav, 12 speaker stereo with bluetooth and USB, 20Gb hard drive for music, internet functionality via paired mobile.
Also on the list is dual-zone climate control, cruise control, rear view camera, bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, electric front seats with driver’s seat memory and leather steering wheel.
Storage: The front has a decent-sized glove box, two cupholders with a rubberised cover to stop keys and phone sliding, door pockets on both sides and a shallow bin in the armrest.
The rear has two cupholders in the armrest, door pockets and door bins. The 520 litre boot is huge, bigger than a Commodore’s, and has a through loading port.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 2.0 litre turbo seems a bit lost under the bonnet of the big 5. It's sobering to reflect that this F10 5 Series is bigger than the original 7 Series and is fitted with a very small engine relative to its size.
The little engine is barely audible at idle and when coming back from stop-start, barely produces a shake or buzz. You'll find yourself checking the tacho to confirm the engine has re-fired and is running.
Somehow, though, thanks to modern engine technologies and that Bavarian engineering, 2.0 turbo-driven litres would seem to be enough.
Those 2.0 litres at work under the 5 Series' bonnet can muster surprising urge - certainly enough to keep the 520i effortlessly with the traffic.
Burying the pedal into the carpet will see the eight-speed transmission kick down just the right number of gears, find the torque, and whisk you along at a decent clip.
It'll see off a 3.0 V6 Commodore and keep your traffic-light pride intact. (Important, seeing as how you've paid almost three times the price of the humbler Aussie iron.)
Refinement: The free-revving engine spins quickly and quietly to the redline and the ultra-smooth ZF upshifts almost imperceptibly.
Wind and tyre noise are well-muted, with quiet conversation possible (and eavesdropping from the back seat) on the highway.
This engine is more refined than the diesel in the 520d, particularly when 'stop-start' is doing its thing.
Almost no suspension noise reaches the cabin, even over the torture test of Marrickville’s concrete-and-tarmac back roads.
Ride and Handling: One of the 5's biggest pluses is the ride - it deals with our rubbish roads with faultless aplomb, soaking up bumps and irregularities, as well as the stiff sidewalled run-flat 245/45 tyres.
Despite the soft ride, body-roll is kept in check and the 5 is plenty of fun to hustle through the bends - just don't expect to pick up too much speed between them.
Braking: The 5 is a big boy, but the brakes are more than up to the job. The pedal feel is good and repeated hard stops are simply shrugged off. The ABS takes some serious provocation to kick in.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.53 out of 37
Safety features: Six airbags, ABS, EBD, dynamic stability and traction control, brake assist, corner braking control, brake force distribution.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100000km
Service costs: BMW’s are serviced on an as-needs basis and several service plans are available.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mercedes Benz E 200 ($80,400) - Mercedes’ new E Class is a genuine looker with a strong engine and transmission and a good load of standard equipment.
It’s also box-fresh and has impressed us with its design flair inside and out. (see E-Class reviews)
Audi A6 2.0 TFSI Multitronic ($77,900) - The A6 is the cheapest German in this low-selling, price-leading part of the segment.
It also comes with a CVT (not everyone's cup of tea) and is the oldest. Front wheel-drive provides a less involving drive, but the A6 is not short of appeal. (see A6 reviews)
Lexus ES 300h ($63,000) - The just-returned Lexus ES is a lot cheaper than its German competition and is the only hybrid here.
The 2.5 litre four is augmented by an electric engine, Prius-style. Being a Lexus, there’s plenty of gear and head-turning new Lexus looks. (see ES reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The F10 5 Series has a lot more power and performance than you might expect. And that small but potent 'four' also provides a sensible trade-off in the fuel economy stakes.
And it's very smart inside. In this Luxury Line spec 5 Series, you can waft around almost in the sort of comfort Rolls-Royce owners are use to.
It also opens up a new choice for those who can’t stomach the 520d’s diesel engine. (The diesel clatter turns some away, but perhaps the always-greasy diesel fuel pumps on service station forecourts is the bigger turn-off.)
It may not be, really, a sporting sedan - BMW's 520i.
But it's a very smart car with a decent load of gear, a competitive starting price and that BMW badge.
All up, it’s a more than half-decent buy for those looking for size and brand in the same package.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- BMW 520i Sedan $79,900 ($85,100 as tested)
- BMW 520d Sedan $82,400
- BMW 528i Sedan $97,400
- BMW 535i Sedan $116,900
- BMW ActiveHybrid 5 $119,900
- BMW 535d Sedan $121,900
- BMW 550i Sedan $159,900
- BMW 520d Touring $90,900
- BMW 535i Touring $122,900
- BMW 520d Gran Turismo $93,900
- BMW 530d Gran Turismo $108,900
- BMW 535i Gran Turismo $117,900