BMW’S 5 SERIES HAS LONG BEEN ‘THE FATHER OF ITS MAKER’S LINE-UP’ – GUIDING THE 3 SERIES AND LEARNING FROM THE 7 SERIES.
It is Munich’s middle-ground luxury sedan, with prices ranging from around $80,000 for the four-cylinder 520i petrol and 520d diesel (the latter we’re testing here), to around $120,000 for the six-cylinder 535i petrol and 530d diesel.
The $185,000-plus M5 is in another stratosphere altogether.
The 5 Series is in its tenth generation, which launched locally back in 2012. However, it has picked up some enhancements along the way, most notably equipment and technology additions.
Vehicle Style: Large sedan
Price: $84,800 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo-diesel | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.3 l/100km | tested: 7.5 l/100km
With an $84,800 price-tag, the 520d isn’t particularly well-equipped for the price.
Brilliant connectivity and leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats are standard, but basics such as front-seat heating and keyless auto-entry are missing.
Thankfully, BMW has bundled what it claims is $12,700 worth of features into an affordable $3400 option package (see the list just below); it offers a lot of gear and boosts the 520d’s value proposition considerably.
- Standard equipment: Cruise control, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, leather seat trim with electrically adjustable driver and passenger seat, electrically adjustable steering column, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, automatic dimming rear-view mirror
- Infotainment: 10.25-inch colour screen with USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, digital radio tuner, satellite navigation with real-time traffic information, concierge services, internet services and 12 speakers
- Options fitted: M Sport package with 19-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, aerodynamic bodykit and sports suspension ($6400); Professional package including keyless auto-entry, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, pedestrian warning, low-speed auto-brake function, head-up display and surround-view camera ($3400); and sunroof ($3200).
- Cargo volume: 520 litres
In the introduction we said the 5 Series takes from the outgoing 7 Series, and nowhere is that more evident than inside.
Plush door armrests with stitched-leather grab handles are all class, as are the softly damped controls and flock-lined glovebox and centre console bin.
The ergonomics of the iDrive infotainment controller remain the class benchmark, teaming perfectly with the 10.25-inch high-resolution centre display that shows everything you need plus extras you might, such as internet and concierge connectivity.
The seats are sumptuous front and rear, and there’s an acre of headroom, legroom and shoulder space all round. Of course, there is a sizeable 520-litre boot as well.
If only to complete the mini-7 Series picture, add the optional soft-close function for the doors ($900), four-zone climate ($1300), heating for front ($900) and rear ($900) seats, cooling ventilation for the front pews ($1500) and 600-watt 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo ($1950) – or if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, go the 1200-watt 16-speaker Bang and Olufsen system for $11,700 extra.
Priciest stereo aside, the above six options, which amount to $6150, are more rewarding to occupants than the M Sport exterior kit of about the same money, as fitted to our test car.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Independent front and rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering, turning circle: 12.0m
- Towing capacity: 750kg (braked), 1800kg (unbraked)
If the BMW M5 achieves five-star performance, then the 520d – the entry-level diesel version – achieves the same score… but for its economy.
Over a test-loop that comprised school-zone congestion, freeway cruising, and hard driving along hilly country roads, the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic delivered an average of 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres.
For a 4.9-metre-long sedan with a kerb weight of 1630kg, this is astonishingly good. The official combined figure is 4.3 l/100km, but ‘laboratory results’ like that aside, the 520d is as frugal as a small car.
And, while power delivery is a little soft, it is neither slow, nor particularly fast, but arguably swift enough. A Mazda6 that costs half the price has 20Nm more torque, but this doesn’t mean the 520d’s 400Nm is rubbish.
Together with 140kW, it moves the big BMW along nicely, if not as briskly as the 7.7-second 0-100km/h claim may indicate.
The auto has an intuitively selected ratio for every occasion, aiding the already impressive refinement levels. But no amount of gears can overcome the soft power delivery which fails to do the stellar chassis justice.
That aside, there is no mistaking the sporting soul.
Incisive, medium-weighted steering guides a frankly unbelievably sharp front-end and teams with a thoroughly planted rear-drive feel to create the stuff of which benchmark sports sedans are made. (But the 520d is perhaps best as a downhill skier.)
When bumps are added, the M Sport suspension proves skilful but not superb.
The standard 5 Series suspension of the original 2012 model proved woefully under-damped and soggy. Adding sports suspension (and lower-profile 19s) results in far better control, but also extra jiggles – not to an uncomfortable degree, but just enough to let you know that this is a car for drivers.
The multi-mode adaptive suspension, which adds $1750 if the M Sport package is ticked first or $2650 stand-alone, is an easily justified additional expense for those who enjoy an open road.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.53 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera (additional optional safety features in Professional Package detailed in The Interior section)
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Audi lacks a base diesel in the A6, while Jaguar is in XF run-out (a new-gen is imminent) and Lexus offers diesel-challenging economy but not BMW-challenging driver appeal with the hybrid GS.
Mercedes Benz – of course – runs the 520d closest with its E220 CDI that focuses on comfort over sports.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The BMW 520d secures a staggering 42 percent of all 5 Series sales, so it’s clear the entry-level diesel sedan resonates with luxury car buyers.
A combination of handsome exterior styling, a lush and massive cabin, plus winning driveability and efficiency for sub-$100K makes it easy to see why.
The diesel could use extra power, the 520d M Sport with its sports suspension doesn’t completely capitalise on what is undoubtedly a stellar chassis, and some equipment remains missing.
However, with a careful play of the options list – smaller wheels, adaptive suspension, extra interior features to replace the M Sport surcharge – and it will be high fives all-round, cementing the 5 Series as the class benchmark.
MORE: BMW News and Reviews