BMW 5 Series 520d Luxury Line First Drive Review

2 months ago | Ameya Dandekar

What is it?

Why will I buy the BMW 520d? 

It’s a huge step ahead of its predecessor, has a long equipment list and it feels premium too.

Why will I avoid the BMW 520d?

Rear seat space is average especially when compared to the LWB Mercedes E-Class

BMW somewhat lost their way with the F10 generation 5 Series which was launched in 2010 in India. Sure it was more luxurious than before but it felt too heavy and lofty as compared to the agile E60 gen. So with the new generation G30, BMW are aiming to blend luxury and taut driving dynamics more seamlessly and going by the spec sheet they have thrown the kitchen sink at this brand-new 5 Series. 

The new 5, in essence, is a mini version of the latest 7 Series. Right from the design language to the technology, it’s all borrowed or adapted from the flagship limousine, and both models share the same modular platform, too. On paper the new 5 Series has huge improvements like reduced weight, revised suspension and a tonne of new tech, such as the latest iDrive system and gesture control.

Even in terms of exterior design the new 5 Series looks very familiar to the larger Seven and when viewed head-on it is hard to distinguish between the two. The prominent kidney grille and the beautifully detailed LED headlamps look striking if not beautiful. In profile, the strong shoulder-line and the well-detailed 18-inch wheels make it look dynamic and sporty. At the rear, the complex tail lamps and the twin exhaust pipes make it look interesting, too. Looking at it from any angle, the new 5 looks proportionate and well balanced.

How is it on the inside?

Step inside the new 5 Series and you are welcomed by a luxurious yet familiar ambiance. From the driver’s seat the cabin feels spacious, open and crisply styled. The light beige and black combo, the massive glass area and the large sunroof further adds to the airy feeling. The dash design is borrowed from the new 7 Series albeit the centre console tilts more towards the right, which makes it more driver-focussed. Attention to detail is good too but the power window buttons and drive mode selector switches look a bit shiny and could have been executed better. Like in the 7 Series you get feather touch buttons for AC control which are problematic to use on the move. 

The front seats are just fantastic and they adjust for height and contour. Moving to the rear the space is adequate but at the same time you do feel a bit short-changed as its main rival the new E-Class now comes with a longer wheelbase and nearly twice as much knee room. Still the bench on the BMW is comfortable, with good contour and the slightly upright backrest is set at a comfy angle too. What would have made it even better, is a higher seat for better under thigh support. Although on paper the 400-litre boot space might come across as small, but unlike the Mercedes E-Class the space saver is neatly tucked away and the bay is well shaped and wide enough. 

Where BMW has really excelled with the new 5 Series is in terms of equipment. The 520d in the Luxury Line trim gets four-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic glass roof, a Harman Kardon surround sound system, navigation system, an intuitive iDrive with touch screen and gesture control and a mini smart phone like key fob with which you can remote park the car and it even tells you other vital features like how much fuel range your 5 Series has while you are sitting in office. 

How does it drive?

We had the 520d version on test that is powered by the same B48 1995cc four-cylinder turbo-diesel motor that also powers the smaller 3 Series. This aluminium motor makes a healthy 188bhp and 400Nm of torque.

Despite having an aluminium block, this diesel motor is one of the most refined four cylinder units that we have come across till date. It settles down to a quiet idle and even when you rev it out, it is difficult to tell that there is a diesel unit under the hood. Step on the gas and the immediate responses of the engine are quite impressive. The 520d accelerates in an extremely linear manner and this makes it deceptively quick. Unlike most diesels, the action is not only concentrated in the lower reaches of the power-band. This motor is very free-revving and visits to the red-line are pleasurable. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is on the money too. It makes the most of the engine’s power and the gearshifts are fast yet very smooth and precise with minimal jerks. In Sport mode, it hangs onto revs longer, kicks down faster, and in Sport Plus, through paddle shifters, you can hold on to every gear and decide when you want to shift.

Flat-out the new 520d takes just 7.8 seconds to reach 100kph, which makes it more than a second quicker than the old car. Thanks to the potent gearbox, the in-gear times even in eco-pro mode are pretty brisk. 20-80kmph takes a scant 4.60 seconds and the 40-100kmph sprint is completed in an equally impressive 6.21 seconds. Overall the 520d is plenty quick, but if you do want more performance then you can go for the 530d which has a 265bhp straight six diesel engine. 

This new 5 Series has improved considerably in terms of dynamics. Where the old car would feel sloppy and nervous at high speeds, the 520d feels rock solid and straight-line stability is exceptional. Credit for the improved road manners not only goes to the new more rigid chassis but also to the fact that BMW is offering adaptive dampers standard across the 5 Series range. 

At town speeds in Comfort mode the 520d simply excels thanks to its absorbent low speed ride despite the low profile 18-inch tyres. Well-judged spring rates help this German saloon feel supple yet well controlled. Even over rutted surfaces the suspension has surprisingly good level of crash-free bump absorption, you don’t feel most imperfections. Yes, there is some firmness at low speeds but it never gets to the point of feeling uncomfortable. Even at higher speeds the 520d shows good composure and this makes it a soothing highway companion. Even when you shift to Sport or Sport +, the damping remains remarkably supple which makes the 520d usable in any drive modes. 

Through the corners the new 520d changes direction quite eagerly and unlike the old car there isn’t excessive body roll and it feels light on its feet. The light steering is smooth and accurate but is merely a tool for pointing the front wheels, with minimal feel for the tyre or road interface. 

Should I buy one?

Lovely to drive and be driven in, the new 5 Series is rounded enough to recommend to those who split their time between the front and rear seats. Interior quality and ambience has taken a big step forward too but rear seat space, though adequate isn’t as good as the massive E-Class. But other than that, it is hard to fault this BMW sedan. It is comfortable, spacious, the engine is a gem, ride and handling is impressive and is the best equipped sedan in its segment. The new 5 Series is an all-round package and unlike its predecessor, it will appeal to both, a comfort oriented or a thrill seeking buyer. 

Where does it fit in?

The BMW 5 Series is directly targeted at the Mercedes E-Class, Jaguar's new XF, Volvo S90 and the Audi A6. BMW have done a good job with pricing too with the new 5 Series undercutting all its rivals making it great value for money. 

 

Pictures by Kapil Angane 

Click here to read our review of the Volvo S90.

Click here to read our review of the Jaguar XF.

Click here for on-road prices and specifications of the new 5 Series range.