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2014 BMW 5 Series 520d Full Review: The Ever Maturing Athlete

Carlist News July 10, 2014 09:24

The 2014 BMW 5 Series has been in the market for some time now, and unsurprisingly, it’s recently been given a facelift to keep things up for the Bavarian company. Locally, BMW Malaysia offers us three variations of its 5 Series (codenamed F10), in the forms of the 520d, 520i, and the range-topping 528i M Sport.

By now, you must be familiar with what’s been on tap here since 2010, but as mentioned, there’s been a new round of updates for the 5 Series range that includes new Adaptive LED headlights, an ECO PRO coasting function, turn indicators on the wing mirrors, a swanky LCD instrument cluster, a touch pad for the iDrive and a Route-Ahead Assistant.

But are these enough to keep the F10 – particularly the 520d we have here – fresh in contention with the likes of its fiercest rivals, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Audi A6?

BMW 520d

Buyer’s Guide:

If you’re set on a BMW 520d and haven’t yet spent much time around or in one, keep in mind that despite the stage it sets for itself as a premium contender, it is a base variant of a model that’s been around for some years.

Outside, the car gets on well with its distinctive and contemporary design that’s been tweaked (new headlamps, tail lights, and wing mirrors with turn indicators), but its interior does look a little bit dated – apart from the LCD instruments which liven things up a bit with vibrant and interchangeable displays.

Elsewhere, there is the matter of a diesel clatter that’s very apparent even inside the cabin at any given throttle input, even more so outside the car. But as the story goes with oil burners, there is a lot of fuel savings to be had.

But are these things enough to charm you away from the likes of similarly-priced Mercedes-Benz E 200 and the Audi A6 2.0 TFSI?

SPECS: 2014 BMW 520d

  • Price: RM354,800
  • Engine: 2.0-litre BMW TwinPower Turbo Diesel
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Horsepower: 184hp @ 4,000rpm
  • Torque: 380Nm @ 1,750 - 2,750rpm
  • 0-100km/h: 7.9 seconds
  • Fuel consumption: 4.5l/100km, (6.3l to 8.0l/100km observed)

BMW 520d

Driving a 2014 BMW 520d: Sheer pleasure guaranteed?

For the most part, yes, all the classic BMW traits are there: the 520d can get on really well whenever the mood strikes you for a bit of fun. It’s steering is weighted perfectly, and there’s a strong initial surge of power from its 2.0-litre turbo diesel. It’s all part of a sportiness that doesn’t compromise ride comfort.

PERFORMANCE: Unfortunately, while maximum torque is available at a very early 1,750rpm, it falls off noticeably quickly at 2,750rpm - even with ZF’s trusty eight-speed transmission doing all it can to shift you along. The accelerative force in the 520d starts to droop after the 120km/h mark, then on gently making its way up to any further speed.

HANDLING: It’s become a bit pointless for us to assess the dynamic nature of BMWs anymore, really. In short, they’re always going to be a bit more fun than expected. But given that this premium sedan weighs a bit more (even more than its 5 Series siblings, courtesy of its heavier diesel engine), you can’t go expecting it to perform like the sharper and more nimble 3 Series.

Getting out of town is where the 520d shines through and through. The ride comfort on long highways is excellent, and lets the engine stretch its legs nicely, without any unsettling feeling at speed. Very little exterior noise gets in, and, of course, having a very efficient turbo-diesel mill doesn’t hurt at all. Speaking of which…

BMW 520d

FUEL CONSUMPTION: It doesn’t take much effort to achieve great fuel efficiency in the 520d. It’s so good to the point of you not really needing the ECO PRO mode to revise your throttle response and gear shifts, and take away your air-conditioning every time you stop and the engine switches off automatically.

In a mix of urban and highway driving, keeping it in either the Comfort or Comfort+ modes is enough for you to see low or sub 7.0-litre/100km figures – and mind you, this is a large 5 Series sedan we’re talking about, not a lightweight Nissan Almera.

BMW 520d

Living with a 2014 BMW 520d: The refined and robust athlete

The new bits of the facelifted 5 Series don’t separate this car too much from what was before, so you can expect the 520d here to largely represent what we already know, with a few new touches.

CREATURE COMFORTS: Inside, the first two notably new items that’ll grab your attention are likely to be the full LCD instrument dials, and the iDrive Touchpad on the center console. The 10.25-inch LCD instruments look good, and work well to freshen up the cabin’s appeal with varying displays to match your driving mode – a good shift from the old analogue dials that were bold, but boring.

The touch-sensitive iDrive controller on the other hand has a few cool tricks about it like a character recognition feature, but like us, we suspect you won’t naturally find much use for it. Don’t get us wrong: it works well for using the car’s built-in navigation, but given the increasing popularity and usability of Waze and Google Maps, your mobile phone is likely to be the preferred option.

CABIN: In our humble opinion, there isn’t much visible excitement to be enjoyed with the 520d’s cabin – it looks dated and too familiar already, more so when compared to Stuttgart’s equivalent. That said, where comfort and convenience is concerned, it still scores top marks. Traffic noises are blocked out very well, and your body is constantly cushioned well by plush leathers and a good ride.

DIESEL CLATTER: There’s nothing new about the local bunch of BMW diesel mills and the way they popularly clatter along a bit louder than you might appreciate. BMW’s attempts to insulate the cabin from this noise is admirable, but the fact remains that it’s just too loud to tame – at even the lowest revs, you will take notice of the engine’s note; more so when you work it for speed. Outside the idling car, it isn’t at a pleasant volume for your neighbours either.

VISIBILITY: If you’re not familiar with driving larger sedans, the 5 Series does feel like a very long and wide car to drive. And it doesn’t help that there aren’t any camera aids either (neither 5 Series variant gets a rear-view camera). There are surrounding parking sensors, but negotiating tight places in this does take some getting used to.

BMW 520d

Competing with a 2014 BMW 520d:

2014 MERCEDES-BENZ E 200: With no official diesel variant to count against, MBM has only a petrol E 200 for the same kind of money you’d spend on the 520d. What you’d get in the Stuttgart solution is a whole different package that focuses on pure driving comfort, luxurious appeal and decadent poise. With the same sort of power output figures, it’s the BMW that will offer better driving dynamics and handling, any day. But which is the more luxurious option? The E-Class wins that bout, hands down.

Choosing between the two comes down to what you want from your premium mid-size sedan: pulse-racing sportiness, or absolute luxury? Pitting the 520d or 520i against the E 200 directly, it’s this writer’s personal choice to spend the RM360k on the luxury of the E 200 as a premium sedan.

2014 AUDI A6 2.0 TFSI: Having never had the chance to drive the Audi A6 personally, the best we can manage is an on-paper comparison. To start things off, the base 2.0T A6 (petrol) does cost a bit more than the E 200 or the 520d. With its FWD layout, we can’t say it offers the same sort of excitement you’d get in the BMW, but the spec sheet continues to show that it does have some impressive equipment in the way of its infotainment offerings.

It’s also the only option of offer variable dampers which soften or stiffen the ride as you like, and a few more options than the BMW can’t boast. More importantly, it is priced at nearly RM20k more though, which brings BMW’s 520i (petrol) into play, while Merc’s more powerful E250 also becomes a consideration.

BMW 520d

Verdict: Here’s what we think…

Discounting all other available options in the market, you can’t go wrong with a 5 Series. It has all the necessary presence, it drives just the way we like it, and at RM354,800, there isn’t a more affordable solution. However, the 520d does have its fair share of setbacks, which include not completely living up to the typically dynamic and performance-minded nature of a BMW – faulted by a few unavoidable extra pounds, and a 2.0-litre turbo diesel that you may expect too much of.

So, do we recommend the 520d? It’s an undeniably good pick for all its fuel economy and Bavarian presence, but Mercedes-Benz’s new E-Class makes a pretty solid case for itself as well: being the newer and more luxury-minded package. The right choice really depends on your expectations of a premium sedan.

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