Published on April 18th, 2016 | by Subhash Nair


BMW 520d Review: A 5-Series with Value in Mind

No car represents the BMW brand quite like the 5-Series.. It doesn’t have to deal with size, performance and price restrictions like the 3-Series does and it’s not specifically designed for those who prefer to be chauffeured around. This is the ultimate 4-door from BMW, a company obsessed with performance – so why is the 520d the best variant of the 5 to get in Malaysia?

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The 520d gives the impression of being a volume driver more than anything else. It’s priced at RM354,800 – meaning it’s RM13,000 cheaper than the 520i, which has less power, poorer fuel economy and lacks the sporty bodykit. And perhaps BMW Malaysia’s strategy indeed is to provide a low-running-cost, highly kitted out version of their executive entry to stay competitive – but do they compromise on their performance-oriented values in the process?

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Short answer: no.

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Despite being powered by a diesel, BMW have remained true to the brand’s philosophy of putting the driver first. The dashboard is slightly and effectively angled towards the driver and nothing blends performance and luxury quite like the way the M Sport steering looks and feels. It’s not flat-bottomed like many other sport steering wheels are, but its contours are more ergonomic and suited for spirited drives.

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This, combined with the aforementioned 2-litre diesel makes for a pretty potent sports sedan. It’s no M5, and barely keeps pace with the 528i – but considering how much cheaper this is (the 528i is RM63,000 more) the 520d makes an excellent case for itself. Having said that, this isn’t the best the 5-Series chassis can do. The 520d is fast, but consider the fact that the 220i Gran Tourer (an MPV) gets to 100km/h faster and you start to see how the M Sport kit is there more to sweeten the deal than for performance enthusiasts.

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Being a diesel, it’s naturally more efficient than you’d expect. Yet, it still manages to deliver on the 5-Series promise of power and control.  Torque is immediate and massive but not too startling – so it still has the signature BMW linearity.

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It’s even got a few drive modes that can change the way the car behaves. So whether you’re goal is to beat a fuel efficiency record or turn the Traction Control off to kick the tail out, the 520d can deliver after just a click of a button.

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It’s the whole package, relatively cheap to run but extremely powerful and responsive when you want it to be. Practical too, with its sizeable boot.

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Rear passengers however really take a back seat in the 520d. Room isn’t the issue- there’s plenty enough for 3 adults. It just lacks any sort of character or sense of space in the rear. There isn’t even any way to adjust the temperature from the rear, just a couple of knobs to close the rear blowers and some rather useless storage shelves beneath them. Competing products in this price range tend to show a little more here, but seeing as BMWs tend to be more focused on their pilot, we’re prepared to let this one slide.

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The cabin is pretty functional, with familiar BMW design elements making an appearance. A nice little addition is the digital instrument cluster. Not for everyone, but certainly a good balance between modern and classic BMW. In the 520d, it turns red on sport mode and blue when maximising economy.

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It’s not the clearest or highest resolution screen, but it’s certainly a talking point. The rest of the car’s interior is classic BMW (or at least it was on our test unit), black leather, black plastic, glossy piano black and a splash of chrome trim. If it’s the sort of thing that calls to you, you won’t be disappointed, but if you’re expecting more than just a lot of unadventurous lines, you’ll have to look somewhere else we’re afraid.

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It’s a similar story outside. The 5-Series is by no means ugly, but compared to its closest German rivals, there’s really not much to get excited about. The Audi A6 looks properly fierce and modern, while the outgoing W212 E-Class still manages to turn heads despite its age. While Mercedes have a replacement ready, BMW’s won’t be due until 2017.

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Our main contention with this 5-Series is it has very conventional looks.  This is a design so eager to avoid controversy that it manages to look like an older car than the E60 5-Series that preceded it. If a fresh look isn’t important to you, the 520d won’t disappoint. It lives up to the 5-Series name in every measurable way, but just doesn’t manage to feel as special as its competitors or its predecessors.

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BMW 520d Specifications

  • Engine:  2-litre In-line 4 Turbodiesel
  • Capacity: 1995cc
  • Power: 190hp @ 4000rpm
  • Torque: 400Nm @ 1750-2500rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
  • 0-100km/h: 7.7secs
  • Top speed: 233km/h
  • Price: RM354,800.00

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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