Still The Sportiest In Its Class?
I’ve always been a fan of the BMW 5 Series, mainly due to the fact that it has always been a bigger version of the sporty 3 Series. So-called the “Business Athlete” in its marketing materials, the BMW 5 Series has been the default choice of executives looking for a plush sedan with a sporty flair. With this new one, though, the 5 Series shares much more in common with the bigger 7 Series instead of the smaller 3 Series, and that gives the 5 Series a host of differences over previous generations.
For starters, the exterior shares plenty of design cues with the bigger 7 Series. I won’t even blame you if you actually mistook a 5 Series for a 7 Series, which isn’t exactly a bad thing for me. It’s understated but with the right amount of road presence. Up front, the signature kidney grilles are flanked by a pair of adaptive LED headlights. Because this is the M Sport variant, it gets a more aggressive front bumper design that’s complemented by a set of large M Sport multi-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels. The rest of the side profile looks clean, featuring the signature Hofmeister Kink that BMWs are known for, along with a clean character line running from the front wheel arch all the way to the LED taillights at the back.
Likewise, the interior features an understated design. It’s your typical BMW layout wherein the controls and functions are all angled towards the driver. As you would expect, the interior is solidly built with plush materials all around. Even the lower door trims are finished in soft-touch plastics. As this is the M Sport variant, the front seats have plenty of adjustment, including the aggressiveness of the side bolsters. There are other M bits, too, such as the door sill plates, aluminum hexagon trim, chunky sports steering wheel, and sporty blue stitching.
In terms of space, those at the back will be delighted by the sheer amount of room available, despite the center tunnel eating into foot space for the middle passenger. Trunk space is also generous at 520 liters, enough for a week’s worth of groceries or a weekend getaway for the family. In addition, the trunk is power operated, making it easier to load items when your hands are full.
Vehicle functions are accessed through BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, which in my opinion is the best infotainment system in its class. There’s literally no learning curve, as the menus are easily accessible and logically laid out. iDrive is mainly controlled via the rotary knob controller with an integrated touchpad, though if you wish, the 10.25-inch display also works as a touch screen. There’s no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the infotainment system is so nice to use, I’m willing to forgive the lack of smartphone integration. Sounds are then blasted through a set of nicely-engineered Harman Kardon speakers.
iDrive also works in conjunction with the 520d’s large head-up display and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, which means you do not have to take your eyes off the road in order to interact with the system.
Under the hood of the BMW 520d M Sport is the brand’s tried-and-tested 2.0-liter inline-4 TwinPower Turbo diesel engine that produces 190 hp at 4,000 rpm and 400 Nm of torque from 1,750 to 2,500 rpm. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. In this configuration, the BMW 520d M Sport is able to sprint from 0 to 100 kph in just 7.5 seconds all the way to a top speed of 235 kph.
BMW’s 2.0-liter diesel engines are a gem whatever the model it is fitted into. There’s a bit of turbo lag as you would expect but it’s very minimal. My favorite part about this engine is its linear power delivery. Peak torque comes in at an early 1,750 rpm all the way up to 2,500 rpm, which means overtaking with this thing is quite easy because you don’t have to rev the engine as much. It does not feel lurchy, either, delivering torque progressively and smoothly. The 8-speed automatic it is mated to is also sublime, delivering transparent, smooth shifts. In pure automatic mode, it always downshifts to the correct gear, while if you want to have a bit of fun, you can use the responsive paddle shifters. Oh, and did I mention it even rev matches?
Not only is the diesel engine punchy, but it’s also extremely frugal. At 14.6 km/l, it’s one of the most frugal cars I’ve ever driven. With a full tank, the trip computer says it can travel for more than 800 kilometers without ever needing to refuel. Amazing stuff.
If there’s one minor gripe I have towards the diesel engine, it would be its noise. On the inside, the 520d M Sport is quiet and refined. The diesel engine never breaks the interior’s silence, plus 100 kph feels more like 60 kph due to the sheer amount of noise suppression. Step outside, however, and the diesel clatter is pronounced–almost what you would hear in PPVs.
Everywhere else, the BMW 5 Series is top-notch. Remember when I said that it shares much more in common with the 7 Series now? Well, it’s truly evident in the daily drive. Despite rolling in low profile tires and a firmer M Sport suspension, the ride is unflappable. Along with the excellent noise suppression, the 5 Series is a great long-distance cruiser. An upside to its firmer M Sport suspension is better handling. Body roll is well controlled, and along with its wide rear tires, the car’s limits of grip are high. It’s definitely a fun executive luxury sedan to toss around. Whereas the previous generation (F10) 5 Series felt a bit too disconnected, this new one goes back to the fundamentals of what a sporty BMW is.
If there’s one thing I ever so wish that BMW would improve upon, it would be its steering feel. Mind you, it isn’t completely numb, but it doesn’t provide the same level of feel that’s found in older BMWs. Still, it’s precise, responsive nature makes it fun to toss around in corners.
As a whole, the G30 BMW 5 Series manages to regain some of the sportiness that was lost when the previous generation (F10) 5 Series came out. It is now a well-balanced luxury sedan that offers an unparalleled blend of sportiness and comfort that its competitors have consistently tried to match. Further improving matters is the availability of a new, Malaysian-built 520i, which in some ways, is better than this mid-level 520d M Sport.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.4 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.