BMW’s 520i is the cheapest 5 Series model, but a host of improvements has kept it feeling like a proper luxury car
SINGAPORE – In one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it exercises, BMW gave the 5 Series a facelift last year. It might help to squint a bit, but area around the front grille and the bumper have been changed, and there are new LED main and fog lamps.
The rear lamps are slimmer, and if you really want to be sure you’re looking at the latest 5, keep an eye out for wing mirrors with integrated signal lights.
As I said, all that happened last year. The reason the 520i is on these pages is that this white example has just joined the press fleet, giving us the chance to wrap our paws around its steering wheel.
It turns out that the cheapest 5 Series is a lovely car that doesn’t feel like a cut-price special.
For one thing, it’s no slowpoke. The engine’s turbo spins into action good and early, and the resulting rush of torque is enough to get the 520i moving with proper urgency.
The eight-speed auto helps both performance and fuel economy, as well. Imagine two ladders of the same height, but one with eight rungs and another with, say, four. Which one do you think would make life easier for your muscles?
Mind you, there are some pretty bold claims about the fuel consumption. The average mileage figure is 6.4L/100km, so in theory you could hit 1,070km before the 520i’s 70-litre tank ran dry.
In practice, you won’t get anywhere close. The engine’s turbo thrust is something you’ll want to make use of repeatedly.
But with careful use the 520i is still incredibly frugal for such a large, heavy sedan that’s packed with luxury features, and one that can sprint to 100km/h in only 7.9 seconds.
It helps if you stick to the 520i’s ‘Eco Pro’ driving mode, which does several things to reduce the BMW’s thirst. It reduces air-con intensity to save energy (unless you set it not to) and calms the engine and transmission down to make acceleration gentler.
There’s even a coasting function to let the 520i glide along effectively in neutral once you take your foot off the accelerator, a feature that arrived with the facelift.
Also new for the 5 Series is the suspension, which has been revised to make the ride more magic carpet-like.
That quality helps to ensure that you’ll never mistake the 520i for anything but a luxury car. The cabin is still spacious and carefully put-together, and the facelift has brought improvements like fully-digital instruments and a touch sensor for the iDrive controller that lets you spell out navigation inputs and so on with a finger.
The powered front seats are more basic than in the more expensive 5 Series models, but they’re still mighty comfy.
All those attributes helped the 5 Series become the best-selling car in its class around the world last year.
Mind you, in Singapore its arch-rival — the Mercedes-Benz E-Class — outsold it after being given a more comprehensive, attention-grabbing facelift.
Perhaps a more noticeable revamp would have served the 5 Series better. Maybe too many people here blinked.
NEED TO KNOW BMW 520i Luxury
Engine 1,997cc, 16V, turbo in-line four
Power 184bhp from 5000 to 6250rpm
Torque 270Nm from 1250 to 4500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed Steptronic automatic
Top Speed 235km/h
0-100KM/H 7.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.4L/100km
Price $264,800 with COE
Photos by Leow Ju-Len