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BMW 520d xDrive M Sport

Click to view picture gallery“BMWs 5 Series has long been
  the benchmark range for the
  executive car sector. Now, after
  7.9 million global sales and six
  generations spanning 45 years,
  there
s a new one...”


THE LATEST SEVENTH-GENERATION '5' arrived earlier this year, not long after Donald Trump moved into The White House.

As usual there's a good selection of diesel and petrol powerplants to choose from as well as xDrive four-wheel drive and, naturally, a host of options including Integrated Active Steering (which, for added agility, turns the rear wheels) and, essential to smooth out ride comfort, Variable Damper Control.

Putting one of these elegant new 5 Series saloons on your drive will cost you a minimum of 36K.

For that you get a saloon that, both outside and inside, largely resembles the larger 7 Series and includes much of the onboard driving aid technology such as Gesture Control, remote parking, semi-autonomous driving functions, Dynamic Cruise Control and the latest infotainment and connectivity functions (including Microsoft Office 365) that are now filtering down into the 5 Series either as standard equipment or as extra-cost options.

This 7th-gen 5 Series
feels a more grown-up
car and while it may
attract downsizers from
the expensive 7 Series,
its main rivals will
be the Audi A6,
Mercedes E-Class and
Jaguar XF...”
This 7th-gen 5 Series feels a more grown-up car, and while it may attract downsizers from the expensive 7 Series its more likely rivals are the Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar XF.

In its favour the latest 5 Series has more kit and is cheaper to run (helped by a 100kg weight loss); it's also slightly longer (at 4,935mm) with a marginally increased wheelbase to improve rear passenger legroom, plus there is now more headroom and the boot has increased its capacity to 530 litres. Wider opening front and rear doors also make for easier access.

BMW expects to sell around close to 18,000 of the 5 Series saloons in its first full year of UK sales, with the 520d being the most popular.

Reviewed here is the 520d xDrive M Sport costing 41K (specifying the popular xDrive all-wheel drive option adds 2,000 to the conventional rear-wheel drive models). For the record, with a host of options fitted to showcase what is on offer, the final on-the-road price of my 520d test car was a huge 50,555!

Some of the many options are 'must-have' items: I'd definitely tick the box for the 985 Variable Damper Control system because covering long distances — especially with the 19-inch M Sport wheels and low-pro tyres — in anything but the Comfort setting can be 'hard' going.

I'd also choose the 335 split-folding rear seat option which extends the load carrying space and, if pushed, the 1,495 Technology pack which includes display keys, a head-up display, enhanced Bluetooth with wireless smartphone charging, Gesture Control, and WiFi hot-spot preparation.

Some of the many
options are ‘must-have’
items: I’d definitely tick
the box for the 985
Variable Damper Control
system because —
especially with the
19-inch M Sport wheels
and low-pro tyres —
covering long distances
in anything but the
Comfort setting
can be ‘hard’ going...”
AirCon, SatNav, power windows and door mirrors, cruise control, and driving mode selector are all standard-fit items.

Also nice to have would be the 1,995 Comfort package which includes a reversing camera, electric front seats with a memory function for the driver's seat, and folding, anti-dazzle door mirrors.

Just so you know, the M-Sport spec does include front sports seats, M steering wheel, M aerodynamic body kit, an anthracite-coloured roof lining, and LED fog lights.

Visually, how will your neighbours know that you're now driving the latest model? Starting at the sharp end, the circular headlights connect seamlessly with the famous BMW kidney grille; LED headlights are fitted as standard (adaptive units with anti-dazzle high beams good for a range of up to 500 metres are another option).

From the side there is the usual long bonnet but with a short front overhang; the coupe-like four-door body cell is set back in the long wheelbase configuration.
At the tail the lights wrap around deep into the side of the car, stylistically connecting the flanks with the rear-end. The exhaust tailpipes are now arranged symmetrically on both sides of all model variants, and they can be circular or trapezoidal depending on the engine and spec level chosen.

There is a reasonable sized bootlid (larger than on previous models) but a high-ish rear boot sill calls for loading items over it, and some bodywork intrusions into the sides of the boot reduce its overall capacity.

In the cabin there is noticeably more space, particularly headroom, and in the back there is more leg and knee room. However the 40:20:40-split rear seats are more suitable for two adult passengers with the centre position only really accommodating a child. I think the folding rear seat option is a must as it allows easier side loading of the forward boot area through the back doors rather than placing extra luggage on top of the seats themselves, which will save wear-and-tear.

“The fascia is another
BMW work-of-art — clean
and uncluttered with
sensibly sited controls
and switches with a large
centrally-positioned
touchscreen.
Thankfully, despite all
the new onboard
technology, adjustment
for the heating and
ventilation controls
is not via
the touchscreen...”
The M Sport front seats are excellent and are skinned in Dakota leather as standard although there is an upgrade option of softer Nappa leather. For added support the side bolsters are adjustable; massage function front seats with eight programmes come with the 1,995 Comfort package.

The fascia is another BMW work-of-art — clean and uncluttered with sensibly sited controls and switches with a large centrally-positioned touchscreen. Thankfully, despite all the new onboard technology, adjustment for the heating and ventilation controls is not via the touchscreen.

There's the usual centre console positioning for the latest rotary BMW iController and its associated shortcut buttons for functions such as the SatNav although that can also be done via the touchscreen; the system also allows for the selection of destination by voice.

I personally didn't find the Gesture Control (part of the 1,495 Technology package) of much real use; it seemed a bit hit-and-miss and distracting to use whilst driving — never a good thing.

The 520d's 187bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine will be the mainstay of the range, whatever spec and drivetrain level is chosen. Like all current engine options it is mated with an eight-speed sports automatic gearbox but it has a manual mode as well.

In xDrive spec the 520d will run to 144mph, with zero to 62mph taking 7.6 seconds; this 2.0-litre 520d engine is a strong and refined performer whatever the driving conditions and you'll find it responsive and fuss-free in stop-start traffic with good acceleration once on the open road, where the legal 70mph feels effortless.

The Combined Cycle fuel consumption is given as 60.1mpg (62.8mpg without xDrive) and CO2 emissions are 124g/km (118g/km without xDrive). During my week-long spell behind the 520d xDrive's wheel, covering mostly long distances with ECO mode selected for open road and motorway cruising, my real-life average was 42.9mpg — substantially short of the official figure.

“Officially 60.1mpg is the
Combined Cycle
consumption figure but
in real-life
, covering
mostly long distances
with ECO mode selected
for open road and
motorway cruising,
the overall average was
just 42.9mpg...”
The 124g/km CO2 figure means that road tax is 160 for the First Year and 140 thereafter but because this model costs more than 40K the just-in-force VED rules will add an additional 310 to that 140 each year for five years.

Although there is a wide choice of engines, and more to come, the 520d 2.0-litre 187bhp and 295lb ft of torque (from 1,750rpm) makes the most sense — and matched with its silky-smooth-changing eight-speed autobox it's a combination that suits all driving conditions from stop-start commuter runs to fast open road cruising.

Whether the xDrive is necessary is purely down to customer requirements — it certainly adds to the driving pleasure with more cornering grip and, of course, delivers added traction during the winter months.

As already mentioned, it's certainly worth paying the extra grand for the Variable Damper Control which allows the driver to choose a Comfort suspension setting that provides a more compliant and less fidgety ride over poorer road surfaces, especially with the M Sport lowered suspension and lo-pro-wrapped 19-inch wheels. Added to which the overall balance of this big saloon is more or less perfect with its lighter weight and 50:50 weight distribution.

Stylish good looks, enviable kerb appeal, impeccable build quality, high quality interior, lots of driving aids and connectivity equipment, and fine ergonomics, all contribute to making the new 5 Series saloon the benchmark range in the executive car market. ~ David Miles
.
BMW 520d xDrive M Sport | 41,025
Maximum speed: 144mph | 0-62mph: 7.6 seconds | Test Average: 42.9mpg
Power: 187bhp | Torque: 295lb ft | CO2: 124g/km

.