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BMW 520d SE Auto Touring

Click to view picture gallery“If BMW as a brand is the right
  choice for a customer and the new
  5 Series Touring the right model,
  then the new 520d engine and auto
  gearbox combination makes it
 
a great package in almost every
  respect
...”


THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, BMW's acclaimed greatest new engine and the best premium brand estate, is on sale now priced from 30,380 for the 520d up to 44,320 for the 535d. There are SE and M Sport trim and equipment option levels for each of seven engine choices which range in power from 201 to 302bhp: three high pressure direct injection petrol units (523i, 528i and 535i); and four turbodiesels 520d, 525d, 530d and 535d.

For most Touring versions, a six-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard but all models — except the 535d which has an automatic as standard — can be fitted with a new eight-speed automatic transmission as an option.

Like all new BMW models, the new 5 Series Touring bristles with BMW's highly-praised EfficientDynamics fuel saving and CO2 reducing technologies. Remember that the EfficientDynamics technology has been applauded worldwide because it does not compromise out-and-out performance, and for the sporty BMW brand that is a priority.

This is the fourth generation of the 5 Series Touring — the first car was produced in 1991 and more than 670,000 have since been sold around the world. BMW UK expects to sell around 4,000 5 Series Touring models in its first full year with approximately forty per cent of buyers opting for the 520d version. To compare this with the new 5 Series Saloon, around 12,000 of these are expected to be sold in the UK in a full year with the 520d taking 60% of sales.

Yes, the Mercedes
E-Class estate is larger
in the load area but
as good as it is, it cannot
match the sophistication
in performance,
handling and fuel
economy of the new
5 Series Touring
...”
The 520d will be the best selling version in both ranges because of its performance, purchase price, lowest road tax and low Benefit-in-Kind company car tax. And because of this the 520d will appeal to retail as well as business users.

With CO2 emissions of just 137g/km, or 139g/km for the auto option, both variants only incur 110 in road tax charges and 19% in BIK company car tax. The manual version has a top speed of 138mph with zero to 62mph taking 8.3 seconds and an official Combined Cycle fuel consumption of 55.4mpg. The world's first use of an eight-speed automatic transmission with a four-cylinder engine provides almost the same performance — 137mph, 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and 53.3mpg. As BMW claims, EfficientDynamics does not compromise on performance.

And to keep the price competitive — another important element for attractive BIK tax costs — the latest Touring comes with high levels of standard specification to ensure strong residual values which in turn determines contract hire and leasing rates. All models come with Dakota leather upholstery, BMW professional radio, Bluetooth telephone preparation, Dynamic Stability Control+, front and rear Park Distance Control, cruise control with speed limiting function, automatic air-conditioning and iDrive.

All variants also feature double wishbone front suspension while a self-levelling air suspension at the rear ensures that heavy loads do not affect the Touring's ability to deliver first class agility and composed handling.

Some media comment has already been made that the new 5 Series Touring is a softer drive, losing some of its handling finesse and not as entertaining to drive. It is better, they say, with the adaptive variable rate dampers which can be used to adjust the firmness of the suspension and so improve cornering stability. Well yes, but at 965 it adds to the cost and the BIK tax bill and most users will not see any real advantage from it. In truth, the softer characteristic eliminates much of the unsettled ride experienced by BMW users and the run-flat tyres.

The standard suspension will be just fine for most people and I was impressed with how well it absorbed the bumps and thumps of our neglected UK roads. Even though my test car was fitted with the larger (optional) 18-inch alloy wheels and hard-walled, run-flat tyres, road noise intrusion was generally low.

Top speed of 137mph,
0-62mph in 8.3 seconds
and, on my test drive,
a
44.4mpg average...”
The new model has the largest luggage capacity of any 5 Series Touring to date: 560 litres with the 40:20:40 split folding rear seats in place; 1,670 litres with them folded. The new 5 Series Touring also has a split rear tailgate allowing only the window section to be opened for those occasions when all you want to do is pop a small bag or package into the boot without lifting the whole tailgate.

Yes, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class estate is larger in the load area but as good as it is, it cannot match the sophistication in performance, handling and fuel economy of the new 5 Series Touring — especially in 520d guise. The much older Audi A6 Avant is also in the same sales sector but it cannot live with either of its more modern German class rivals.

The new 5 Series Touring is larger than its predecessors with an overall length grown by 64mm to 4,907mm, and with a longer wheelbase (by 82mm to 2,968mm) which means more rear legroom. The increase in size is obvious from all aspects but the muscular design, with the usual BMW styling creases in the bodywork and sloping roofline, give it an athletic look that's perhaps better balanced than the saloon.

The interior might lack the overall space offered to passengers and outright load capacity of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class estate, but the BMW's quality and interior design is superb — just the same as the highly-rated 5 Series saloon.

All the fixtures and fittings are there as expected of a premium model and the fact that leather upholstery is fitted as standard highlights its executive car status. Of course, being a model in this premium sector means there are loads of extra-cost options — 8,610 worth of them on my test car.

Too many and too much money, considering they will add to the company car driver's tax bill. Part of that cost is the eight-speed auto gearbox priced at a reasonable 1,495 and certainly worth having because it provides instant and seamless gearchanges that make the most of the broad high-torque powerband.

The jewel in this 520d
Touring’s crown
is the fantastic
two-litre, four-cylinder,
turbodiesel engine
...”
The Head-Up display in the windscreen costs 940 — nice to have but not totally necessary. The Media Pack, navigation and communication system costs 1,960 — good to have in this class of car and worthwhile when residual value trade-in time comes.

Priced at 30,380 on-the-road in manual gearbox form with the SE equipment level, the 520d Touring with the must-have auto box, Media Pack and heated front sports seats would weigh in at 34,535 which is just about acceptable. But delve further into the options list and this model will top out in excess of 39,000 which rather defeats the object, for company car users, of its potentially low BIK tax level.

The jewel in this 520d Touring's crown is, of course, the fantastic two-litre, four-cylinder, common-rail turbodiesel engine. Power output is 184bhp with 280lb ft of torque between 1,900 and 2,750rpm and the eight-speed autobox's ratios exploit this power beautifully to provide instant response and seamless changes. If a sportier drive is required simply select the 'sport auto' mode which holds onto the lower ratios longer; there's a manual tiptronic facility as well.

The variable-vane single turbocharger is electronically controlled to deliver precisely the right amount of air required for the load on the engine. Magnetic valve injectors are now used and these give more exact fuel injection. The result, for the eight-speed auto, is a top speed of 137mph, 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and an official fuel economy of 53.3mpg — 44.4mpg on my test drive in all conditions including motorways, country roads and stop-start commuter travel. Definitely, and just as BMW claims, 'performance without compromise'.

Not much to find fault with here apart from some must-have options push the high price up further, boot space is less than the equivalent Mercedes E-Class and the door mirrors' small field of vision. In its favour, the 520d gives you performance without compromise, elegant styling, a gem of a fuel-efficient, tax-saver engine, silky-smooth eight-speed auto 'box and impeccable quality interior. A great package in almost every respect. — David Miles

BMW 520d SE Touring | 31,875
Maximum speed: 137mph | 0-62mph: 8.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 44.4mpg
Power: 184bhp | Torque: 280lb ft | CO2 139g/km