The BMW 5-Series in current guise has been around for five years. In a sense, for BMW Malaysia, this was the “killer app” because while there was no disputing the position of the 3-Series, the 5 was not the carriage of choice in this the “business class” segment. And while the E60 made some headway, it is the current 5 that finally took BMW to pole position here in Malaysia.
I have always believed that a car towards the end of its lifecycle is at its best. Consider that a new car brings with it new problems and despite all the claims from testing, there’s stuff in there that even the manufacturers don’t know about. A car in its final run has given manufacturers time to fix the bugs and work out kinks.
Which brings me to our recent escapade with the 520d Sport which BMW Malaysia introduced in March. Again, we were faced with how much we could say about a car that has had more written about it than 1MDB. So this time we thought we’d take a different tack. Since we’re always telling you why you SHOULD buy a particular car, we thought we’d go the other way.
Reason No. 1: You don’t like elegant design
The predecessor of the current 5 has come to be seen as an iconic car not only because of how radical the designers had gone with it, but more so because of how it came to influence car design after it. You’d be quite hard put to find a car post E60 that hasn’t taken some styling cues from Bangle’s baby. The easiest way to illustrate this is to compare your first reactions with the E60 and look at it now. Seems humdrum? Well that’s only because the muscular athleticism of the 2003-launched 5 has become de riguer in modern car design language.
The E60 was meant to be a “break point”, in Bangle’s own words. It was meant to push the envelope with the idea that the following cars would “bring things back in”. And that is exactly what the current 5 has done. If the E60 was a bullhorn for aggression and dynamics, the F10 is a gentle whisper to subtlety and grace.
Currently in its finale iteration, the 5-Series does several things from a design perspective that make it stand out. Firstly, it masks its size well. At 4841mm long and 1847mm wide, this car isn’t small but the tight lines seem to make it lean like spanx on a fat girl. In comparison, the E60 now looks like an overweight rugby player. Secondly, it has smoothed out some of the “fussiness” of the E60 design which brings a sense of harmony to the car. Most of all, what the F10 has done best is marry the “hooliganism” of its predecessor with a maturity and style that doesn’t take away from its underlying aggression.
So, if you don’t like refinement and want to scream your presence as opposed to glide in elegantly, don’t buy a 520d.
Reason No. 2: Your father owns units in PetroSaudi
The 520d Sport has been updated for the 2015 Model year in Malaysia with the new B47 2.0-liter turbo-diesel engine, which now outputs 190hp and 400 Nm of torque, up from the 184hp and 380Nm of the engine it replaces. No biggie right? The official figures from BMW say that this oil burner will return 4.1/100km, while its petrol sibling, the 520i, offers 6.2/100km. Let’s do the math.
If we assume that an average owner clocks 20,000km per year (based on BMW’s Service Inclusive), a 520d owner would need 820 litres of diesel per year (4.1L x 200) . For the 520i owner that would work out to 1,240 litres of petrol per year (6.2L x 200). At current pump prices of RM 1.80 per litre of diesel, that’s RM 1,476 per annum and for the petrol at RM1.95 per litre, RM 2,418 per annum. Factor in that the 520d at RM 354,800 is RM13,000 cheaper than the 520i and the business case becomes even more sound.
In the real world, I drove the 520d for a week in which I covered a distance of 1,059 km. This included highway, city and B-road drives. When I returned the car, the on-board trip computer showed another 172 km to empty. Based on this, I achieved a consumption of 5.67L/100km. Considering that test figures are always driven under strict control, my results were pretty damned good especially if you consider KL city gridlock and some more than exuberant driving going up Genting.
The savings may not be huge, especially when you consider the outlay in this segment but there are savings to be had and if RM 20,000 over a span of five years means nothing to you, don’t buy a 520d. I only have one request; Can you spare Countersteer a donation?
Reason No. 3: You don’t like to drive
Everyone waxes lyrical about the 3-Series and how it drives. They are not wrong but I personally think that the 5 is a far greater accolade to BMWs “freude am fahren” prowess. Why? Physics. The 5-Series is a much bigger car. It’s longer, heavier and is expected to ferry a lot more around, and in greater comfort. All of these are diametrically opposed paradigms and yet the 520d delivers in spades.
In terms of handling, no other car in this segment comes close and it’s not just about handling. The car is as surefooted as any and is happy to take whatever abuse you fling at it. But what really impresses about the 520d is how far BMW has narrowed the ride against handling equation. Let’s be clear, these are two things that sit on either end of the driving continuum and any bias in one direction has always meant a compromise in the other.
With the 520d, it seems that BMW has taken its suspension alchemy to new heights. And for this reason, I think it is far more impressive than a 3-Series, technologically speaking, of course. But if a car for you is about getting from A to B and you don’t salivate when you see well-cambered corners, or don’t care about the confidence of rear-wheel drive and can’t give a toss about a lush 8-speed gearbox, then don’t buy a 520d.
BMW 520d Sport
Price RM354,800 (incl. GST, w/o insurance)
Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder diesel, turbocharged, RWD
Output 190hp@4000rpm, 400Nm@1750rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic gearbox w/ manual mode
Performance 0-100km/h in 7.7 sec, top speed 233km/h
Wheels/tyres 18in alloys, 245/45 R18 (front), 275/40 R18 (rear)
Safety 6 airbags, dynamic stability control
Warranty 5-year/unlimited mileage