BMW 520i: Living the ‘simple’ life

It was raining, the traffic was light and I’m travelling over a stretch of road alien to me. The last thing I had expected to see was a speed bump on a dual carriageway, it was the unpainted kind and most likely unauthorised for there were no signages alluding to the fact.

I’m already starting to sympathise with what the suspension of the BMW 520i test car is about going to go through, since it’s already too late to slow the car down to bump-crawling speeds, a reactive stab at the brake pedal was all I could muster, hoping to scrub off some momentum, but mindful not to hold the brakes and ground the front end, better to let the car have all of its available wheel travel when impacting the bump.

Don’t let anyone tell you those 18-inch alloys are too small for the 520i.

To emerge not having scraped any underbody parts would’ve been a minor victory, but no, the BMW 520i not only crested the idiotically located speed bump with its poise intact, but it had also cushioned the impact and turned the minor panic moment into a non-event. I let out a laugh behind the wheel, relieved that the 520i isn’t weighed down by batteries, and is riding on lowered, M-Sport suspension.

Chrome parts of the Luxury trim line less obvious on silver, but still tasteful.

This isn’t a slight on either the 530e or the 530i M-Sport, but I’m not missing the former’s electric trickery or the latter’s sporty demenour as I choose to take the long way home in the ‘lowly’ 520i. BMW is famous for making superb inline sixes, but that reputation has overshadowed their equally excellent four cylinders. The lightly strung B48 motor under the 520i’s bonnet hums; the absence of mechanical grit and the cabin’s isolation from external disturbances is making my drive blissful.

Instead of having a gazillion horsepower and newton metre that’s nice to tell friends about, you get the satisfaction of knowing that the 520i isn’t exhausting any of its modest 181hp and 290Nm output to haul along weighty hybrid components or to overcome the inertia of oversized alloys, but only to excite the wheels that are located on the rear axle – the right axle.

Lightly strung 184hp and 290Nm 2.0-litre turbo four-pot mated to 8-speed auto is creamy smooth in operation.

Since the goalposts on vehicle acceleration been moved to ludicrous levels in the last few years, I can’t even describe the 520i as ‘fast’ anymore because idle to 100km/h in 7.8 seconds, in 2019, simply isn’t. But does it feel responsive and gathers speed quickly, even for those who likes a good thrash once a while? Definitely.

In the stately Luxury trim, the 520i employs tasteful amounts of chrome (on its exterior) and wears appropriately sized 18-inch shoes. In fact, it attracts no more attention than a Toyota Camry (which is arguably the more outstanding looking next to the G30 5-Series) and depending on one’s aversion to public displays of affluence, this may even be a good thing.

G30 5-Series is a comfy mid-sized executive sedan, but the best seat is right behind the steering wheel.

The 520i is proof that ride comfort and cushy leather seats can coexist with body control and steering precision – the least expensive 5-Series in Malaysia is somehow a balanced meal that’s also incredibly delicious, though for something that’s over RM300K, it misses a few key active safety functions which would’ve made it a complete diet.

I ignore the green signs pointing to the highway because I want to carry on driving, especially on roads that aren’t necessarily straight nor perfect, even in a downpour. The BMW 520i is that kind of car; unheralded and a well-kept secret, but for those in the know, this is all the 5-Series you’ll ever need.

BMW 520i Luxury
: RM328,800  Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl inline, turbocharged, RWD  Output: 184hp / 290Nm  Transmission: 8-speed auto  Performance: 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds; top speed 235km/h  Wheels/tyres: 245/45 R18 (F & R) Safety: 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control  Warranty: 5-year/unlimited mileage (inclusive of scheduled maintenance)