Old reliable refresh

Old reliable refresh

It's hard to improve perfection, but BMW tries

The BMW 5 Series has long been the "go-to" model from the German automaker, offering customers sporty driving dynamics plus the latest technologies in luxurious packaging.

The current 5 Series (G30) is the seventh-generation model and has been in the market for several years. Yet, it still stands out in a market that also consists of fellow German rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6.

In Thailand, the 5 Series lineup consists of plug-in hybrid and diesel variants -- the 530e Elite (3.159 million baht), 530e M Sport (3.699 million baht) and the 520d M Sport (3.599 million baht) that are featured in this review.

While the hybrid models definitely shine with low fuel consumption when driven in the city with a fully charged battery, it's the diesel that's the true "all-rounder", offering a great balance between performance and long-distance fuel economy.

Design

The 5 Series has gone through mid-life updates including an enlarged kidney grille with a single-piece surround and slimmer adaptive LED headlights with L-shaped graphics. Thank God the front grille is just 20% larger, unlike the 4-Series and most recently the 7-Series, and helps the 5 Series to still maintain a well-proportioned face. The 520d I drove came with the M Sport package that adds newly designed aerodynamic features around the car, including new front air intakes.

There are 18-inch M light-alloy wheels with low-profile run-flat tyres, while the window frames feature a new high-gloss black trim that gives the side profile a sporty appearance. Although it doesn't stand out too much on the road (is it a 3 Series?), the 5 Series still maintains core BMW styling. The Hoffmeister kink at the C-pillar reminds you of the classic BMW design trademark that is slowly disappearing from newer models as the brand enters the EV age.

The rear end design has been cleaned up with reduced lines, and features LED indicator lights, also with L-shaped graphics (3D). There's a rear diffuser courtesy of the M Sport package along with trapezoidal exhaust tip.

The cabin comes with a choice of black or cognac leather upholstery and Sensatec-covered instrument panel, plus smoke grey/pearl chrome finish, M Sport multi-function steering wheel and electrically-powered sport front seats with memory. The materials and build quality are what you'd expect from BMW.

The driving position is on the sporty side, with the M Sport front seats coming with large side bolsters, and although there are plenty of adjustments available including lumbar, those looking for extreme comfort could be somewhat disappointed. The doors open wide, and there is also automatic lock/unlocking, but getting in and out requires some effort as the seats are pretty low. In terms of space, there is plenty of legroom thanks to the long wheelbase of almost three metres.

The displays are run by BMW Operating System 7 which comes with a large number of personalisation options.

All displays are top-notch, including the head-up display, BMW Live Cockpit Professional and 12.3-inch centre touchscreen. The graphics on the instrument panel looks modern, but the new BMW counter-clockwise tachometer is a downer. I don't think anyone likes it -- a classic view for the speedometer and rev counter would surely be appreciated by Beemer fans.

Having said that BMW still offers a conventional single-disc CD player with the Harman Kardon sound system, as well as manual controls for the dual-zone climate control system, which is great. The i-Drive controller has become a standard feature and is easy to use.

There are a ton of high-tech features in the 5 Series, but the one that's really cool when driving in tight spaces is the Rear Drive Assist (which can reconstruct the last 50m of the route driven in reverse). There are various control options in the cabin, including voice with the BMW Assistant, as well as hand gesture.

The luggage compartment lid comes with a kick gesture and has a capacity of 530 litres, compared to just 410 litres for the hybrid models (due to the battery pack).

Performance

Here is where you expect high marks from any BMW, and the 520d M Sport does not disappoint.

It's powered by a two-litre in-line four diesel with multi-stage turbocharging, capable of producing 190hp and 400Nm. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the engine propels the 520d from 0-100kph in 7.5sec and to a top speed of 235kph.

There are shift paddles behind the steering wheel for convenience, but for those who like to use the gearshift lever, the manual mode is also practical. Push the lever forward for downshifting and pull it back for upshifts.

The BMW diesel engine is remarkably smooth-revving and quiet, providing a pleasurable long-distance drive. It's also great in terms of fuel economy, officially badged with a 20kpl average fuel consumption (Eco Sticker), giving it a driving range of over 1,000kms on a single tank of fuel (66 litres).

The steering/suspension is another area where the 5 Series scores high points. The steering is accurate and well-weighted, and the round steering wheel design is more convenient to use than D-shaped ones and if you choose to disengage the lane-keeping assistant, the setting is memorised so you don't have to do it every time you re-start the engine.

The front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension gets the M Sport settings that are pretty stiff for a luxury car, and would not please comfort seekers (the run-flat tyres don't help either). They would be better off with the adaptive suspension offered in the 530e M Sport. But in terms of driving pleasure, it's way up there, offering no-nonsense handling and loads of grip during high-speed cornering. Note that both 530e variants are 210kg heavier, and wouldn't be as nimble as the 520d when changing directions.

The M Sport package in the 520d does not include eye-catching M callipers painted in red, but the standard vented disc brakes all-round is good enough, providing short stopping distances and a firm pedal feel.

Verdict

The BMW 520d M Sport is a typical BMW saloon that can be chauffeur-driven or driven personally on a daily basis. It's fun to drive, has great fuel economy, comes with loads of equipment and surrounds you with a high level of luxury. You just can't go wrong with this one.

Pros: Driving dynamics, high-quality interior, great fuel economy
Cons: Stiff suspension, slightly outdated styling

Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (4)

Evacuations as Russia advances in Ukraine's Donbas

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine: The evacuation of civilians from Sloviansk continued Wednesday as Russian troops pressed towards the eastern Ukrainian city in their campaign to control the Donbas region, as Ireland's prime minister visited Kyiv.

19:45

Discrimination

Dual pricing bombshell: Government plans to charge foreign tourists more than Thais for hotel rooms.

19:14

National artist Sor Plainoi dies at 93

Sombat Plainoi, a national artist and writer, has died due to complications from Covid-19 at the age of 93.

18:38