2014 BMW 520d review, test drive
30th Jan 2014 7:15 am
The updated BMW 520d gets more equipment and minor styling tweaks, we assess the improvements.
BMW chose to be very subtle with its facelift, and the visual updates are rather few. The headlights are now slimmer, all-LED units, there are new front and rear bumpers with more metallic accents, the wheel size has gone up to 18 inches, and the grille is more upright now and finished in matte silver on this ‘Modern’ trim. It certainly looks more premium and contemporary, but it’s not hugely different from the outgoing car.
On the inside, the 520d's cabin has been given a few small updates that help it feel a bit more luxurious. The steering wheel and dashboard top are finished in beige leather instead of black, the wood is a lighter colour, and there are added brushed silver embellishments on the dash and wheel. The 520d gets the smaller 6.5-inch screen for its iDrive computer and misses out on the touch-pad controller that the 530d gets, but all 5-series models get a high-tech instrument panel instead of actual speedo and tachometer dials. These even change their appearance depending on if the car is set to Comfort, Sport or Eco Pro mode. The driving position is nice, but the dashboard top and window sills are a bit high, which takes a little getting used to.
At the rear, the 520d's seats are generously bolstered and offer great support all-round. However, the downside of this is that, combined with the sharply angled rear door, this excessive cushioning makes getting in and out a bit tricky. A big change over the old car is that the front seats have now been made slimmer, so you don’t feel as cooped up sitting in the back.
There's a lot of safety kit. The 520d gets eight airbags, full leather interiors, a sunroof, paddle shifters for the gearbox, electrically adjustable front seats with memory, electric steering adjustment, Bluetooth and USB support, fuel-saving engine stop-start system, iDrive and a rear-view camera. There's also an aux-in port, dual-zone automatic climate control and an electronic parking brake. We did wish BMW would offer a full-size spare wheel though.
This 520d is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces 181bhp and 38.8kgm of pulling power. This is channeled through the same fantastic eight-speed automatic gearbox, and as before, the shifts are quick and smooth.
The BMW’s engine lives up to the car’s billing of being fun to drive. It revs very easily, spins effortlessly (for a diesel), and power delivery is quick and snappy, no doubt helped by the gearbox. However, the noise that accompanies this performance is a bit too much for a luxury car in this segment, and we’d have liked more refinement. It is quite efficient though. On fuel economy, the 520d managed to return 10.3kpl in the city and its 70-litre tank means you can expect to go at least 700km between fill ups.
At city speeds, the 5-series appears very comfortable, with only a mild jiggle felt over sharp bumps. The moment you go quicker, however, you notice that it pitches and bobs a lot over road imperfections. Highway expansion joints and lumps in tarmac cause it to rock back and forth like a boat. However, the steering is very accurate, and feels solid at high speeds, allowing you to enjoy the car a bit. It’s still a BMW though, so it responds well if you drive it enthusiastically, but it always feels big when you steer it.
BMW has concentrated on updating the interiors of its bestseller, and it’s clear, it has succeeded big time. The insides of the car are no longer just attractive but now feel genuinely rich and plush. The car has plenty of power and the fantastic eight-speed gearbox helps make it very flexible to drive too. With this mid-life update, there's now more reason to spend the Rs 49.2 lakh it takes to get one.