2017 BMW 520d

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Make no mistake, the latest generation BMW 540i is one of our favourite cars of 2017, wowing us with its supreme blend of power, comfort, refinement and advanced gadgetry. It is the epitome of a desirable German sedan and what has made BMW the coveted brand it is today. However, getting our hands on a 520d caused us to reflect to what extent were we being bedazzled by 6-cylinder power and all the optional extras, as opposed to the car’s basic capabilities?

BMW 520d

Say hello to the BMW 520d. “20d” spells a frugal 2.0-litre diesel with 140kW of power and a potent 400Nm of torque and relatively low price tag of $82,400 plus on road cost. Then with diesel use 4.3L/100km and CO2 only 114g/km, ADR combined, it has very low running cost and is environmentally responsible.

The BMW 520d is wider, longer and taller than the outgoing model, yet thanks to a clever mix of high-strength steel, aluminium and magnesium, is up 100kg lighter depending on model. And with a wheelbase that measures nearly three metres long, interior space is never an issue.

In material terms, it is every bit as luxurious as you would expect. The dashboard is adorned with large swathes of polished wood and silvers of brushed aluminium, and practically everywhere else you touch you will find plush leather.

There are plenty of gadgets to play with. The main highlight to astound passengers is called “Gesture Control”, which allows you to switch radio stations or music tracks, adjust volume or take phone calls just by waving or swiping your hand at the 10.25-inch touchscreen. We also found the Heads Up Display on the windscreen very useful when displaying detected speed limit alongside current speed, to avoid fines!

Another nifty piece of tech is the Display Key, a smart key fob with a colour screen that allows remotely checking car fuel level, whether doors are locked, as well as starting the ventilation system whilst still walking towards it. Definitely more head-turning in front of you at dinner than a brand-new smartphone.

Elsewhere, there are Adaptive LED headlights, soft-closing doors all round, an ambient interior lighting package, a fully digital instrument cluster and of course the latest version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system.

The 520d, like the 530i is a Luxury trim model so it only loses the M Sport kit, that some might find appealing, but in day-to-day driving you lose very little otherwise: all major safety, comfort and convenience points are still there, such as both 5-star Euro and ANCAP safety ratings, six airbags, iDrive with navigation, multi-zone air-con, keyless start and go, automatic tailgate, stability control and brake assist.

Like its bigger brother 7-Series, the 520d handles twisty roads well, with good level of stiffness and balance. As with many modern cars fully electric power steering does mean somewhat less feel may be transmitted to the steering wheel. Body control is hard to fault and body roll looks far more dramatic in pictures than it felt in the car.

The 520d suspension handles rough and pothole ridden roads well, with not much cause for complaint. I was surprised the diesel engine is not noisy - it is wrapped in insulation to keep noise levels down. You can still hear the characteristic clatter on start-up or standing next to the car, but inside you barely hear it, even at idle.

There is enough power in the four-cylinder turbodiesel to send the 520d to 100km/h in under 7.5 seconds. Once up to speed the 520d makes for an effortless cruiser, the eight-speed rear-wheel-drive auto keeps the engine rpm low, at a steady lope, while offering seamless shifts if the need to overtake arises.

The calm and serenity inside the car is not all thanks to the drivetrain though, serious attention has also been paid to aerodynamics. The underside of the car is full of channels that optimise airflow; the kidney grille has louvres in it that can close if cooling airflow is not required. There are air inlets and outlets in the front bumper and fenders that prevent the build-up of turbulence in the wheel arches.

In short, the 520d is much lower in price than the 540i, but at least 90 percent as good.
  • Engine: 1,992.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel rear-wheel drive
  • Power: 140kW at 4,000rpm
  • Torque: 400Nm at 1,750 – 2,500rpm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Fuel tank: 66 litres
  • Fuel: 4.3L/100km (ADR Combined)
  • CO2: 114g/km (ADR Combined)
$82,400 plus on-road costs