D-Cup | BMW 520d

BY Azfar Hashim

Big is good for some… err, we’re talking about engines here. But BMW proves that in reality, a medium- sized turbodiesel with refinement is all you need

Photos: Azfar Hashim

BMW’s 5 Series needs no introduction. But if you insist on one, then I reckon you were caught in some sort of time warp prior to this; in case you did not know (tsk… tsk…), the 5 Series is Singapore’s best selling and highly sought after luxury sedan across the board.

An afternoon along Shenton Way will let you see even young executives driving body-kitted ones. While along Bukit Timah, tai-tais after tai-tais are happily driving one. Head into industrial areas in Woodlands and Jurong and you see middle-aged ‘unkers’ moving around in it. Be it the first batch F10 523i to the force-fed ‘entry-level’ 520i, the brilliant 528i to the full-blown 535i, the 5 Series has become a staple on our roads. Oh, and that includes the M5.

When the facelifted 5 Series arrived in our market, the local BMW dealer also quietly brought in another variant: the diesel 5 Series, the 520d. This, in my opinion, is the variant to get if you want to stand out from the rest of the 5 Series crowd. Or besides the fact that you are still skeptical about hybrids (yes, I am referring to the ActiveHybrid5 that costs $350k)…

It has a very simple formula: Under the bonnet lies a Euro V 2.0-litre 4-cylinder (sorry, not 6) turbocharged diesel engine and paired to an 8-speed transmission, you have hot-hatch chasing 184 bhp and sportscar tailing 380 Nm worth of torque to play around with. It needs only 7.9 seconds to hit 100 km/h from standstill, and maxes out at 231 km/h; the latter more than enough for you to stick to the fastest lane along the North-South highway (#justsaying).

I was given the key to the 520d you see here for half a week and it was very well utilized. You see, it had been driven all over our island running errands, clocking ridiculous-by-local-standard mileage.

Besides the obvious noteworthy fuel consumption (BMW rated it at about 21km/L, but in the real world, the 70-litres of diesel returned 16 km/L — good enough still), the one thing that really impresses most was how refined the engine is. You do not hear the diesel clatter while in the cabin, be it while idling or cruising the expressway. And this is a very important trait as buyers in this class are very particular.

The 520d does a brisk job of closing gaps in traffic and during that morning rush to the office, overtaking is effortless. Even the transmission was keeping up with the right foot’s demand, although to have an even more satisfying drive, I would recommend ‘Sport’ mode and swap gears via the paddle-shifter.

In terms of handling, the 520d is still there leading its peers: this rear-wheel driven luxury sedan still delivers the perfect balance of handling/comfort, with class-leading steering feel and response present. Although running on tall 225/55 R-17 comfort-biased Pirelli Cinturato P7 rubbers, you can still throw it fast into sweeping corners before the ESC light starts flickering (“slow down, fool!”).

Inside, the 520d gets the usual German high-level build quality together with good amounts of head and legroom for all occupants. Somehow, the all-black treatment seen in the test car here works really well: very classy, very opulent. Getting a comfortable driving position is not much of an issue too.

Replacing the ‘traditional’ analogue display meters is digital LCD ones, providing clear and concise details you always need while driving; especially the speedometer for keeping your driving license’s validity.

As a whole, there is nothing negative to report on the 520d. So it may not get sunroof or fancy big alloys as standard; in fact, this is the barest 5 Series we have here. But it delivers enough punch for the daily grind, better fuel consumption compared to all the petrol luxury sedan available today, surprisingly high level of engine refinement and last but not least, the typical BMW handling capability.

If I were to win this week’s Big Sweep, this is the first car I would buy. No kiddin’…