While one can understand executives want to feel…well, executive, and the visual statement of this is the large luxury company car, there is a question of practicality.
Given the conspiracy by architects to design underground parking bays in townhouse complexes and shopping malls with spaces barely wide enough to fit a motorcycle let alone a behemoth luxury vehicle, the pressure is mounting to go smaller in the city.
The BMW 520d is just such a car and, while its CO2 at 124 g/km does not impact the pocket greatly considering its R834 900 price tag, there is quite a hefty perks tax consideration.
Large used to be a requirement of luxury, but there are so many medium and small cars around today offering exactly the same levels of luxury, safety and driver convenience features.
Naturally there are counter arguments – the space is needed to transport business colleagues and/or family and…well, that is where they kind of run out or, I cannot think of any more.
The BMW 520 is a big car, no question. However, it does not feel like a big car on the road and this, perhaps is a reason cars of this size still hold that popularity. It is easy to drive, easy to manoeuvre and, despite the attempts by the architects, easy to park.
In fact, the more I drove the car the more I became absorbed into that luxury cocoon and the more it became a natural experience as opposed to the feeling I was piloting the Queen Mary – it is a kind of insidious seduction, and we are not even close to the over-the-top levels of luxury of a 7-Series.
The 5-Series recently underwent an upgrade and specification tweak with new functions and additional options in the areas of light technology, operation, comfort and connectivity.
The 2,0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine for the BMW 520d remained unchanged with 140 kW at 4 000 r/min and 400 Nm at 1 750 r/min returning an overall fuel consumption of 5,6 l/100 km. It rushes to 100 km/h in 7,5 seconds and has a top speed of 235 km/h and drives through an 8-speed Steptronic transmission.
Torque delivery is near instantaneous and delivered across a ridiculously wide rev range, providing a relaxed perambulation and effortless overtaking.
A 70 kg weight loss achieved thanks to the use of much more aluminium in key components such as body panels and suspension is responsible for reducing the 0-100km/h time by two-tenths to 7,5 sec.
However, this is the quietest I have ever experienced it, whether at start-up, idle or on the move; certainly an improvement on the previous 5-series. Road and wind noise kept well in check. Past the 2 000 r/min mark there is a touch of diesel clatter in normal drive mode but, click into Sport and this becomes more of an earthy (and pleasing) rumble.
The seventh-generation BMW 5 Series may not look all that different to the old one – a deliberate move translated into design speak as ‘evolutionary’ – and tweaks see the side bead line and rear Hofmeister kink in the C-pillar linked for the first time, the drag co-efficient drops to 0,24 thanks in part to auto-closing grille shutters and there are some very slight dimensional increases.
As with most BMW models, a genuine ‘base’ unit is hard to find and there are a host of option packages such as the Comfort Package that adds (must have) power boot lid, high-beam assist and heated seats for example.
The test unit came with the M Sport Package with mixed Run flat tyres on 19-inch wheels, electrically adjustable sport seats for driver and front passenger and M Sport suspension with Dynamic Damper Control.
There is a fully loaded i-Drive system with touchscreen, gesture control, touch pad and click-wheel operation along with 360deg surround cameras, hands-free parking, four-zone climate control, ‘Dakota’ leather seats, paddle shifters, adaptive LED headlamps and a sunroof.
Rear seating has been rejigged and the seat position is not as low as previously, enhancing headroom – leg and knee room remaining just what one would expect from a large luxury sedan.
On the road, the Comfort mode certainly does result in a bit more float and bounce at higher speeds – along with the nicety of the extra cushioning over rougher surfaces and around potholes. Sport tunes up the suspension and steering and makes the twisty bits a lot more fun, although having grown in size since the iconic E60 version, it is not quite the point-and-squirt it used to be.
However, it really is a luxury cruiser and most owners will not be trying to shave milliseconds off a time en route to the office.
If large luxury is the primary reason for purchase, the BMW 520d satisfies in all departments.
(images: BMW – spec may different to vehicle tested)