Not only the most practical 5-series, but also the most likeable
Autocar
12 September 2010

What is it

Our full examination of the new 5-series continues, with the combination of the entry-level four-cylinder diesel engine and the Touring bodyshell, tested on British roads.

As standard, the 2.0-litre diesel engine comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and stop-start to deliver the combination of 8.3sec 0-62mph pace and CO2 emissions of just 135g/km. Our test car, however, came with the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox, which, without stop-start, pushes emissions up to 139g/km.

What’s it like?

As the marginal increase in CO2 is not enough to move the 520d into a higher BIK category, we strongly recommend the £1495 automatic gearbox, as its taller top gear provides more refined motorway cruising. If there is one aspect in which the 5-series comprehensively trumps all its rivals, it is in the efficiency and refinement of the smaller-capacity diesels.

With an additional 60 litres of load space, the new Touring is now comparable with the current Audi A6 Avant but still trails the Mercedes E-class estate by 135 litres. Usefully, the Touring retains the previous model’s split tailgate. All 5-series Touring models get self-levelling rear air suspension as standard (the saloon uses coil springs).

It is not possible to option four-wheel steer or active anti-roll bars on a 520d, but variable-control damping is available, although our test car came with the standard passive dampers. Dynamically, the only upgrade fitted was bigger 18in alloys.

The suspension is not without fault – as with the SE-spec saloon, at times it feels too soft and at others too firm – but of all the 5-series variants we have tried to date, this is the most convincing. It is perhaps easier to overlook the loss of dynamic edge that has come with the adoption of electric steering in a more utilitarian variant.

Should I buy one?

Unless you must have the largest premium estate going, we can think of few reasons not to. Competitively priced, refined, efficient and in our opinion better looking than the saloon, it is our favourite Five yet.

Jamie Corstorphine

BMW 520d Touring SE

Price: £31,875; Top speed: 137mph; 0-62mph: 8.3sec; Economy: 53.3mpg; CO2: 139g/km; Kerb weight: 1790kg; Engine, type, cc: 4 cyls in line, 1995cc, turbodiesel; Power: 181bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 280lb ft at 1900-2750rpm; Gearbox: 8-spd automatic

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JezyG 24 September 2010

Re: BMW 520d Touring SE

a winding road wrote:

I'm not really keen on bmw's 2.0D engine. I used to run an 06 plate 320D touring with a manual box and the engine lacked the mid range punch you would come to expect with a derv drinker. Really felt like i was thrashing a petrol engine. Also I feel the 8.3secs 0-62mph with a 5 series is slightly optimistic. Really need a V6 and auto in such a big heavy car .

That was the older and more thirsty N47 2 litre 163 lump. The newer N47N 177 and now 184 unit with Piezo injectors new turbo ect is more frugal and powerful but also smoother and less laggy.

a winding road 22 September 2010

Re: BMW 520d Touring SE

I'm not really keen on bmw's 2.0D engine. I used to run an 06 plate 320D touring with a manual box and the engine lacked the mid range punch you would come to expect with a derv drinker. Really felt like i was thrashing a petrol engine. Also I feel the 8.3secs 0-62mph with a 5 series is slightly optimistic. Really need a V6 and auto in such a big heavy car .

JacobE 22 September 2010

Re: BMW 520d Touring SE

A bit surprised to see so few comments on this as it's a clear cut candidate for "All The Car You Will Ever Need." I think the shape is great and I really love the interior, first estate I'd be likely to consider for ownership, in 535d form in about 2-3 years.