From £29,2508
Mid-life 5-series facelift brings with it a new, cheaper entry-level diesel option

Our Verdict

BMW 5 Series

The BMW 5 Series offers a compelling blend of all-round abilities, but wants specifying carefully

  • First Drive

    BMW 520d SE Saloon Auto review

    Buying a 5-series was always a no-brainer, and this facelift has cemented its place at the top of the executive class
  • First Drive

    BMW 518d saloon first drive review

    New entry-level diesel 5-series is a great car in the right specification but it faces stiff competition from the excellent Audi A6 Ultra
Matt Prior
23 October 2013

What is it?

You know how we say that choosing dynamic options carefully is crucial when specifying an executive German saloon? In the case of the BMW 5-series, we might have stumbled on a lovely combination.

First, details of the rest of the 5-series’ facelift, which we’ve now driven in the UK. The mid-life refresh brings with it the introduction of a new base diesel model, the 518d, while other engines now meet Euro 6 emissions levels. There are also a few exterior and interior updates. 

The exterior ones you’ll become familiar with over time, such as the additional contours around the grille and a restyle around the lower air dam. Inside, the styling is much the same, but satellite navigation now comes as standard and more of BMW’s connectivity technologies have been incorporated.

What's it like?

Pretty small changes, then, which is fine on a car that, depending on how it’s specified, nudges around the class lead. The bigger news on the spec sheet, although not expected to steal that many sales from the existing 520d, is an entry-level 518d with 141bhp, sitting beneath the previous diesel range-starter, the 181bhp 520d. Underneath the headline power figure lies the same 2.0-litre unit, but while it gives away 40bhp to the 520d, it only lags behind by 14lb ft. 

The lower-powered unit is also no less smooth and refined. It pulls cleanly from 1500rpm, with the most convincing vigour arriving between 2000 and 3500rpm, but it will spin above 5000rpm. A marginally shorter final drive than in the 520d gives the 518d a respectable 0-62mph time of 9.7sec, but it also means that it offers no economy advantage over a 520d. 

Both return 62.8mpg combined and emit 119g/km of CO2, but with less compulsion to work a 520d to get results, and with its longer final drive, the more powerful car probably has the real-world advantage. Hence, with most 5-series bought as company cars, and the £1700 list price difference likely to manifest itself as a few quid a month off the pay slip, the 520d will remain the choice.

What I was pretty keen on, though, is the dynamic set-up of the 518d we tried. It had adaptive dampers (we’re still to try a 5-series without them; please send all offers to Autocar Towers), with the standard 17-inch rims shod with 225/55 R17 rubber. Admittedly it’s run-flat rubber, but even so, the 518d rode with genuine compliance while retaining fine control of its body movements, and the steering, albeit a touch less incisive than bigger-rimmed models from the straight-ahead, had a lovely, progressive build-up of weight and something approximating feel.

Should I buy one?

In short, and in this spec, the 518d felt like an old-fashioned German executive car, with a loping gait and a beautiful consistency to its controls. Chuck the slightly more powerful donkey in it and you have a seriously fine car in which to sit all day long.

BMW 518d SE

Price £29,830; 0-62mph 9.7sec; Top speed 132mph; Economy 62.8mpg (combined); CO2 119g/km; Kerb weight 1690kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1995cc, turbodiesel; Power 141bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 266lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
15

jer

23 October 2013

Try looking nationally for a s/h 5 series with adaptive dampers, last time I looked it was a couple percent only and these must be to be avoided ex press cars Wink . They really should be standard if BM want to live up to their strap line.

A "518" M-Sport an oxymoron?

23 October 2013
jer wrote:

Try looking nationally for a s/h 5 series with adaptive dampers, last time I looked it was a couple percent only

We usually buy our vehicles ex-BMW staff cars, 6 months old with around 2-3,000 miles.

We searched months and months for an F31 3 series with adaptive dampers. In 6 months' searching, we only found one, and then, the dealer (Sytner Birmingham) played silly buggers - saying the price they could sell to us had to be £1,200 higher than the price at which they were advertising it. (Huh?)

In the end, after a heated discussion with the dealer, we ordered a new one - but from another dealer, of course.

Verdict on the Adaptive Dampers? Worth every penny. And yes, BMW should make them standard.

23 October 2013

Autocar really do need to look at more standard cars. I know they can only drive what the manufacturer supplies but, like jer said, take rates for these types of adaptive damper options is minute.

The driving experience described when testing these cars only matches a fraction of the real-world market, something has to give.


23 October 2013
bomb wrote:

Autocar really do need to look at more standard cars. I know they can only drive what the manufacturer supplies but, like jer said, take rates for these types of adaptive damper options is minute.

The driving experience described when testing these cars only matches a fraction of the real-world market, something has to give.

Autocar are clearly aware of the problem, as the following quote demonstrates: " It had adaptive dampers (we’re still to try a 5-series without them; please send all offers to Autocar Towers)"

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

23 October 2013

New 2.0D4 in S80, 104 CO2'S, 0-60 8.4secs, 70.6 mpg, yet when tested in the S60 A/C didn't rate it.. If they couldn't lower the co2 from the 520 then why bother?!

23 October 2013

So, you have to pay extra to make these ugly cars handle correctly. I think BMW are taking the P*ss as there is little other reason to buy a BMW, it not like they are pretty, their technical abilities are their reason for being otherwise you may as well buy something better looking that handles about the same.

23 October 2013

Huh? Maybe for you. You wouldn't believe the amount of derision I had to take when I "downgraded" from a BMW 3 series to a VW Golf. I kept explaining that the Golf was so complete a car, that I'd rather keep the 7k difference and invest it for the future... to which the majority of people replied "but you could have got a BMW or AUDI!".

90% of the people I know don't care about how well their car drives, as long as its reasonably competent. They do care about identifying themselves with a prestigious brand. Actually to be fair, only a couple of them are snobs. The others are really busy and use brands to shortlist. They wouldn't know or care about what adaptive dampers are and what they do.

A bog standard debadged 518d with leather and an auto box will be right up their street!

23 October 2013
405line wrote:

So, you have to pay extra to make these ugly cars handle correctly. I think BMW are taking the P*ss as there is little other reason to buy a BMW, it not like they are pretty, their technical abilities are their reason for being otherwise you may as well buy something better looking that handles about the same.

Looks are a subjective thing. You might not like it, but others might. More to point, where exactly did the article state that: "you have to pay extra to make these ugly cars handle correctly"?

23 October 2013

When you start adding up the price of all these options, speccing a BMW to the level recommended by motoring journalists starts to become expensive. My father was faced with the above dilemma (albeit on a 3 series) and in the end went for the superb 8 speed auto and standard dampers. If you can't have both, my advice is go for the automatic - it makes a much bigger difference to the driving experience.

23 October 2013

If the 5 series is on your shopping list then this new engine option looks promising and ripe for remapping? Save your £1700, spend £4/500 on fettling it back up to 180 bhp and coupled with the shorter final drive ratio you have a slightly faster more economical and better riding 520d ?

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