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