From £29,250
Frugal yet still punchy enough to prevent you being embarrassed at the traffic light GP
29 October 2005

What’s new?

There’s nothing new about the engine, it’s the same turbodiesel four-cylinder that’s already fitted to both the 1- and 3-series. The news is that it’s now found in the 5-series saloon and Touring. A manual six-speed ’box is standard and a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission is available as a £1450 option.

What’s it like?

You know it’s a diesel for the first two minutes after it’s started, but once it’s warm you forget. The next thought is that 2.0 litres is too weedy for a 5-series, but with 163bhp and 250lb ft of torque matched to a six-speed gearbox there’s plenty of performance.

If any doubts linger, remember that you’ll be getting 47.9mpg on average. It might not have the bang of BMW’s bigger diesels, but this unit is refined, smooth and more than powerful enough for the job. Take the badges off and the Joneses will be none the wiser, and even more impressed if you opt for a Touring version.

Audi’s turbodiesel 2.0 TDi A6 beats the 5-series offering on price, but its 138bhp gives away 25bhp to the BMW. It’s the same for Mercedes: even the C220 CDI can’t match the 520d’s performance.

Should I buy one?

We don’t see why not, especially if you like the controversial 5-series looks. We drove the £26,235 SE, but below that in the range there’s the entry-level 520d at £25,925. These prices make this pair the two least expensive 5-series models available, and they are both practically bargains by BMW standards.

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