Ic­ing on the en­tree

The base model 5 Series is a diesel but it’s far from hum­ble, with clever tech and snappy per­for­mance

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Pres­tige - CRAIG DUFF [email protected]

TRY too hard to please ev­ery­one and the re­sults can be un­pleas­ant. BMW’s new­est 5 Se­ries takes this ap­proach and just about gets away with it.

It is the most driver-fo­cused pres­tige sedan in town, the in­te­rior is de­cid­edly more up­mar­ket than the pre­vi­ous model and the elec­tron­ics ap­proach ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

By way of ex­am­ple the adap­tive cruise con­trol uses 17 sen­sors and six cam­eras to scan the road and keep the car in its lane with “au­ton­o­mous” driv­ing for up to 30 sec­onds at a stretch.

Re­ally clever “look at me” fea­tures, such as the re­mote con­trol park­ing, still re­quire a few ticks on the op­tions sheet but even the en­try level 520d tested here has a head-up dis­play, 10.2-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen, sur­round-view cam­era and the abil­ity to use a smart­phone app to heat or cool the in­te­rior be­fore the driver gets into the ve­hi­cle.

All that tech isn’t cheap as the 520d starts at $93,900 be­fore on-road costs, against $84,800 for the pre­vi­ous model. I’d

in­vest an­other $2150 in the adap­tive dampers and that’s about it. Those who in­sist on be­ing seen with all the toys should drop $2100 on the In­no­va­tions pack, bundling a dis­play key (it has an in-built screen), ges­ture con­trol (which works in­ter­mit­tently) for such func­tions as the au­dio vol­ume and ac­cept­ing/end­ing a call, along with the re­mote park­ing.

They’re party tricks you’ll use oc­ca­sion­ally to im­press friends rather than es­sen­tial fea­tures but it gives you an in­di­ca­tion of how se­ri­ously car brands re­search the lat­est tech to try to gain a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.

The 530L boot is built to take nu­mer­ous golf bags and all seats are com­fort­able places to perch with de­cent head and legroom.

ON THE ROAD

The 5 Se­ries isn’t as iso­lated from its en­vi­ron­ment as its di­rect ri­vals and for some, that’s a bonus. It doesn’t iron out the bumps so much as mod­u­late them, giv­ing the driver more feed­back at the ex­pense of mi­nor move­ments in the cabin.

Per­for­mance from the 2.0-litre diesel is im­pres­sive and akin to a tug­boat shift­ing a freighter — it doesn’t seem pos­si­ble but hap­pens any­way.

The eight-speed au­to­matic shares brag­ging rights here, seam­lessly shift­ing up and down re­gard­less of the load on the ac­cel­er­a­tor and con­tribut­ing to the 520d feel­ing more sprightly than its 7.5-sec­ond run to triple fig­ures sug­gests. It’s no sports sedan — the 540i and M5 fill that role — but the bal­anced chas­sis makes it an en­gag­ing car to pi­lot.

Turn the 5 Se­ries into a cor­ner and the steer­ing con­veys ev­ery twitch from the front tyres. Grip is great — you’re go­ing to be re­ally un­lucky or rag­ingly over­con­fi­dent to run out of ad­he­sion.

Thirst, or the lack thereof, is a big part of the 520d’s ap­peal. We logged 5.2L/100km with some solid driv­ing, against an of­fi­cial claim of 4.3L.

Cabin in­su­la­tion is a high­light, with the diesel rarely in­trud­ing on the chat on free­way drives. The build qual­ity is ev­ery­thing you’d ex­pect from a BMW cost­ing nearly $100K. The in­te­rior, though re­fined, can’t match the lat­est Mercedes E-Class. The lat­ter’s info screen, em­bed­ded in the dash, is rather more slick than the Beemer’s tablet-style dis­play.

VER­DICT

As an en­tree into the 5 Se­ries range, the 520d is all you need to im­press, par­tic­u­larly if driv­ing dy­nam­ics are the pri­or­ity. It’s not go­ing to tear up the tar­mac but you will exit the car with a sat­is­fied smile.

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