Being a jack of all trades is definitely not easy. Especially if you also want to do at least half the jobs well. In order to understand what that must be like, you need to step into the shoes of a BMW engineer who worked on the new 5 Series. As a matter of fact, that has been the job description of all 5ers ever made. So instead, consider yourself invited into the shoes of every engineer who ever worked on a 5 Series for BMW.
To add insult to injury, the same job description applies for the designers. They need to be able to pen a car that can be described as both elegant, aggressive and sporty at times. Do you have what it takes? If so, you’re probably already working for BMW.
The reason why bringing such a car to life seems so hard to do is actually BMW’s own fault. They are paying the price for bringing out better cars with each new generation. Over the course of 40 years, the 5 Series evolved and became better and better, culminating with the G30 model that we have in dealerships today. Having invented its own segment back in the day, you wouldn’t expect anything less from the Bavarians and today, all reviews seem to point out that the G30 5 Series is back on top after being briefly dethroned by the E-Class.
Looking at the range of engines available for the 5 Series you suddenly start to realize that the chassis it’s using needs to cover an extremely wide range of needs. From those looking for the ultimate performance and driving experience aboard the M5 to those family guys needing practicality, comfort and efficiency. For the latter folks, that’s where the 520d Efficient Dynamics steps in.
This is claimed to be the most efficient BMW 5 Series ever made by the Bavarians and after a couple of days with it, we’re starting to believe them. Under the hood of the new 520d ED hides the same engine as on the regular flavor 520d and that’s a first for cars wearing the Efficient Dynamics badge. Up until recently, these super-efficient models used to come with slightly reworked mills that usually had less power than the normal cars. For example, the F30 320d the Efficient Dynamics version is powered by a 2-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine making 163 HP instead of 190 HP. However, that’s not the case here, as I said, and the 520d ED comes with the fully fledged 190 HP and 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) of torque of the B47 engine. And while I expected it to be rough and noisy as it turned out to be on the MINI Countryman Cooper SD, on the 5 Series the exact same engine was as quiet and soft as a whisper.
It wasn’t by mistake that Forbes Japan claimed that the 523d Japanese-market model is the quietest 5 Series in the range. It’s actually quite amazing how little sound makes its way inside the cabin from the engine bay. I’m even more impressed as I was coming from a BMW M760Li xDrive, a car using a V12 engine with a balance hard to match by any other engine configuration. Therefore, I was quite impressed with the effort BMW put into isolating the noisy hum of the 4-cylinder B47 mill from the occupants of the car. The only situation in which I actually heard it roar was when I took it close to the redline for some overtaking.
Of course, in terms of power and acceleration there were some rather big differences between the 520d and the M760Li but when you’re stuck in traffic, doing 15 mph, the 600 hp of the M760Li become just a figure on paper while the 520d ED starts to shine. One thing that also contributed a lot to the image of a classy athlete was the fact that, since the Efficient Dynamics edition is configured to be as efficient as possible, you do spend a lot of time coasting around town. That means the engine is just idling and you’re wafting away towards a red light, keeping things eerily quiet.
That’s just one of the things that separates the run of the mill 520d from the 520d ED version. Another one you can notice from the get go is the fact that, unlike most other BMWs, which start in Comfort mode, the 520d ED started in Eco Pro mode as its default setting. That means that unless you configured Eco Pro mode to your own preferred settings, once you started the engine, the car’s systems would make sure the AC would be turned down, while the gearbox would upshift five times or more by the time you reach 40 mph, all to sip as little fuel as possible.
It was quite surprising just how soon the car would upshift when in the default Eco Pro mode. Combined with the coasting, you only get to see the rev counter go up over 2,000 RPM if you really push it. In full disclosure, you rarely get to see the tachometer at all in the 520d ED because of the new instrument cluster that replaces the rev counter with a power display when in Eco Pro mode.
And that’s completely fine because the car reaches its maximum torque at 1,750 rpm and therefore you bask in down-low torque all the time. The engine is powerful enough to handle its 1,600 kg (3,527 lbs), which is more than just okay for a car of this size. Sure, it’s not going to be a land rocket, the 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) sprint taking 7.5 seconds but, then again, not everyone’s looking to break speed records when behind the wheel.
The issues most people will have with the 520d ED model will arise on the highway. That’s because at speeds over 130 km/h (78 mph), when the car has four adults on board and their luggage, the extra weight will become noticeable and acceleration spurts will take longer than usual. Therefore, if you’re thinking this is the perfect car for drag racing on the highway you might want to look elsewhere.
On the other hand, if you’re careful with the throttle you’ll easily cover 1,000 km (over 620 miles) on a full tank and I’m not talking only about highway cruising here. During my time with the car, I spent about 40% of my time inside the city and 60% of it on the highway and I covered 950 km (close to 600 miles) with one tank of diesel. Around town the on-board computer showed a fuel consumption of around 6.7 l/100 km up to 7.5 l/100 km (31.3 to 35.1 mpg). Mind you that’s in the world’s fifth most congested city in the world, so I’m guessing in other parts of the planet, those numbers would be considerably different. Out on the highway, I couldn’t get lower than 5.5 l/100 km (42.7 mpg) but that’s more than decent in my book, considering the average speed was 110 km/h (68 mph).
Therefore, this would be the ideal car for a family man or woman looking to buy a car that wouldn’t hurt their wallet whenever they decide to go for a longer drive or maybe a fun trip with the family. However, they would be also be interested in the cabin and luggage space when deciding and the 5 Series does great in that regard as well.
Up front the driver and the passenger get a lot of room inside. The new 5 Series is actually more spacious than its main rivals in this regard, offering more leg room and head room than the Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, even though the two other German cars are newer. Due to the high roof line and the fact that the front seats slide a long way back, you won’t have any issues. Getting in isn’t difficult either, the doors opening wide and allowing you to get in and out with ease. Of course, you’re going to have to find a wide enough parking space in order to use these wide-opening doors to their full potential in the first place but that’s a different story.
The things one can complain about up front is the fact that the door cubbies can only take small bottles of water, an issue most BMWs have. Other than that, the glovebox is a decent size and the storage space in the center console can fit keys and wallets with ease, being quite wide and deep.
As for the back seats, two full grown adults will fit in easily but it would be quite a stretch to fit three of them back there. There’s ample headroom but the person sitting in the middle would be riding a bit higher than the other two because of the seat configuration and transmission tunnel. And if in terms of headroom, the 5 Series bodes better than the E-Class in terms of leg room the Merc does seem to be the winner. The seats are comfortable though and the doors do open wide.
The boot has a capacity of 530 liters and that’s a bit smaller than the E-Class but only by a fraction. The space is well split and you can also use the underfloor storage for smaller items. The main issue is the opening, which does have a tall lip which can be annoying at times. Nevertheless, it’s more than decent for the luggage needed for four people going on a one-week trip. To top everything off, the 5 Series range can be fitted with automatically opening boot lids, that can be activated by simply kicking your foot under the rear bumper. While it may seem gimmicky at first, it does come in handy, especially when you have your hands full.
Therefore, there are pros and cons to buying the 520d Efficient Dynamics but that isn’t a new idea. Every car demands a decision from its prospective owner, as the perfect car hasn’t been invented yet. However, the new 5 Series range does come pretty close for those wanting an athlete in the shape of a business-class mid-size sedan.
When it comes to driving, the 5 Series is definitely the king of its class. The CLAR-built chassis shows its prowess whenever you want to push it to the edge and it is a joy to drive this thing, even when you’re behind the wheel of an Efficient Dynamics model. That’s because adaptive dampers and new-age ECU and gearbox software make sure the 520d has a different character whenever you push one of the Drive Mode buttons on the center console, next to the gearshift lever.
And while 190 PS (187 hp) may not be a back-breaking figure, the fact that the 520d is rather light on its feet makes driving it quite the experience. There’s no hint of understeer when taking the car to eight tenths and the body roll is well kept in check. However, in order to get the same results behind the wheel as we did you do need to get your car with the Variable Damper Control system which may be expensive but makes a big difference in the end.
Without VDC the car rides a bit rough and going over bumps and potholes does upset the balance of the car enough to become bothersome on longer stretches of bad roads. However, even if you do go for the adaptive dampers, if you’re looking for the utmost comfortable ride we’d recommend steering away from big wheels or the standard runflat tires as they do have quite a big say in the way the car ends up behaving on the road.
In the end, there’s a reason why the 520d is the best-selling 5 Series model in the history of the brand and one of the best-selling BMWs of all time altogether. The engine under the hood is so efficient (Efficient Dynamics edition or not) it becomes a great deal for those covering huge distances every year. Since Germany’s Autobahn system isn’t going anywhere, it’s clear to see why people flock to buy these cars whenever they come out.
So power be damned, the 520d handles great. Combining that with the space and comfort it’s capable of offering, the low starting price and low maintenance, it’s hard to build a case against it. While in the past we used to blame the noise coming out of the engine bay and into the cabin as the biggest flaw of the 520d, today that’s no longer the case and in our book, this Alpine White 5 Series is undoubtedly a winner.
2017 BMW 520d
Exterior Appeal - 9
Interior Quality - 9
Steering Feedback - 8
Performance - 6
Handling - 9
BMWness/Ultimate Driving Machine - 8
Price Point - 8
The BMW 520d handles great, combined with space, comfort, a low asking price and great economy. This Alpine White 5er is undoubtedly a winner.