BMW 520d Touring

14 Nov, 2012 10:30am

Top performance and handling are mixed with strong efficiency in the latest BMW 5 Series Touring


Practical touches such as the opening tailgate glass help to counter the fact that the 520d isn’t the biggest car here. Add in excellent economy, a great auto, entertaining handling and fixed-price servicing, and the BMW makes a fantastic family car – just ditch the M Sport suspension.

The rivalry between the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series goes back a long way, so can the new XF Sportbrake break up the fight?

One area that’s always split opinion is looks. The latest 5 Series Touring is sombre, yet it has more flair than the A6 Avant, while the M Sport version tested here looks more modern than the XF. Of course, styling is a subjective issue, but the same can be said of the interior. Build quality is on a par with the A6’s, although the dash layout isn’t quite as straightforward.

Fortunately, nearly all of the car’s functions are accessed via the iDrive control system and seven-inch display screen, which is simple to use and intuitive.

Passenger space is similar to its rivals’, with plenty of room in the front and rear seats. In the boot, the BMW offers 560 litres with the seats up and 1,670 litres with them folded flat, so is only marginally down on the A6 Avant.

However, the Touring has more useful features as standard. The tailgate glass opens independently from the hatch, so it’s easy to access the boot in tight spaces. The load cover also retracts with one touch and automatically raises and lowers when the tailgate is opened and closed. A gas strut supports the boot floor when you want to get underneath it, while a retractable dividing net separates the boot from the rear passengers. So while the BMW’s boot isn’t the biggest, it’s the most versatile.

Another highlight of the 520d is its 2.0-litre diesel. It’s as quiet as its rivals at idle, yet takes on a sporty note under acceleration. It’s quick, too. The 520d was fastest in-gear and its 0-60mph time of 8.3 seconds was only two tenths behind the more powerful XF’s. Part of that was down to the well spaced ratios of the smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox.

BMW is famous for building fine-handling cars, and the 5 Series Touring is no different. Sharp turn-in and masses of grip inspire confidence, while the rear-wheel-drive chassis is more fun than the XF’s. However, this is at the expense of ride comfort. As with the A6’s S line spec, the 5’s M Sport suspension is too stiff, and picks out all the lumps in the road.

You have two options to remedy this: pick the 520d SE’s suspension at no extra cost, or go with our car’s VDC variable dampers. They transform the ride, and you can switch between four different modes to suit your mood. But they’re expensive, at £985. Self-levelling suspension is standard, like on the Jaguar.

As with the Audi, you’ll have to spend more on the BMW to match the XF’s spec, as kit like sat-nav and a DAB radio is extra. But BMW’s EfficientDynamics systems helped the 520d achieve the best economy on test. Fixed-price servicing, lower company car tax and strong residuals complete a strong financial package.

Key specs

  • Price: £37,500
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 182bhp
  • 0-60mph: 8.3 seconds
  • Test economy: 42.1mpg/9.3mpl
  • CO2: 133g/km
  • Annual road tax: £120