That honour falls to a rather more sedate model which is set to take the lion’s share of the model’s sales.
While the 520d may not sound that exciting – being, as its name suggests, a 2.0-litre diesel 5-series, this car is massively important to BMW in the corporate market, where it is charged with luring more user-choosers into the brand.
Slotting into a range of diesels (525d, 530d, 535d) unsurpassed by any other manufacturer, the new 520d borrows the engine and gearbox from the smaller 320d and will be available in either saloon or Touring bodystyle.
It will also feature a host of new standard features being introduced into the 2006 model year range – all cars now have a stop-start button as found in the 3-series, there’s a revised steering wheel design and an electronic boot release. SE models add 17-inch alloy wheels, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and front and rear parking sensors as standard.
Offering 163bhp, claimed combined fuel economy of 47.9mpg and CO2 emissions of just 158g/km, the 520d gives user-choosers wanting an executive car a much cheaper entry point.
The 520d will fall into the 18% company car tax band until the benefit-in-kind (BIK) changes on January 1, 2006, four bands lower than the 525d. And while some 525d sales will be lost to this new model, BMW is eyeing Audi’s A6 2.0 TDI as its main rival.
Although the Audi is nearly £1,500 cheaper to buy, the BMW is a tax band lower, giving almost identical company car tax bills. For a 40% taxpayer, the 520d will cost £155 a month, while the Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE is just £1 a month cheaper.
BMW expects to sell around 2,700 cars in the UK next year – about 20% of 5-series volume – and corporate buyers will account for between 50% and 60% of these. Bernard Bradley, BMW’s general manager – sales, said: ‘The 520d is a BMW with no compromise. We expect opposition to it to come from outside our direct German rivals too, from cars such as the Volvo S80 and Saab 9-5.
‘Our model offensive has been critical to our growth (BMW’s corporate sales are up 20% year-to-date), but without impacting on our strong residual values. ‘We could not have grown our business with the model range we had just three years ago, let alone 10.’
Behind the wheel
PERHAPS the greatest compliment you can pay the 520d is to say that it feels just like the smaller 320d to drive.
Both cars share the same engine in exactly the same state of tune and with the same gearbox, but the 5-series’ extra size doesn’t blunt the four-cylinder diesel engine’s mid-range performance.
Much of this is down to the 5-series’ use of aluminium in its build, especially at the front end, to reduce weight and create perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
As a result, there is surprisingly little difference in kerb weight between the two models and, although the 520d’s weight hasn’t been announced, as an example there is just 45kg difference between the 330i and 530i models.
So the 520d has all of the dynamic benefits of the 3-series but with more room inside. The ride and handling are first rate, and the steering is far more feelsome than in any of its executive rivals.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox is a delight, offering short, snappy shifts to make the most of the 2.0-litre’s mid-range powerband. Early next year, a six-speed automatic gearbox will be offered as an optional extra.
But it is the performance of the 2.0-litre diesel engine that really impresses, pulling smoothly from low revs and offering seamless surges of overtaking power.
The engine’s torque is such that you can pull away from traffic lights in second gear, accelerate from 20mph in third gear and build speed from 50mph to the motorway maximum in sixth with ease. And it cruises at such low revs on the motorway that covering high mileages is a relaxing affair.
The only downside is engine noise at low speeds, leaving you in no doubt you’re driving a diesel. But once speeds rise and you settle into a cruise this deadens.
WHILE the larger-engined diesels offer better performance and are more desirable, the 520d brings 5-series driving into the hands of more user-choosers than ever before.
Even though it is a bigger car than the 3-series, the 520d’s performance doesn’t suffer. And with the extra equipment now offered as standard on 2006 model year cars, this is a well-equipped and great-to-drive addition to the range.
Max power (bhp/rpm): 163/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 251/2,000
Max speed (mph): 139
0-62mph (sec): 8.6
Fuel consumption (mpg): 47.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 158
On sale: September
Prices (OTR): £25,925–£31,345