2023 BMW 520d Steptronic G30
We find ourselves developing a superiority complex in the latest BMW 5 Series
When it comes to its 5 Series business saloon, BMW’s raison d’etre has always been “the ultimate driving machine”. However, another critical phenomenon that has contributed to its continued sales success over the years has been government, embassy and diplomatic sales.
Interestingly, BMW South Africa has an entire sales division dedicated to this arm that includes 39 institutions like the World Bank, United Nations and more. It is understood from our research that the company vehicle allowance for senior government officials may not exceed 70% of their salary. New directives in recent years from the South African Government, however, have been put in place to curb excessive spending on luxury cars by ministers. This has seen lavish, top-of-the-range models fall off the wish list in favour of more sensible offerings.
No surprises then that the seventh-generation 5 Series – recently updated with a lifecycle improvement (LCI) – makes an ideal conveyance for the business, government and diplomatic set. It offers 3 Series chuckability (courtesy of a 100 kg weight saving over the previous-generation 5 Series) with radical, cutting-edge tech a la 7 Series. The result is a 7 Series in tight trousers that goes down a road with all the agility of a 3 Series. As clichéd as it may sound, the new 5 Series is the embodiment of the Goldilocks phenomenon. We drove both a 750Li and 320i as part of our Top 12 Best Buys awards last year and as opulent and luxurious as the 7 was, the newer cabin in the 5 Series is more impressive. Similar story with the latest 3; it’s become so big over the years, it might as well be a 5 Series.
Sure, there is the eight-cylinder M550 xDrive and M5 Competition, but if you’re a government official looking to get the most bargain from your car allowance without raising the red flag of your superiors, you need look no further than the 520d. It’s the most affordable in the range at R987 296 and the most frugal with an index figure of 6,24 L/100 km, which we verified with an impressive fuel-route figure of 6,10 L/100 km.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case with modern diesels, the fuel tank is smaller than the petrol equivalent – 66 litres in the 520d versus 68 litres in the 530i.While this means your tank range should be an impressive 1 065 km if you eke out the mileage, in previous generations that used to have a 70+ litre tank, trips of well over 1 000 km between refills were the norm … not the exception. Performance-wise, the tried and tested four-cylinder turbodiesel delivers as it has always done: 140 kW and 400 N.m with a claimed zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 7,2 seconds. Our quickest acceleration run could only net us 7,95 seconds, adequate if not blistering. In-gear acceleration when you’re in the oil burner’s optimum torque band is more than sufficient, though. The 80-100 km/h in 2,86 seconds and 100-120 km/h in 3,81 seconds means you won’t fall far off the back of the blue-light brigade until the convoy bunches up again. Average stopping time of 2,81 seconds and a distance of 36,8 metres were both excellent.
When it comes to the 5’s LCI, we know it’s a hackneyed old expression but: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In light of BMW’s lavish styling efforts and frustrating niche explorations of late, there’s plenty cause to celebrate the restraint the firm has exercised in this updated 5 Series. The design inside and out is well proportioned but largely evolutionary; the new LED head- and tail-lamps add some drama to a handsome, understated package. Stylistically, the Bavarian manufacturer claims there’s a different structure to the front air intakes and a few additional creases on the sedan’s rear apron but you’d only spot those intricacies with the new and old model parked side by side. In profile, it melts into a familiar Bavarian shape. The M Sport package fitted to this particular test unit, however, is wonderful in that it can make the most meek and- mild diesel look like the M5 Competition.
Once inside, it goes about its business like a brilliant receptionist might. It’s accurate, efficient, uncomplaining … and without much humour. Sure, it’ll linger at the boardroom door and indulge you smilingly when you want to hustle it through a few corners quickly, but for the most part, it has more important things to do … like drive for you. Most impressive on BMW’s list are the latest semi-autonomous driving aids. The adaptive, radar-guided cruise control, lane-warning assist, sat-nav commands on the head-up display. The cruise control can work down to crawling speeds, so the 5 can virtually drive itself to work even in busy rush hour traffic. In the driver’s binnacle, there is a clear and concise display of all the vehicles around you at any moment, even vehicles approaching from behind and entering your blind spot. The active lane-keeping function that steers for you when clearly demarcated lanes are recognised by the vehicle is much improved, allowing a longer time before driver intervention is required, reacting with less vitriol when it does suspect you’ve taken a snooze behind the wheel.
Just be careful when activating the 5 Series’ semi-autonomous, connected driving tech. Once you do, it’s so accomplished at driving itself, it starts to feel quite a chore to do it yourself. Keep it oldschool and you’ll find it’s still a worthy driving machine. The roadholding from the 19-inch wheels shod in low-profile Pirelli rubber is top-notch. The steering is light and easy and lends intuitive handling to what is still a large vehicle. More importantly for this type of conveyance, it’s supremely comfortable and quieter than you could ever imagine. On occasion, we needed to double-check the engine was running, that’s how good the NVH suppression is. So, the new BMW 5 Series is a fully connected drive in every respect then … not just in the cloud but from the seat of your pants, too.
- 01-02 Handsome new LED head- and taillamp arrangements help differentiate the LCI 5 Series.
- 03 Tan-coloured leather and mood lighting make the cabin a superb place to spend time.
- 04 The driver’s display isn’t just a collection of good-looking graphics, it’s where the semi-autonomous systems can be monitored.
- 05 The 8-speed steptronic gearbox is well-matched to the turbodiesel powerplant.
SPECIFICATIONS 2023 BMW 520d Steptronic G30
- Cylinders: four, inline, longitudinal
- Fuel supply: electronic common-rail direct injection, turbocharged, intercooled, diesel
- Bore/stroke: 84,0/90,0 mm
- Cubic capacity: 1995 cm3
- Compression ratio: 16,5 to 1
- Valvegear: d-o-h-c, four valves per cylinder
- Max power ISO: 140 kW
- Power peak/Red line: 4000/5400rpm
- Max torque: 400 N.m
- Torque peak: 1750-2500rpm
- Type: eight-speed automatic
- 1st gear/2nd gear: 5,25/3,36 to 1
- 3rd gear/4th gear: 2,17/1,72 to 1
- 5th gear/6th gear: 1,32/1,00 to 1
- 7th gear/Top gear: 0,82/0,64 to 1
- Reverse gear: 3,71 to 1
- Final drive: 2,93 to 1
- Drive wheels: rear
- Driver aids: ESC (Electronic Stability Control), hill start
- Front: 330 mm ventilated discs
- Rear: 330 mm ventilated discs
- Hydraulics: ABS with EBD and EBA
WHEELS AND TYRES
- Tyre make: Pirelli P Zero
- Tyre size(f;r): 245/40 R19;275/35 R19
- Spare – type and location: run-flat
- Type: rack and pinion, electric power assist
- Lock to lock: 3,0 turns
- Turning circle diameter: 11,0 m
- Front: Double wishbone, coil springs, anti-roll bar
- Rear: multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
WARRANTY & SERVICE INTERVALS
- 2-year/unlimited km warranty
- 5-year/100 000 km maintenance plan
- Services according to onboard computer
- Oil filter: R392,01
- Air filter: R784,97
- Left headlamp: R29 465,09
- Left rear tyre: R4 264,41
- Windscreen: R9 540,46
- Brake pads (front set): R2 996,71
- Camchain (incl. tensioner): R3 674,93
- Total parts basket: R51 118,58
Test conditions**: Ambient temp/barometric press: 16 ° C/1 021 hPa Test car’s odometer: 2 347 km
Manufacturer’s figure: 235 km/h
Best/worst stop: 2,68/2,88
Average of 10 stops/rating: 2,8/excellent
Average stopping distance: 36,8 m
10 stops from 100 km/h measured in seconds.
Fuel tank: 66 litres
Est. tank range (fuel index): 1 058 km
Taxable CO2 rating: 137 g/km
Airbags: front/side/curtain Air-con: dual-zone climate Audio system: radio/
CD/MP3/aux-in/Bluetooth/voice control/Apple Carplay/Android Auto Cruise
control: standard Sat-nav: optional Park assist: standard Windows: all-electric
Trip computer: standard Driver seat adjust: electric, incl. height Folding rear seat:
40:20:40 split Upholstery: leather Isofix anchorages: outer rear Steering adjust: rake + reach
Steering audio controls: standard Tyre sensors: standard Wipers auto-on: standard Headlamps
auto-on: standard Head-up display: standard
SPEEDO CALIBRATION (true speed)
Odometer error: 0,17% under
60 80 100 120
58 77 97 117
0-60 0-80 0-100 0-120 0-140
3,27 5,19 7,95 11,03 15,00
OVERTAKING ACCELERATION (sec)AT
A timely reminder that the popular shift away from sedans to big SUVs is a misguided one Ray Leathern
It may only be a four cylinder but it’s all the sedan you will ever need Nikesh Kooverjee
Cosmetic and spec upgrades are minimal but ever so classy Damian Adams
BMW 520d Steptronic G30
The LCI upgrades inside and out may be subtle but this is still our favourite mid-size luxury sedan. Handsome, effortless to drive and frugal.
price: R987 296
cyl/capac: 4/1 995 cm3
power: 140 kW/4 000 r/min
torque: 400 N.m/1 750-2 500 r/min
0-100 km/h: 7,95 sec
top speed: 235 km/h
fuel index: 6,24 L/100 km
luggage capac: 392/1 016 L
serv/maint plan: M5/100 000 km
Mercedes-Benz E220d Avantgarde 9G-Tronic W213
Mercedes-Benz and BMW have been duking it out in this segment for years, and there is little to choose between the two. For a more stately experience, opt for the Silver Star.
price: R1 019 830
cyl/capac: 4/1 950 cm3
power: 143 kW/3 800 r/min
torque: 400 N.m/1 600-2 800 r/min
0-100 km/h: 7,30 sec est
top speed: 240 km/h
fuel index: 6,20 L/100 km
luggage capac: 352/968 L
serv/maint plan: M5/100 000 km
Lexus ES300h SE CVT
A credible luxury alternative. If rear-wheel-drive poise is not a priority, the front-driven ES is comfortable, well-appointed and as frugal as the oil burners.
price: R948 400
cyl/capac: 4/2 494 cm3
power: 160 kW/5 700 r/min
torque: 221+e N.m/3 600 r/min
0-100 km/h: 8,90 sec est
top speed: 180 km/h
fuel index: 5,50 L/100 km
luggage capac: 351/988 L
serv/maint plan: M7/105 000 km
USED OPTION [<2yrs]2019 BMW 750i M Sport G11
For a cool million you could benefit from the cruel mistress of depreciation and find yourself a V8 7 Series. Added fuel consumption not included in the up-front cost.