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Future models - BMW - 5 Series - 520d

First drive: BMW hits rock-bottom with 520d

Entry-level: 520d will come with the same standard equipment as 523i.

BMW Oz to slot a 2.0-litre diesel into the 5 Series to create the sub-$80,000 520d

23 Jul 2007

THE price of admission to BMW’s exclusive 5 Series club could drop below $80,000 following confirmation that BMW Australia will introduce the entry-level 520d diesel sedan in December.

Powered by the same third-generation 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that’s been available in the upgraded 120d hatch since June 2007, the 520d produces 125kW and 340Nm of torque.

That’s up both 10kW and 10Nm on the second-generation aluminium diesel four that has powered the 320d sedan (115kW/330Nm) since June 2006.

14 center imageThe six-speed auto-only 520d will be the least expensive variant in BMW’s 5 Series range, which currently comprises the 523i, 525i, 530i, 530d, 540i and 550i sedans, and the 530i Touring.

Until December, the 523i sedan is the 5 Series price-leader, at $84,900.

The 520d sprints to 100km/h in a claimed 8.6 seconds and claims average EU fuel consumption of 6.1L/100km. In the 120d, the same upgraded diesel lowered BMW’s official 0-100km/h acceleration claim from 8.5 to 7.8 seconds.

It will come with the same specifications as the base 523i and will undercut the diesel 530d ($115,000) by up to $35,000.

Along with the X3 2.0d variant due on sale here around the same time, the 520d will bring the number of BMW diesel models to seven, including the 120d, 320d, 530d, X3 3.0d and X5 3.0d.

BMW claims one in five premium diesel vehicles sold in Australia is a BMW and that diesel accounts for 70 per cent of X5 sales and 50 per cent of X3 sales.

BMW’s third-generation 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine continues in the 160kW/480Nm 530d and X3, while the second-generation X5 employs a higher-torque (500Nm) version.

BMW Australia says its still has no plan to import the twin-turbo version of its diesel six, which in Europe powers the bullocking 200kW/560Nm 535d sedan and wagon - both of which deliver more torque than the M5’s V10.

Drive impressions:

AS the stripped-out 520d we drove in Europe attested, most entry-level 5 Series diesel sedans in Germany are, in fact, taxis.

"Our" example had no leather trim, no stability control and no six-speed automatic transmission, and its cloth seats, traction control and six-speed manual gearbox are probably what you'll notice the next time you hail a cab at Frankfurt airport.

Of course, all Australian BMWs (even the entry-level 520d) will always come with cow-hided interiors as part of its premium brand positioning and, in the case of 5 Series, an automatic transmission.

We can't say for sure, but the auto 520d is almost certain to be a better bet than the manual we drove, which felt doughy off the line, lacked any real response below about 1500rpm and delivered a surprisingly narrow powerband, with performance dropping off sharply beyond about 4000rpm.

Autobahn overtaking was best achieved after plenty of anticipation and at least one downchange and, on the mountain pass we chose to put each model through its paces, holding gears between corners was the order of the day if BMW-like progress and response was required.

We're not sure if Australian examples will come with the softish, comfort-oriented suspension tune of the car we drove but, as mentioned, Australia's six-speed auto version will undoubtedly keep the 2.0-litre diesel's turbo on the boil more efficiently than even the best manual drivers can.

In short, the 520d felt like... well, a taxi.

Of course, with fuel consumption that never budged from 7.4L/100km no matter how hard we revved it, the 520d auto will be the least expensive cheapest way to both buy and run a BMW 5 Series.

However, as good as BMW's 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is, it's not a lot of engine for $80,000 and, in a family-size car like the 5 Series, will always struggle.

The 530d is a satisfyingly responsive, economical vehicle, but it is hard to justify the $35,000 premium it commands over the 520d - which is both half a second quicker to 100km/h than the 523i, as well as far more economical.

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