Once upon a time car makers thought horsepower and nothing else sold cars. This proved to be a distracting exercise; cars began to sprout headline grabbing power figures but so did kerb weight. People wanted tyre smoke, but they also wanted bigger wheels, plusher seats, sat-nav, 16 speakers and safety whatnots. Then the holy eco brigade made a stir and slapped engine designers silly with data of CO2 emissions printed on recycled paper. The result: downsizing. Fortunately engineers are problem solvers, and while BMW may not have been the first to adopt the small engine trend, there was no doubt that they would be adept at it.
At first glance the F10 520i does not sound promising – it is 1685kgs powered by a 2.0 litre 4 cylinder engine. Using the direct injected and twin-scroll turbocharged N20 TwinPower powerplant, the 184bhp feels full of vigour, seemingly able to push the D-segment sedan without much fuss.
Most cars have a Sports feature, this one has five: Comfort, Comfort+ , Sport, Sport+ and Ecopro; the last is a new mode. In this mode the throttle gets a bit lazy and the gearbox is constantly trying to get the engine into the lowest speed possible. An indicator tracks the efficiency and displays how many kilometres can be added into the fuel tank’s range as a result encouraging less aggressive driving. The start-stop feature doesn’t feel awkward either, but if you’re unaccustomed to it, it can be turned off.
As far as driving goes, the BMW 520i is certainly a more cultured 5 Series. The previous E60 was a bit on the firm side; those seated in the rear would quickly begin to find excuses to ride shotgun. Not in the F30 – if anything it is too damped, the front digs in under hard braking and it take its time to settle over large tarmac undulations. You can cure this by going to Sport or Sport+, getting a more direct feel between the steering and how the chassis is settled. Another contributor to EfficientDynamics is the electromechanical power steering system – it is direct and quick but also evidently unnatural. The upside is that when you are not turning the vehicle, the engine ceases to be burdened, thus improving consumption.
The previous inline 6 motor will forever be the benchmark when the 5 Series is in question. What it brought was a creamy power delivery with a response that was consistent and excitingly predictable. The N20 together with the quick-shifting 8-speed auto tries to mimic this performance vector but is not quite there. You just can’t be so sure how much power the rear wheels will receive when a bit of precision is needed and the sound is strangely agricultural, almost diesel. However these issues are minor trade-offs for marked fuel savings and a performance that loses nothing to previous 5s with bigger engines.
Engine Inline 4, 16v, 1997cc, twin scroll turbo
Transmission 8-speed auto
Max power 184bhp @ 5000-6250rpm
Max torque 270Nm @ 1250-6250rpm
0-100kmh 8.0sec (claimed)
Top speed 226kmh
Consumption 6.4L / 100km (combined; claimed)
Price RM358,800 (OTR w/o insurance)
On Sale Now
Rating 4.5 stars
+ Efficiency, performance, looks