Our Fleet Test Drive: BMW 520d - Final Report
02 June 2011
Half a year with the most popular model of BMW's new 5-series line-up has taught us aplenty about the car crowned Business Car of the Year at the beginning of 2011.
Our champ is a subtly different beast to its predecessor - not necessarily better or worse, but not the driver's machine BMW has built its reputation on. While it is a much comfier way to tick the odometer round, in our case to just shy of 10,000 miles by the time the long-term 520d headed off to its next keeper, the change to a more rounded offering than the driving pleasure-focused predecessor is most obvious in the much-improved ride quality. However, the downturn in steering feel due to the switch to fuel-saving electric steering is a hefty disappointment.
Our 520d saloon was in SE trim, which is the most popular combination among fleet drivers. In order to jump the queue we took a car from BMW's demonstrator stock, which meant it came with more than £5500-worth of options. The most expensive was the most highly recommended - the media pack including satnav , while most of the others were nice to have but could certainly be lived without.
Since we took delivery, the 520d SE saloon has gone up in price by just under £2000, two-thirds of which is related to the VAT increase at the beginning of this year. Fuel rises and a slight slide in residual values as the model is superseded as the newest in the sector mean our cost per mile has gone up by 5.2p per mile to 65.0p.
We averaged 43.1mpg, impressive for a big car, if still only 75% of the way to the official figure of 57.6mpg. However, there was impressively little fluctuation in best and worst performance from an individual tank, with economy going from 38.9mpg to a high of 47.2, while most were around the low 40s regardless of driving style, type of journey or even which driver was behind the wheel.
Apart from some pothole-related damage, the 520d ran faultlessly, and the vague and artificial steering aside, which is only disappointing because it has historically been such a 5-series, and BMW, strength, the only quibble is the start-up sequence. The car is fitted with keyless start  but not keyless entry, so you need the key to unlock it, but once you're sat down with the key in hand, there's nowhere to put it. Combine that with an electric handbrake  that doesn't automatically disengage, and the sequence of events can cause frustration before you've even pulled away. These are minor issues that fade with time and routine, but are still irritating.
Otherwise, the 520d is a comfortable, very tax- and fuel-efficient, practical and classy piece of executive transport.
|BMW 520d saloon SE manual
||Steering, some stingy
spec on SE trim