BMW 520d EfficientDynamics SaloonNovember 3, 2011
BMW 520d EfficientDynamics Saloon Road Test
Model/Engine size: 520d EfficientDynamics Saloon
Fuel economy combined: 62.8 mpg
Beating Spirit rating: 10/10
The BMW 520d EfficientDynamics Saloon has a combined economy figure of 62.8 mpg and emissions of just 119 g/km CO2 ; surely such supermini-levels of emissions mean that this must be an Сeco-special’ with compromises?
Just to offer some comparison, ten years ago the BMW 520d returned 47.9 mpg along with 156 g/km CO2. A drop in emissions from 156 to 119 g/km CO2 would be impressive enough if the rest of the performance figures had stayed the same, but of course they have also improved massively.
The ten year-old 530i Sport Auto pictured below with the 520d EfficientDynamics manages just 26.4 mpg and emits a hefty 257 g/km CO2. This is more than double the emissions of today’s 520d ED. Yet today’s 520d ED has similar performance figures to that 530i; with a power output of 184 hp and torque of 380 Nm, it can reach 144 mph, with a 0-62 mph time of 8.2 seconds.
So what are the downsides? There must be some compromise in the driving experience?
The 520d ED is likely to spend much of its time on motorways, and we’re not aware of a better car to lap up such distances with such efficiency. It has an excellent ride, it’s quiet, refined, comfortable, and has all the luxuries that you’re likely to want. Everything about the car just works perfectly Ц from the high quality interior controls to the smoothly-shifting six-speed manual gearbox (with the exception of reverse, the selection of which always seems a bit of a fight on manual BMWs).
The 520d ED is also enjoyable to drive on roads other than motorways; on twisty country roads the rear-wheel drive chassis, which allows the front wheels to steer rather than also having to drive, is in its element.
Of course another major advantage is that you’ll be able to drive for weeks before having to pull into a fuel station to fill up.
An Eco-special car?
So what about the appearance? Surely the 520d ED must look like an eco-special? This was the area that we were particularly concerned about. We saw the 520d ED show car at the Frankfurt Motor Show and it sat on wheels and tyres that looked like they’d been stolen from a down-market motorists’ accessory shop Ц ten years ago. Thankfully our UK-spec test car turned up on wheels and tyres that looked perfectly acceptable Ц thereby eliminating one of our last remaining fears about this car.
Standard wheels in the UK are 17-inch V-spoke style with run-flat tyres. The wheels fitted to our test car were 17-inch Star-spoke style alloy wheels, which are no-cost options. Also available are 17-inch Streamline style wheels with run-flat tyres, also at no cost. All these tyres are low rolling resistance versions, which play an important part in improving the economy and emissions.
Although the 520d ED only has one range of alloy wheels to choose from, all of which result in emissions of 119 g/km CO2, the rest of the 5 Series range has three Сcategories’ of alloy wheels, which can result in up to three different levels of economy and emissions. For instance, although BMW quotes emissions of 129 g/km and 57.6 mpg for the Сstandard’ BMW 520d , the official technical specifications show that these figures can drop as low as 125 g/km along with 58.9 mpg with another category of alloy wheels. Also, these figures can improve even further with automatic rather than manual transmission.
So apart from the wheels and tyres, which vary from the standard 520d, but not enough for the average person to notice, what else is different?
If you’ll allow us to get technical for just one sentence, the BMW 520d ED has a dual mass flywheel, with springs between the two parts, along with Centrifugal Pendulum Absorbers. This probably means nothing to most people, but it has a simple purpose Ц to allow the driver to use a higher gear at lower revs without any engine vibration through the drivetrain. The car also has a longer final drive ratio, ie. longer gearing – again to reduce engine revs at higher speeds. Driving at lower revs should mean better economy.
In addition, the 520d ED comes with BMW’s new ECO-PRO Mode . This is one of the three driving modes that you can choose from using the СDrive Performance Control’ toggle switch, along with Comfort and Sport. The car is set up to start off in ECO-PRO Mode , which adjusts the engine mapping, throttle sensitivity, and the amount of power consumed by electrical ancillaries including climate control and heated seats, in order to consume less fuel. You can feel the muted throttle response in this mode; swapping to Comfort or Sport makes the throttle respond in a more conventional, reactive way.
The 520d ED doesn’t come with Variable Damper Control (VDC) as standard, but this can be specified as a £985 option. This gives an additional setting of Sport+, and the key thing about VDC is that you can adjust the damper settings.
Sport+ also means that some of the traction control is deactivated to provide a slight ability to slip the wheels. However if VDC isn’t specified you can still deactivate an element of traction control on the 520d ED by using a separate button.
The 520d ED also comes with the Сstandard’ range of EfficientDynamics technologies that appear on the 520d, including Auto Start-Stop, BrakeEnergy Regeneration, Active Aerodynamics and Optimum Gearshift Indicator.
We were able to achieve 57 mpg from the car on test, which is not too far off the official 62.8 mpg. The fuel economy averaged over 50 mpg at all times. This was predominantly over longer journeys that are more typical of the likely use pattern for this car rather than in urban driving, when the economy is likely to suffer more due to the weight of the car.
Although we’re saying that there are no significant drawbacks with the 520d ED, there are some minor things you should be aware of. The first of these is that you can’t specify M Sport trim for the 520d ED. So if you must have a 5 Series with a body kit, different alloy wheels and lower profile tyres, the 520d ED probably isn’t the one for you.
The 520d ED has slightly longer gearing than the standard 520d, but with the excellent low down torque of the turbodiesel engine this really shouldn’t be a problem in normal use unless you’re planning to enter the car into some sort of traffic lights grand prix competition.
You can’t specify automatic transmission with the 520d ED, despite the automatic Сbox providing better economy and emissions than manual transmission on other 5 Series models.
Although the 520d ED is an extremely refined and comfortable place to be when driving on a motorway, the tyres don’t ultimately seem to provide quite the level of directional precision as the tyres on other 5 Series models.
Finally, the 520d ED costs £30,435, compared to £30,030 for the 520d. So there is a £405 premium for the improved economy and lower emissions. However the resultant benefit-in-kind tax advantage for company car drivers should more than offset this premium, as the BIK band is 18% for the 520d, but this falls dramatically down to just 13% for the 520d ED. For a 40% tax payer, this will save £578 each year Ц which more than offsets the premium on the purchase price.
The BMW 520d EfficientDynamics Saloon, and other models in the range, come as standard with Dakota leather upholstery, Bluetooth telephone preparation, front and rear Park Distance Control and two-zone automatic air-conditioning Ц none of which were standard on the previous 5 Series.
However our test car still came with a range of options, including BMW Professional Media package (£2,000), Head-up Display (£980), automatic air conditioning with four-zone control (£695), and metallic paintwork (£655), all of which totalled an extra £6,630, so taking a £30,435 car to £37,065.
Although the largest market for the 5 Series worldwide is North America (29% of sales), with Germany representing 17% and the UK only 8%, Germany and the UK will be the biggest markets for the 520d ED. Currently the 520d is the biggest seller, accounting for around 80% of total sales. BMW forecasts that the 520d ED will sell at a rate of around 4,000 cars a year.
There really are no significant compromises with the 520d ED. It’s a proper BMW 5 Series in every way. In fact, if we had such an award, the 520d ED would have to win our vote as the best green motorway car, as there is simply no better car for covering large motorway miles with these levels of efficiency.
Because there are also no other drawbacks, including in the visual aesthetics department, as it’s a large executive saloon that can fit five people and luggage in comfort while being capable of achieving 62.8 mpg, we have no choice but to award the 520d ED a Beating Spirit rating of 10 out of 10. All businesses running executive cars that cover lots of motorway miles should seriously consider this car.
Car Facts and Figures
BMW 520d EfficientDynamics Saloon technical data
Fuel economy extra urban: 72.4 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 50.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 119 g/km
Green rating: VED band C – First year £0
Weight: 1695 Kg
Company car tax liability (2011/12): 13%
Insurance group: TBC
Power: 184 bhp
Max speed: 144 mph
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
See the BMW 520d road test