FirstDrive: BMW 520i M Sport – Engine / Performance

Intro Looks Practicality / Spec
Engine / Performance Driving / NVH Verdict

For any car coming in at nearly 5 metres long, we’d normally be a bit apprehensive about having a 2.0-litre engine fitted. With the help of a turbo though, power in the 520i comes in at 184bhp, with torque at 199ft lbs. That’s comfortably more than the old 2.2-litre, 6-cylinder, 520i on both levels, and that’s still more torque than the predecessor’s 523i.  Fire it up, and the engine is very quiet.  You don’t have to drive very far down the road to notice the level of torque available – even for a car this size with an engine so small. At low speeds in an urban environment, it’s perfectly fine considering peak torque is found at ~1250rpm. Ask for a bit more in the mid-range, and you’d be met with about the level of performance found in a warm hatch. The 520i doesn’t bog down and it always remains smooth and subdued. If you start to be a bit more exuberant though, you’ll start to realise that there’s no hiding from the fact that at nearly 1.7tonnes, the 5-Series is still a heavy car. It’s by no means slow and the engine doesn’t feel lethargic when working through the rev range but fundamentally, there is less torque than the diesels and it doesn’t altogether feel so effortless.

The 520d usually steals the headlines because it can be quicker than its German rivals whilst achieving decent economy.  That said, this engine doesn’t make the 5-series any less fun to drive. In fact it feels a bit more lively, revving through the range cleanly at a rate without feeling laboured. It’s also a bit more refined, but you will feel the sacrifices quite quickly. If you’re careful you can reach 40mpg but that tumbles very quickly if you want to be a bit more exuberant. It’s obviously not the diesel scenario of “having your cake and eat it” at which you can sit at motorway speeds whilst still achieving 45mpg+, but its more pleasurable to rev out away from this environment.

We went with the 8-speed ZF automatic too thinking this would be the preferred option, and it does work well in combination: the gearshifts are quick and smooth and it helps make the most of the 2.0-litre’s engine output. I suspect the manual version, with its fewer gears, might exacerbate some potential performance gaps.
They’ve done well to disguise the gearchanges to look immediate too, avoiding the typical labouring rev needle that you get in between shifts with other auto transmissions. BMW have calibrated the transmission to be sharp and decisive targeting the next set of revs without wavering. It’s almost DSG-like in behaviour except without any of the clunkiness.


Spec: 520i M Sport
Engine: 2.0 Turbo 4cyl Petrol, 184bhp, 199lb ft
Transmission: 8 Speed Auto
Mpg: Official: 44.1mpg Achieved: 37-39mpg
Performance: 0-62mph: 7.9 Secs, 144mph
Colour: Glacier Silver
Options: 19 inch M Double-spoke style 351M alloy wheels, BMW Professional Multimedia Navigation System (10.2" screen, Real-time traffic info, Emergency Call, 20GB memory), Dakota Leather Seats, M Rear Spoiler.

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