FirstDrive: BMW 520i M Sport – Drive / NVH

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

The 5-Series may have lost its lead as the “Driver’s Choice” in this class, but it’s still a resolved car on the road – it’s as composed as you would expect from BMW with a ride and handling balance that’s pretty much spot on.   With the M Sport suspension fitted onto our 520i, we get a 10mm lower ride height and slightly firmer dampers.  Unlike the last E60, it rides well enough even with the M Sport suspension,19″ wheels + run flats; no Audi S-Line fears to be found here!  The standard wheels would undoubtedly be better at isolating bumps for the ride, but for those who have to have the bigger wheels, you can either spec the optional ‘variable’ dampers to extend the ride / handling thresholds, or simply remove the Sport suspension altogether if you so wish.

The handling is quite grown up nowadays, and although you could argue that the M Sport suspension doesn’t somewhat transform the 5-Series into something more athletic, it doesn’t ruin the overall experience either. There’s no doubting towards the body control – it’s still a BMW at the end of the day – but it’s just a bit less agile and not quite so willing (or even particularly interested) to be hustled down a road nowadays.  In short, the 5-Series has become a bit less eager for those twisting roads.

It didn’t feel quite as heavy as the vast amount of bodywork may suggest through corners but it’s not the easiest to place on the road considering those large dimensions – the XF feels big enough as it is initially, but at least that feeling disappears as the miles go by – it’s not quite the same with this!

Electric steering doesn’t help here either; It has a bit more weighting than the XF but without the same level of response it adds to the car feeling its size. The XF feels a bit more on it’s toes in comparison which is why it can disguise its size over time.

There is a trade-off for this though; the dynamic ability that used to be the 5-Series’ main talking point has now made way for high-speed autobahn stability. It’s perhaps what customers want, and what sells nowadays, but you could question whether it’s a trait that’s of great significance over here in the UK.  You could argue though that for a time economically, when you need a car at this price point to be a bit more serious and less compromising, that this has been engineered with the right approach. A barge tuned to handle country lanes dynamically is probably irrelevant for a large proportion of owners!

That said, you do get the sense that if this can handle the autobahn at high speeds, it can tackle our shoddy roads much better at 70mph – and there is evidence for that. The large footprint helps for a start, and refinement is generally very good: there’s little road or wind noise and it does make for a relaxing car to cruise and do long journeys in. All that space inside can kick up some resonance though and so its not silent either, but its generally quieter on all surfaces compared to a Jag, with a bit more isolation than in the XF.

The engine is distantly quiet; it’s a bit like BMW acknowledge that 4-pots wont sound that nice anyway, so they’ve just not bothered letting much of it in. I’ll happily concede that this engine doesn’t sound as nice as the 2.2-litre, 6-cylinder it replaces, but it’ll always be better than the diesel equivalent.

Stop / Start also works well with quick reactions, but I personally am still not convinced by its execution on auto’s when it’s controlled via the brake pedal. Why not let it work in Neutral and save sitting on the brakes?

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.

5 thoughts on “FirstDrive: BMW 520i M Sport – Drive / NVH

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