20 February 2024
BMW 520i Launch Edition Review – Executive Entree

The 520i checks the right boxes for one to look and be the executive part.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – since the 90’s, I’ve quietly preferred the 5 Series to the 3’er. E36, E46 and E90 3 Series have always played second fiddle to the E34, E39 and E60 5’er in my heart.

Why? Because the latter offered more interior space for my shorter-of-torso and longer-of-limbs 1.82-metre tall frame. I could get the driver’s seat into my preferred position without the rear passenger seated directly behind screaming bloody murder.

That all changed with the F-generation of the 3’er and 5’er, which saw both of them grow in size. Fast forward to today, and we have this eighth-generation G60 5’er with us.

This sedan has a wheelbase that’s 5 millimetres longer than the Chris Bangle-era E65 standard-wheelbase 7 Series! Its overall length is also 31 millimetres longer than that 7’er!

Make no mistake folks, this is a big sedan, and one that would please executives to no end. Naturally, comparisons would be drawn with its respective German competitors, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Does the BMW 520i have what it takes to roll its way onto an executive customer’s driveway?

Executive Privilege

One cannot miss the matt Titanium Bronze touches scattered throughout the exterior, which adds a subdued bling and plays well with this 520i Launch Edition test car in BMW Individual Tanzanite Blue Metallic.

Though the BMW kidney grille has grown in size, much to the chagrin of enthusiasts worldwide, one can take comfort in the fact that it isn’t whale-maw mimicking, unlike some other BMW models.

Thankfully, those Adaptive LED Headlights look sleek and shark-like.

Exterior Line Titanium Bronze on the grille- and…
… window-surrounds, Hoffmeister kink

20-inch “937 Multicolour Titanium Bronze” rims wear BMW Star-mark Pirelli P Zero rubber front and rear, and the way this 5’er squats on its haunches looks purposeful, as if ready to pounce on its prey.

This 520i has presence… LOTS of it. It turns heads of all and sundry, from kids to grandmothers, and other drivers gave it a wide berth on the roads to stare and gawk. Not surprising, given its sharp looks and regal paintwork combined with its largeness.

If one wants to make a substantial statement together with the brand cachet that the blue-and-white roundel offers, this is a fantastic way to do so.

Luxury Lounge

Opening the electrically operated bootlid reveals 520 litres of luggage capacity, and very decent for a car its size.

The rear seats are comfortable for long journeys. With the driver’s seat adjusted to my preferred position, you can see why I’ve secretly lusted after the 5’er over the 3’er.

Rear aircon vents keep occupants back here nice and comfy, and a couple of USB ports are available for charging one’s mobile devices. A panoramic sunroof, however, would have gone a long way toward making the interior feel more airy.

more than enough legroom to stretch out
rear aircon vents, USB-C charging outlets

First Mover

The front seats are very comfortable, especially for yours truly with lower back issues. Electrically adjusted with two memory settings, I never found myself shifting around in the seat to alleviate pressure points during all my drives.

BMW Operating System 8.5 or iDrive 8.5 features here in the 5’er. A 12.3-inch Information Display aka instrument screen is clear to read. The display in the centre can be configured to show information such as audio track, navigation and instant fuel consumption.

A head-up display (HUD) is also standard and is bright and easy to see.

HUD on the front windscreen

In a Homer Simpson moment, yours truly was fiddling with the audio advance/rewind control on the steering wheel while not realising the track advance/rewind information I was looking for was being shown in the HUD. D’OH!

standard cruise control (left), audio & telephony (right)
lighting-control shortcuts
seat memory settings, mirror & window switches
door-card bottle holder

Which then brings us to the 14.9-inch infotainment screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto of the wireless variety are both here, along with myriad other BMW apps that one can spend hours toggling through and learning.

So are the touchscreen climate controls. Regular readers know how much I abhor these, but the BMW’s system, when set to Auto mode, worked effectively. All I had to do was adjust the temperature to my preference via the touchscreen.

open-pored fine-wood trim with Silver Bronze inlay

A crystal-looking iDrive controller is available on the centre console, along with various shortcuts to get where one needs to quickly. Use these if you want to avoid fingerprints on the touchscreen.

iDrive controller, shortcuts, gear selector, parking brake, and Auto Hold brakes buttons

Just ahead of the centre console sit two cupholders and the wireless charging pad. In a welcome touch, half of the pad doesn’t have wireless charging and comes in extremely useful to preserve the lifespan of a mobile phone’s battery.

cupholders, wireless charging pad (right) & non-charging pad (left)
central cubby

Smooth Sailin’

You look and feel like a million bucks behind the wheel of the 520i. It drives smoothly and rides comfortably for the most part, but it can also handle a bend or corner like a champion.

Wind and road noise are well subdued, except over the roughest tarmac, and the Harmon Kardon audio system bangs out tunes quite crisply without getting too bright on the ears. A five- or eight-band equalizer would have been appreciated to fine-tune the output though.

With an output of 190hp and 310Nm of torque from its two-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder, acceleration is adequate rather than brisk. This, while taking into account its just over 1.7-ton kerb weight. Forget traffic light sprints. The 520i encourages you to drive smoothly and relaxed instead, which is perfectly fine for the daily commute.

Where the engine isn’t a powerhouse, it fires back with excellent fuel economy. I managed a normalised average of 5.56-litres/100km or 18km/litre, which handily trounced BMW’s claimed 7-litres/100km or 14.3km/litre. In such a large sedan!

Pure Street
Mostly Highway

So, it’s a good thing that this 5’er encourages one to drive smoothly, for good fuel economy is there for the taking. As usual, your mileage may vary based on driving style and conditions.

However, there are a couple of small flies in this exquisite ointment.

In My Modes ‘PERSONAL’, planting the accelerator to the floorboard for a kick-down saw the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox taking a good couple of seconds to finally kick down into a lower gear. This can be alleviated by switching to My Modes SPORT, but it shouldn’t have to be.

The gearbox itself is fine, but the programming to command kick-down in ‘PERSONAL’ needs tweaking.

Also a little bit irritating is the lack of adaptive cruise control, which entry-level Toyotas feature these days. There’s no excuse for premium and luxury auto manufacturers to nickel-and-dime customers with this as an optional extra.

As an executive sedan, the 520i does brilliantly for the most part. Let’s face it, those who buy this 5’er need a suitably upmarket sedan to ferry clients around while looking successful at both business power lunches and the family reunion dinner table. This BMW offers these in oodles.

Even my Mom and aunt, who were ferried to and from the nearest NTUC FairPrice couldn’t stop waxing lyrical about how they were “riding in a huge luxury limo,” such is the allure and pull of this 5’er. The 520i is perfect for most buyers in this segment.

BMW Iconic Glow exterior package

Enthusiasts? Wait for the 530i, if BMW decides to make it happen.

Technical Specifications

BMW 520i Launch Edition

Engine:  1,998cc turbocharged inline four-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Driveline: rear-wheel drive
Power: 190hp
Torque: 310Nm
0-100km/h: 8.1 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 230km/h (claimed)
Fuel Economy (combined): 7.0-litres/100km or 14.3km/litre (claimed)
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
Kerb Weight: 1,725kg
Price: $341,888 (including COE, accurate at time of writing)
Contact: BMW Singapore

Photo Credits: Alex Tan (@enzoalec92)

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