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    Bob BMW
    BEHIND THE WHEEL X1 LOVERS… LOOK AWAY NOW / re-evaluate the X1 xDrive20d M Sport / #2017

    The editor was rather taken with the X1 when he tested it but contributor Andy Everett takes another look at the junior SAV and his glass is decidedly half empty…

    BMW’s X vehicles and myself have never had an easy relationship. When the original X5 arrived, I treated it with a similar (but far weaker) form of derision that I reserve entirely for the Active Tourer – at least the X5 had a purpose and did something the Range Rover P38 didn’t – i.e. start in the morning and complete a journey without AA assistance. So in that respect, the well-built, reliable X5 that also drove much like an E39 5 Series did a job, and very well. The X3? It was okay I guess, and I was far less scathing about it than many others were. The X1? Well, when I did my stint in BMW sales in 2009 and 2010, neither I nor my colleagues were remotely convinced. We saw the styling, looked at the price list, shook our collective heads and thought ‘good luck with that!’.

    But BMW really does know what it’s doing and rarely drop the ball – look at the original 1 Series whose price list was regarded as German humour. It sold by the bucket-load and easily outstripped the E46 Compact. And so it was with the X1 that despite all odds, went on to sell an unfeasible amount – over 800,000 worldwide and 41,000 of those sales were in the UK.

    The new F48 model, launched in the UK in October 2015, is going the same way with overflowing order books and the Leipzig factory churning them out as fast as they can. BMW doesn’t need another glowing review for the X1 with these kind of sales figures which is just as well, because it’s not getting one from me. It’s an okay car, but not a brilliant one. It looks better than the old one, but that’s like saying Maroon 5 are slightly better than Travis. It’s decently built, but no better than an Opel Astra. It’s also noisy, and to my eyes it’s bloody expensive.

    First things first though – you probably know already that it’s based on the same platform as the 2 Series Active Tourer and the huge MINI Countryman. That means the B47 diesel sits transversely with a driveshaft going to a rear diff on xDrive versions. We’re also offered a front-wheel drive only version – buy a Nissan Juke for half the price (really) if that’s what you want. 2.0-litres, both petrol or diesel are standard, and the entry-level front-wheel drive model, the sDrive18d SE, starts at £27,440 with the entry-level xDrive model (again a 18d SE) costs £28,940. If you want a more powerful version you’ll have to opt for xDrive as all the 20i/d-badged models are four-wheel drive and the entry-level 20d Sport sans options costs £31,290. For that you get 190hp which is enough to propel the X1 along at a decent rate – to my mind the more powerful versions aren’t worth the extra. Standard kit includes navigation, climate and a single slot CD player but when the spec list mentions extended storage, Halogen headlights (wow!), front and rear underbody protection and front foglights, you know that you can get a lot more elsewhere.

    I borrowed this one, an xDrive20d M Sport with the eight-speed auto from Sytner BMW in Sheffield, my local dealer and who is always keen to help out. But get this: this car, that includes sports seats (heated), 18-inch wheels, leather, the usual M Sport bits – but not cruise control – is a shade over £37,000 on the road. That’s right – thirty seven thousand pounds.

    Let’s put that into perspective. A 520d – still the doyen of executive cars even as Dingolfing winds down production after six tremendous years, is a shade over 30 grand once you’ve got the standard discount (good luck with that on an X1). A four-wheel drive Nissan Qashqai Dci 130 with all the toys is £27,000… again, before your standard ten percent off list. Christ, even the seven-seater #4x4 X-Trail starts at under £22,000 and that’s before you consider the Hyundai Tucson with torque on demand 4x4 and a five-year warranty – from £18,995. Is BMW having a laugh?

    Still, being a BMW it’s going to be a great drive, right? The old X1 wasn’t bad despite having a poor ride, and the current 1 and 2 Series (the proper rearwheel drive one) are pretty good. The F30 3 Series has had a bit of a mauling due to the inert electric power steering and some interior plastics that must have been supplied by Lego. The X1 sadly falls into the same traps. Whilst the X1 corners well (as all BMWs do) with decent turn in, your main gripe will be about the electric power steering that requires constant correction to keep it in a straight line – drive as I did through a contraflow at some roadworks, and it is hard work. As dead as a dodo in the straight ahead position, there is no communication or feel – it’s like a driving instructor who teaches you how to merely operate a car rather than actually drive it. Because it’s an M Sport, the ride is okay but you can feel the stiff springs arguing with the 50 pence a corner dampers when what it really wants is some softer springs and dampers that are valved properly – remember how a Peugeot 405 used to ride and handle? Like a dream.

    But the main problem is the road noise, which is frankly unacceptable. Big tyres might look good but on any surface, the tyre roar is just tiresome and whilst the #B47 is quiet enough at idle, give it some work and it’s still a hoary old thing as all modern diesels are. I don’t know – I wanted to like the X1 but I just couldn’t and knowing how good a #BMW can be, I would feel short-changed at those prices. The last car I borrowed from Sytners was a 218d Sport Coupé with the manual ‘box and that was as close to my perfect car as you can get, whilst the 118d I rented in France was a real honey. Both of those cars are in the mid-20s price bracket and because you’ll never tire of driving one, they represent great value. To my mind the X1 is not a particularly great car that doesn’t do anything especially well. We of all people understand the lure of the BMW badge, but do yourself a favour, find the extra money and buy an X3 instead.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-X1 / #BMW-X1-xDrive20d-Sport / #BMW-F48 / #BMW-X1-F48 / #BMW-X1-xDrive20d-Sport-F48 / #BMW-X1-xDrive20d-F48 / #BMW / #BMW-X-Series / #BMW-X-Series-F48

    ENGINE: Four-cylinder, 16-valve, diesel
    CAPACITY: 1995cc
    MAX POWER: 190hp @ 4000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
    0-62MPH: 7.6 seconds (7.6)
    TOP SPEED: 137mph (136)
    ECONOMY: 58.8mpg (57.6)
    EMISSIONS: 127g/km (129)
    WEIGHT: 1615kg (1625)
    PRICE UK / USA / AU (OTR): £32,790 (£34,390)
    Figures in brackets refer to eight-speed auto as tested
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    There’s a new arrival in the form of an #BMW F20 120d M Sport, the track car has some further surgery, Mark Williams has been testing a Cadillac on holiday and there’s a round up from the Everett fleet.

    F21 120d M Sport

    So, one month ago I said goodbye to my trusty 118d of three years and said hello to my new 120d M Sport. It was obviously exciting to see the 120d for the first time as it arrived on the back of a trailer and the thrill of getting a new car, be it new or just new to you, never diminishes. First impressions were very good indeed. I’d never owned a white car before and, despite my hand being forced on the colour front, I have no complaints as white really suits the 1 Series, especially in M Sport trim. This, combined with the face-lift styling, really make a big difference in the looks department; while I had grown to love the chubbycheeked and slightly, um, fishy styling of my 118d, the LCI refresh has given the 1 Series a much more modern, dynamic and appealing face and overall look. The narrow headlights, especially in full-LED form as on my car, combined with the angular elements of the M Sport kit make the car look more aggressive and the three-door bodystyle that, once again, I was forced into due to budget constraints, is miles ahead of the frumpy five-door. Not only do you get frameless windows (always sexy) you also get nicely sculpted flanks which give the car a shapely appearance. Twin pipes and smarter rear light clusters finish off a triumphant face-lift. A lot of people at the office and, I wager, in other offices the world over like to chop and change when it comes to company cars so I was slightly worried that opting for the same model would make me feel like I hadn’t changed cars at all. Thankfully, that couldn’t be further from the truth and the interior plays a big part in this, in fact it feels so different to that of the 118d, I sometimes feel I’ve moved up to a different class of car. Being able to afford to tick the M Sport box this time around has arguably made the biggest difference; the steering wheel looks and feels fantastic, the smaller gear knob sits perfectly in the palm (a design so successful it looks identical to that of the E46 Sport models), the silver textured hexagon trim with its blue flashes save the interior from becoming a black abyss and the seats, while no different to those of my 118d in terms of design, look and feel more expensive thanks to their Alcantara side bolsters and thigh support.

    The face-lift has brought with it a number of interior changes, too. For example, climate control has replaced the manual air conditioning I had in the 118d and the fuel economy swingometer has made a welcome return to the bottom of the rev counter and (major geek warning) I noticed that the notches you feel when turning the radio volume knob, which has now gained a power symbol and illustrated volume curve, are softer and smoother than on the 118d’s volume knob. The biggest change is without doubt the addition of sat nav, now standard across the range. While it might only be the Business version, with its small screen, I have yet to find any features that are missing from BMW’s sat navlite that would make it feel inadequate.

    Full postcode search? Yes. Detailed supplementary arrow view? Yup. Weather? That’s a yes. You do have to work hard to get everything set up, though… ‘Crikey,’ I thought to myself whilst driving home in the dark one evening, ‘that display’s a bit bright, best turn it down.’ Of course, the option to change the night time brightness of the display isn’t in any of the sat nav menus, it’s in the control display menu but what is in the sat nav menu is the option to have the night time map display turned on, which gives you a much darker map with less glare. With no right-hand display pane like you’d find on the Professional nav to flip through various additional display options, you have to find the extra options menu, which then lets you add the very useful detailed turn arrows to the map display. You might think that the screen would start getting cluttered at this point but it’s fine; the arrow panel sits on the right and you only need to see the central or bottom central areas of the map, depending on your preferred view, and this area remains unobstructed at all times.

    I know people say that there’s no need for built-in sat nav in cars these days as phone nav is so good, and it is, but it’s still nice to have everything integrated, rather than having a TomTom hanging from your windscreen or your phone strapped to an air vent. It helps that BMW’s HDDbased nav is very good and while I miss being able to simply search for a company or place like I could in Google Maps on my phone and getting directions instantly, the interactive map is great at letting you pinpoint where you want to go when your destination is a little off-piste.

    The rest of the spec on my 120d is equally good and while it’s not what you’d call fully-loaded, it brings a lot more kit to the party then the 118d did. Cruise control was my mostmissed feature, the 118d being the only one of my current three-car stable to not have it, and I’ve already been using it lots in my first month with the 120d. My only complaint with the setup is that when you turn it on, the display between the dials says something like ‘Cruise Control ready’ but that means you can’t see the exact speed you’re setting it to until this message disappears as the digital speed read-out is located on the same display, though you can still use the little green LED that whizzes up the side of the speedo. The work-around is to have it turned on all the time, but then you have to drive around with the red LED showing at a random point on the speedo.

    Parking sensors are a very welcome addition; perhaps you might think that they’d be redundant on a small car like the 1 Series, but it’s not such a small car these days and judging where the back ends, especially when there’s a low object behind you, is actually really difficult. I’d actually say that reversing my 118d was harder than reversing my Camaro, which is massive in comparison but is very low, so you can see what’s behind you, and also has a low level hoop-style spoiler that you can use to judge where the car ends.

    As far as the LED headlights are concerned, the long summer days have meant minimal opportunities to truly appreciate what they are capable of, but first impressions are that they appear to be insanely, almost comically bright and do an incredible job of slicing through the darkness. Another a new feature I love is the auto-blip on downshifts; based on my time spent on Pistonheads, there are plenty of people who hate this function whatever car it may be on, presumably because these people heel and toe all the time everywhere in every single car (school run in the Kia? Heel and toe!), but for the remaining 99.9 per cent of the population it’s an excellent feature. I would try my best to rev match on downshifts when driving the 118d, so the hardest part of driving the 120d initially was remembering that I didn’t need to do that anymore. I have noticed that it doesn’t always work, so I will investigate exactly what parameters are required in order for it to function.

    While the leap from 118d to 120d, and with it a jump for 143hp to 190hp, hasn’t actually felt like a massive increase in performance possibly because, at the time of writing, the 120d hasn’t yet broken the 1000-mile mark and is fresh and tight, the switch to the new #B47D20 engine has brought about a massive increase in refinement. Good as the #N47 that preceded it was, it never sounded like anything other than a diesel and was often very clattery and rough. The #B47 is anything but and, from the inside at least, there is virtually no indication that there’s a diesel lump up front. It’s very quiet, smooth and what little noise it does make is really no worse than what you would experience from one of BMW’s current crop of fourcylinder petrols.

    As far as fuel economy is concerned, the on-paper figures put the 120d only a fraction behind the 118d, so I figured that would mean similar real-world economy too. Obviously it’s very early days and I would expect economy to improve once the 120d has a few more miles beneath its wheels, but from the 47.7mpg that the last tank yielded, I’d say it was off to a pretty good start.

    Incidentally, having covered approximately 12 miles with zero range showing and having squeezed 49-litres of diesel into the tank the next day, the remaining three litres at 47mpg would have given me another 31 miles, which is worth knowing should I find myself playing the fuel light lottery again anytime soon.

    DATA #BMW-F21 / #BMW-120d-M-Sport / #BMW-120d-M-Sport-F21 / #BMW-120d-F21 / #BMW-120d
    YEAR: #2016
    MPG THIS MONTH: 47.7

    Standard sat nav gets a big thumb’s up as do revised stero controls and the reappearance of the economy ‘Swingometer’ at the bottom of the rev counter.

    Elizabeth is pleased with her new 120d M Sport and has been delving through iDrive menus and pushing all the buttons to find out what’s changed over her old 118d Sport.
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    We’ve always liked the Touring models but what do we make of the 318d version in Luxury spec? Words: Shane O’Donoghue. Photography: Max Earey.

    All car makers partake in the mid-life refresh way of doing things. It’s quite understandable why: if a model is to remain in production for any meaningful length of time then it is likely to span a few buying cycles of the typical owner, especially those spending company money or on a leasing or finance plan. We humans like change, but not too much change, and that, it seems, extends to our cars. The manufacturers know this (they’ve no doubt spent millions paying highly qualified consultants to tell them so), which is why they subtly update their models every few years, making them not so different as to scare away existing owners, but enhanced enough to give those same people reason to want to change up.

    So it is with the evergreen 3 Series. #BMW calls its mid-life update ‘LCI’, standing for Life Cycle Impulse, and though we reported on the 340i when we attended the international launch of the LCI 3 Series back in the September 2015 issue this is our first chance to drive a 318d version. This Luxury Touring, fitted with the eight-speed automatic, is hardly bargain basement BMW buying, with a £34,035 sticker price, but it is one that should appeal to those spending their own money on a 3 Series Touring. I.e those that won’t be obsessing over every gram of carbon dioxide and the resultant benefit-in-kind taxation – and inevitably opting for the 320d EfficientDynamics Plus.

    Not that the 318d is exactly profligate. This automatic version is officially the most efficient, emitting 119g/km and returning 62.8mpg on the combined cycle. An average driver should see the right side of 50mpg without too much effort as well, especially if they make full use of the Eco Pro mode in the driving settings and heed the efficiency tips popping up in the dashboard. Naturally they’ll need to stay away from Sport mode, but our feeling is that those that go for the 418d over the 420d will be less inclined to experiment with those settings in any case.

    And they should also be perfectly happy with the tweaked suspension. BMW talks about increased stiffness in the system, from the body shell fixings to the dampers to the steering mounting, but what that has seemingly enabled is a softening of the suspension itself, adding more comfort into the mix. That’s obvious even on the lovely 18-inch alloys that come as standard with the Luxury specification, though unquestionably this model’s dynamics have been refocused on comfort and stability.

    Whisper it, but there’s even some stabilising understeer built into the chassis. Enter a corner with a little too much speed and the front tyres gently edge wide of the mark, hinting that you may want to slow down a tad. Only after that does the age-old 3 Series neutral balance come to the fore. Of more importance for the mass market, the sometimes twitchy nature of a rear-drive chassis that is evident in low-grip conditions has been cleverly dealt with. The 318d still carries as much speed as before, but that’s now available even to those that only have a vague sense of which end power is sent to. The DSC stability system is quicker acting than ever, but also, crucially, unobtrusive with it, allowing keener drivers to maximise the available grip while giving everyone else the confidence to push on feeling safe and secure.

    As ever, we’d recommend the automatic gearbox for your diesel-fuelled 3 Series Touring, but not only because it’s the sensible option in terms of resale value and efficiency. The eight-speed unit was already a polished piece of kit, but with the LCI, BMW launched an updated transmission. Thankfully it shifts with all the smoothness it did and it allows the driver to choose modes depending on the situation and their mood – as before. The modifications centred on improvements in efficiency. Reduced torque converter slip and a wider spread of ratios help contribute to a claimed three per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the gearbox alone. The automatic model betters its manual sibling on that regard, 119g/km playing 122g/km. That won’t really affect private buyers, but it’s a one per cent difference in benefit-in-kind.

    The automatic gearbox shifter is also more tactile to hold than the manual one and better suits the luxurious cabin with its Dakota leather and ‘exclusive stitching’. In fairness, it does feel a step up from the SE and Sport model in that regard and if you look closely there are loads of little detail enhancements to make sure you agree that the Luxury version is worth the premium. Chrome trim can be found surrounding the air conditioning and stereo control areas, while ambient lighting is included in the package as well. A ‘Sport’ multi-function leather steering wheel is present too, but we’re less impressed with this item. The leather is hard to the touch and the boss is oversized. Obviously the front seats are where you’ll want to be, but those in the back won’t complain too much (so long as they’re not in the middle, battling with the tall transmission tunnel), and of course you buy a Touring because you reckon you need a lot of luggage space. The 3 Series Touring’s boot measures from 495 litres to a maximum of 1500 litres with the rear seats folded. The minimum is only 15 litres more than a 3 Series Saloon’s boot, but of course much more can be fitted in above the window line if needs be. On top of that, it’s far easier to access the luggage in the estate, plus the glass in the rear hatch opens independently for when you want to quickly drop something in.

    This variant of the #BMW-3-Series Touring won’t be for everyone. Its price encroaches on the bottom of the 5 Series Touring line-up, for example, as it does on the X3 – while others may be happy to technically trade down to a high specification X1 for the SUV status. But those that get the whole 3 Series estate thing and are ready to upgrade their three-year-old example will be very happy indeed with the new model.

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW F31 318d Luxury Touring Auto / #BMW-F31 / #BMW-318d-Luxury / #BMW-318d-Luxury-F31 / #BMW-318d-Luxury-Touring-Auto / #BMW-318d-Luxury-Touring-Auto-F31 / #BMW-318d-Touring-F31 / #BMW-318d-Touring / #BMW-318d-F31 / #2016

    ENGINE: Four-cylinder, turbodiesel / #B47B20 / #B47
    CAPACITY: 1995cc
    MAX POWER: 150hp @ 4000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 236lb ft @1500-3000rpm
    0-62MPH: 8.8 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 130mph
    ECONOMY: 62.8mpg
    EMISSIONS: 119g/km
    PRICE (OTR): £34,035
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    2016 #BMW-418d / #BMW-F36 / #BMW-418d-F36 / #BMW-418d-Luxury-Gran-Coupe-Auto / #BMW-418d-Luxury-Gran-Coupe-Auto-F36 / #BMW-418d-Gran-Coupe-Auto-F36 / #BMW-418d-Gran-Coupe-F36 / #2016

    Luxury Gran Coupé Auto

    Behind the Wheel. Two 18ds tested in Gran Coupé and Touring guises. Can the sumptuous specification of the 4 Series Gran Coupé Luxury work with the entry-level diesel engine? Words: Shane O’Donoghue. Photography: Dave Humphreys.

    Back in the year 2000, a fresh-faced Jenson Button was stopped and fined the equivalent of £500 for doing over 140mph on a French motorway. It was the best bit of publicity #BMW ever received, as Button was at the wheel of a 330d Saloon (as part of his BMW-Williams contract) and the ‘incident’ was widely reported, making diesel cars a lot more interesting. In the intervening years we’ve seen the fuel come to dominate the UK market due in part to taxation based on carbon dioxide emissions and also because, well, diesel cars have improved immensely. BMW has always been at the forefront of diesel technology and thanks to the well-timed introduction of its suite of ‘EfficienctDynamics’ measures, it still leads the way in terms of emissions and fuel economy. So much so that, M cars aside, we now almost do a double-take when we come across a brand-new BMW powered by a petrol engine.

    That extends beyond the mass-market cars like the 3 Series and 5 Series – and all five SUV models – and includes the coupés, from the 2 Series to the 6 Series, plus, of course, the ‘four-door coupés’ such as the 4 Series Gran Coupé tested here. Nobody will blink an eye at the idea of a diesel engine in this model, but it’d be interesting to see how many buyers of the 418d version choose the ‘badge delete’ option when ordering… It represents the entry-level diesel variant, costing from £31,695 – as opposed to £30,125 for the cheapest petrol model, the 420i.

    And it could be a shrewd purchase for buyers that are more concerned with show than go, choosing the 418d over, say, the 420d, and spending the money saved on a higher trim level. They share the same basic 2.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder engine as ever (improved upon last year), the 418d putting out 150hp and 236 lb ft of torque to the 420d’s 190hp and 295lb ft. Those are appreciable differences when you pit the two cars back-to-back, but in isolation the 418d hardly feels slovenly – and its maximum torque is produced lower down the rev range too, at 1500rpm. Admittedly, a 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds is nothing to write home about, but the 418d retains a lovely effortless mid-range that typifies any modern diesel BMW.

    For clarification, that 8.9-second time is for the automatic version (the manual records a slightly faster time in the none-too-mechanically sympathetic hands of BMW’s professional test drivers), and though the eight-speed transmission adds a not insignificant £1550 to the purchase price, it’ll be easier to sell on later and will retain its value better. On top of all that, it turns out to really suit this engine’s power delivery. We’ve done lots of lyrical waxing on the talents of this gearbox already, but it’s always worth repeating: it’s a gem, whether you slot it into Sport mode and get a move on or leave it to its own default calibration map, where it remains smooth and chases as high a gear as is feasible to maximise economy, quelling engine noise in the process.

    In truth, this hints at the type of person the 418d Gran Coupé might suit. It’s at its best when lolloping along the motorway racking up the mileage with some calming tunes gently emanating from the decent sound system and average economy of well over 50mpg. In this guise, the suspension is welljudged, keeping a firm control on unwanted body movements, but not at the expense of comfort. On the open road, keener drivers will enjoy the typical rear-drive balance and uncorrupted steering, but this model gives up a little sharpness in return for that comfort. The engine noise, a little too loud around town and at idle, melts away into the background, and you can sit back and enjoy the envious stares from the passing traffic. And there will be some, as the Gran Coupé is a cracking-looking thing that grabs your attention when in the right specification.

    Of course, to maximise those covetous glances you’ll need to spend the money you saved with your engine choice on a higher equipment grade. A sum of £3000 spans the four grades, from SE through Sport, Luxury and M Sport. If you’re buying through PCP it probably won’t make a massive difference to your monthly payments, so you choose based on preference. M Sport is the most aggressive looking and Luxury is the classiest. The latter includes tasteful 18-inch alloy wheels and chrome detailing on the outside, which pair particularly well with a dark metallic paint finish.

    A year and a half after its launch, it’s still difficult to believe that the Gran Coupé is built on the same 2810mm wheelbase as the two-door 4 Series Coupé.

    Not only does it feature an extra pair of doors, but it physically looks much bigger. It’s a trick of the designer’s pen though (and a longer roof), and you shouldn’t expect the rear seats to be as capacious as those in a 3 Series Saloon, but the boot is, at 480 litres – and it’s easier to access thanks to the electrically opening hatchback. Occupants of the rear seats will be distracted from the lack of stretching room by the inclusion of frameless doors all-round and a well-appointed cabin within. The Luxury package includes a few extra no-cost leather options, in classy Saddle brown or Venetian beige, with ‘Exclusive’ stitching, adding no end to the ambience. Sixteen years after Jenson was slapped with that fine, there’s no doubt he has matured. The 4 Series Gran Coupé in this 418d Luxury guise could well be for the grown-up Buttons of the world. It’ll still do 132mph you know…

    The #BMW-4-Series / #BMW-4-Series-Gran-Coupé might share the same wheelbase as the two-door Coupé but it looks like a much bigger car.

    TECH DATA FILE #2016 #BMW F36 418d Luxury Gran Coupé Auto
    ENGINE: Four-cylinder, turbodiesel / #B47 / #B47B20 /
    CAPACITY: 1995cc
    MAX POWER: 150hp @ 4000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 236lb ft @1500-3000rpm
    0-62MPH: 8.9 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 132mph
    ECONOMY: 64.2mpg
    EMISSIONS: 116g/km
    PRICE: £35,745
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    Business Class. What would you buy for the same money; an Approved Used #BMW-F10 535d M Sport or a new 520d SE? The list price for a brand-new 520d SE Saloon is £32,260. For the same money you could buy a nearly new Approved Used 535d M Sport instead with two years BMW warranty. So which makes the best buy? Words: Guy Baker. Photography: Tom Begley.

    The current #F10 5 Series is undoubtedly ahead of the game – beating rivals from Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes to the title of top exec. Brilliantly refined and quiet, the latest Five delivers a genuine luxury feel, not to mention satisfying handling, impressive passenger room and especially efficient powerplants. And there’s a 5 Series model for almost every taste. The latest entry-level 520d for example provides feisty hot-hatch performance, yet claims a combined consumption figure of 65.7mpg and CO² emissions of just 109g/km, whilst at the other end of the 5 Series spectrum the 535d M Sport is almost an M5 diesel in all but name. Yet incredibly this 5.3-second to 62mph model too boasts a super-frugal combined consumption figure of 52.3mpg. Two very different saloons undoubtedly – but both share the same lust for efficiency. Furthermore, examples of either can be bought from your local BMW dealer, complete with warranty, for exactly the same sum.

    So you could splash out £35,000 on a brandnew mildly-optioned 520d SE – spec’d to your own individual taste – or alternatively put your cash down on a more appealing nearly-new 535d M Sport, which has already suffered the worst of its depreciation. Both choices have their attractions, and both come with the warm reassurance of a BMW warranty. But after a typical three-year ownership period which will have proved the better buy?

    Looking good

    Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. And although the styling of the latest 5 Series won’t take your breath away, there’s no denying it possesses more than a modicum of presence. Purposeful and athletic, yet svelte and slinky, the Five exudes a sunny disposition but retains that trade-mark aggressive front end – with a condensed kidney grille and an angrylooking stare. In full-blown 535d M Sport trim the F10 is quite imposing on the road, especially in black.

    Comfortable yet corporate, the 520d SE doesn’t possess the 535d’s deep front spoiler or foglamps, or its striking 19-inch alloys, but still sits low enough to the deck. And with its long wheel-base it cuts a lowprofile dash in the company car park. It lacks any feelgood details though, like M Sport kick-plates and front-wing badging; and the small twin-exhaust back box is a tad puny compared to the 535d M Sport’s meatier separate twin exhausts.

    Our black 535d also has better in-cabin appeal, with contrasting cream upholstery in place of the 520d’s standard black fare; although the chequered carbon-fibre look dash trim in this 535d M Sport won’t appeal to all. The driving experience, however, will.

    The 313hp 535d M Sport possesses prodigious torque (465lb ft at 1500rpm) and delivers low-end pulling power in every gear. And yet it’s responsive and refined too. Muscular and effortless, its sheer pace and acceleration are a revelation. Fast but never furious, it’s a gem of an engine, and at lower speeds the 535d can still be docile and smooth – happy to cruise quietly to the shops. It is 125kg heavier than its 520d little brother, but you’d never know it – on faster B-roads it feels as quick as a Porsche Boxster. And with powerful brakes reining you in whenever the need arises, you can cover ground alarmingly quickly.

    The 520d in contrast is punchy rather than potent, with the benchmark 0-62mph dash covered in 7.7 seconds. It’s still torquey, though, with 295lb ft available from just 1750rpm – so overtaking is never a problem. And whether you’re cruising up and down the motorway, or blasting down a country lane, in Comfort mode the 520d always delivers a superbly comfortable ride – whilst retaining just enough dynamic involvement. At higher motorway speeds however you may prefer Sport mode, with its slightly firmer suspension and steering responses.

    Always composed and relaxed, the 520d SE is genuinely enjoyable to drive, but once you’ve driven a 535d M Sport – which is frankly a league and a half quicker – you’ll always feel slight pangs of envy every time you see one on the road.

    The complete package

    Whilst the 535d M Sport has its lower-powered sibling licked on the road, the new 520d still has an impressive kit list, with £32,260 SE models like the Glacier silver saloon you see here claiming 17-inch alloy wheels, an electric parking brake, cruise control, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC+), Business navigation, front and rear parking sensors, rain sensitive wipers, leather upholstery, part-electrically adjustable front seats, automatic air-con, electric windows, multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth, a single-CD stereo, a seven-inch colour display with iDrive and a trip computer. And for around £3000 extra you could also opt for a 520d M Sport instead, with the M Sport suspension, aerodynamics package, 18-inch double-spoke alloys, spor ts seats, an M Spor t steering wheel and gear knob, and extra aluminium trim.

    The standard price is for a six-speed manual saloon, but many buyers will prefer the 5 Series with the optional #ZF8HP eight-speed automatic Steptronic transmission, which adds £1550 to the list price. Other popular options include an M Sport steering wheel for £110, split/fold rear seats at £335, front sports seats at £475, Adaptive headlights at £540 and full climate control for £305. All these options are present on our 520d SE test car, adding £4865 to the list price and taking the cost to £37,125.

    That’s the asking price for a one-year-old BMW Approved Used #2014 #BMW-535d M Sport saloon with just 10,000 miles on the clock. A slightly older 15,000-mile September 2013 example – like the Metallic Carbon black saloon you see here – is even cheaper at £34,000. So even if you could glean a sizeable discount on a new 520d you can still pick up a nearly-new Approved Used 535d M Sport saloon for the same money. And with identical practicality and an even better spec, the more potent Five offers more for your money. Most main-dealer examples (which were priced at £48,920 when new) come with at least one of five available option packs – BMW Navigation, BMW ConnectedDrive, the Dynamic package, the Visibility package and the Comfort Package. In addition to this, all cars come with the full M Spor t package as standard, and quite a few examples also boast goodies like heads-up display, blind spot warning, 19-inch alloys and a rear spoiler. All carry the eight-speed automatic transmission as standard.

    Decision time
    There’s no doubt then that a one- or two-year-old #BMW-535d-M-Sport has the new #BMW-520d-SE saloon beaten in terms of styling and spec. And the Approved Used Five’s appeal as a driving tool is clearly much greater too. But any buying decision has to take into account ownerships costs too. And in this sector of the market that’s the over-riding factor.

    With the very latest technology on board the 520d SE Saloon, at 65.7mpg combined consumption, has the 535d M Sport beaten at the pumps. So after a typical three-year ownership period, assuming an annual mileage of 15,000 miles a year, the 520d SE owner will spend around £942 less on fuel at today’s prices. And greater engine efficiency also means they will have saved £375 on their road tax bill too. In addition, estimated servicing and maintenance costs are around £455 higher for the 535d M Sport, and insurance costs are £249 greater for our typical 5 Series buyer. All of which leaves the 520d buyer over £2000 better off after three years. A substantial sum.

    However, if either car is bought outright at current BMW or independent finance loan rates then we must also factor in depreciation. And here it’s the Approved Used 535d M Sport that holds all the aces. With the first year of heavy depreciation behind it, it will lose less in value over the subsequent three years than a new 520d SE – to the tune of £2711. And that completely cancels out the new car’s advantage, leaving the used 535d M Sport actually marginally cheaper to own.

    Some buyers will opt for PCP, or even personal contract hire instead of fully financing a new 520d SE, but if you consider this route you must compare all costs closely. Interest rates can be higher for PCP and you will only own part of the car at the end of three years. For comparison, typical current independent borrowing loan rates for home owners are 3.8-8.5 per cent APR.

    Current BMW offers on new 520d also include Personal Contract Hire at £329 a month for 48 months, but you would have to put down £5899 initially – and there’s a hefty 8.72 pence-per-mile excess charge. Add this lot up and it’s a couple of grand less than the depreciation on a used 535d M Sport – but you won’t own anything at the end of three years.

    The nearest equivalent PCP is currently £478 a month with a £451 deposit and a #BMW / dealer deposit of £4709. At 5.9 per cent APR this sounds good, but the optional final payment is £11,925, and the excess charge is 6.75 pence-per-mile. Buying the car outright may hit your wallet less in the end. Both our 5 Series contenders pack cast-iron BMW warranties, and right now there are plenty of mintcondition Approved Used 535d M Sport Saloons advertised for sale at dealers, so finding one with the colour and spec you require won’t prove hard. That said, collecting a brand new 520d saloon with your ideal spec and options will be an absolute pleasure, and there are no waiting lists for factory orders. Both these 5 Series make tempting buys in their own right, but impressive though the new 520d SE Saloon is it’s the Approved Used 535d M Sport Saloon which holds greater appeal – not only to the heart, but also to the head.
    Many thanks to BMW Specialist Cars Tring ( for its assistance with this feature.

    New #2015 #BMW-520d-SE-F10 vs Used #BMW-535d-M-Sport-F10
    (New) 520d SE (Used) - 535d M Sport
    ENGINE: Four-cylinder, 16-valve diesel #B47 - Six-cylinder, 24-valve turbo diesel #N57 #N57D30T1
    CAPACITY: 1995cc 2993cc
    MAX POWER: 190hp @ 4000rpm - 313hp @ 4400rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 280lb ft @ 1750rpm - 465lb ft @ 1500rpm
    0-62MPH: 7.7 seconds - 5.3 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 144mph - 155mph
    COMBINED ECONOMY: 68.9mpg - 52.3mpg
    ESTIMATED DEPRECIATION: £22,535 - £19,824
    FUEL COSTS: £3677 - £4619
    ROAD TAX: £60 (CO² 109g/km) - £435 (CO² 148g/km)
    TYPICAL INSURANCE: £840 (group 34) - £1089 (group 45)
    TOTAL COST PER MONTH: £827 (averaged over 3 years) - £808 (averaged over 3 years)

    Costs estimated over three years at the time of writing, assuming 2015 VED rates and fuel costs and a similar purchase price for a car covering 15,000 miles a year – insured by a 45-year-old project manager living in the Midlands.

    Any buying decision has to take into account ownerships costs and in this sector of the market that’s the over-riding factor.

    The 535d M Sport is undoubtedly nicer to look at both on the inside and outside. It helps this model is fitted with contrasting cream leather.
    Purposeful and athletic, yet svelte and slinky, the Five exudes a sunny disposition.

    The new #BMW-B47 four-cylinder in the current 520d may be around 125hp and 175lb ft down on the 535d, but it still drives very well with plenty of grunt on tap for overtaking. It’s also a whole lot better on fuel.
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