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    Perfectly Refined

    We take a first drive in the new 518d and 520d models /// #BMW-518d-F10 /// #BMW-520d-F10 /// #BMW-518d-F11 /// #BMW-520d-F11

    The best-selling four-cylinder diesel Fives were pretty good already but now they have been fitted with the new 2.0-litre engine they’re better than ever Words: Kyle Fortune. Photography: BMW.

    “Germans don’t do coffee,” says one of the journalists present. “Great at beer but terrible at coffee.” There’s nothing wrong with mine though; it’s strong, black and hot. It’s needed, too, after a 1.50am start to get to the airport. The occasion? The international launch of BMW’s new #BMW-518d and #BMW-520d , and the coffee discussion is at the lunch stop just outside Munich. No scrappy Moto or Extra service station here, but a proper Dinzler Kaffeerösterei stop, where the coffee is excellent and Germany’s reps and middle management are better catered for than the eye-wateringly expensive Costas and Starbucks that litter our motorway service stations in the UK.

    We’re not here to discuss the merits of crushed beans and hot water, though. We, like the target audience, have just driven here in BMW’s 5 Series fleet specials. The cynic in you could consider #BMW ’s 2002 introduction of EfficientDynamics as being timed a little too perfectly, the firm’s low CO² engines arriving at almost exactly the point in time when CO² -based taxation arrived on company cars. A candid conversation a few years ago with a BMW insider refuted that; BMW’s drive to efficiency was a curious and lucky quirk of timing rather than actually planned. Regardless, it has been at the top of the game since, though inevitably others have caught up. The new 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine that brought us here today is the firm’s response.

    In the UK last year the 5 Series took 14,445 sales, of which 11,296 were 520ds. That new engine is significant then, and the 518d is unlikely to make a huge impact on that, as its CO² rating of 114g/km is no different from that of its more powerful 520d relation. Economy is the same, too, at 65.7mpg on the combined cycle. That worsens to 60.1mpg and 124g/km if you opt for a larger wheel and tyre package. Opt for the eight-speed Steptronic automatic, as around 50 per cent of buyers will, and both achieve 109g/km in SE guise only and 65.8mpg – or 114g/km and 119g/km on Luxury and M Sport wheels respectively.

    Whatever way you look at it, those are some fairly incredible numbers. And they’re achieved without any sacrifice in performance; indeed, the 520d gains 6hp and 15lb ft (20Nm) of torque, yet returns around ten per cent better economy. The 520d delivers 190hp at 4000rpm, its peak torque of 295lb ft (400Nm) achieved between 1750-2500rpm, which helps a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox or 7.7 seconds with the automatic. Understandably, the 518d’s numbers are more modest: it develops 150hp at 4000rpm, while its maximum torque of 266lb ft (360Nm) is produced over the same rev range as the 520d. Although it’s slower than the 520d on paper, its 9.5-second manual (9.4-second auto) 0-62mph time underlining this, it doesn’t feel so outgunned on the road.

    Christian Hiemesch, Project Director Development Diesel Engines for BMW 5, 6 and 7 Series, explains that the new diesel engine family is already used in both the X3 and 2 Series Active Tourer. Designated B47, the 1995cc unit replaces the N47 engine. It’s a modular unit with 500cc cylinders allowing three-, four- and six-cylinder layouts. The B37 three-cylinder version will power the 216d Active Tourer for instance. The new engine is designed to be fitted transversely and longitudinally, for use in both MINIs and front-wheel drive BMWs.

    No such divisive drive in the 5 Series. Although xDrive four-wheel drive offerings mean some European markets will see power directed to the front, in the UK the 5 Series remains resolutely rearwheel drive. Like its predecessor, the B47 features EfficientDynamics technology to maximise economy.

    TwinPower turbocharging, Electric Power Steering and Brake Energy Recuperation all feature, while mapcontrolled oil pumps with variable vanes enable continuously adjustable control of the volume flow and pressure in response to the engine’s status. Thermodynamic efficiency is improved around the core of the engine, too, as has the starting characteristics of the Auto Start Stop function, the result being even less scavenging losses to auxiliaries.


    The variable intake ‘TwinPower’ turbochargers have been optimised with new roller bearings, while newly designed heat exchangers for the exhaust gas flow optimise cooling performance – to the benefit of a reduction in maximum combustion temperatures and efficiency. The common-rail injection system uses new solenoid valve injectors for more precise control of fuel flow, and allow increased injection pressure – of up to 2000bar. Friction reductions have been achieved thanks to thermally joined cylinder liners in the aluminium crankcase, while the stiffer case, along with balancer shafts, help to improve refinement.


    Those changes are obvious immediately; as in the 218d Active Tourer we’ve driven elsewhere in this issue (p28), the 2.0-litre turbodiesel’s refinement is exceptional, even more so when under the Five’s bonnet. There are absolutely no vibrations, so the smoothness and eagerness to rev are both very impressive, and the improved Auto Start Stop system is all but imperceptible in its operation – not least because of the engine’s near silence and lack of vibration. Choose Eco Pro via the Drive Performance Control switch and the earnest eco bias feels like you’re pushing an accelerator that’s attached vaguely to the engine, so the standard Comfort mode is preferable unless you value economy over all else.

    The dual-nature of BMW’s four-cylinder turbodiesels has always been their strongest point though. Even without much thought to efficiency they’ll return highly credible economy, and yet still produce effortless performance on demand. Ask for more and that keenness to rev is unlike the majority of BMW’s offerings, though it’s at its best when specified with the eight-speed automatic gearbox.

    That optional Steptronic transmission helps achieve greater economy and emissions figures over the sixspeed manual. It does this by a number of measures, including an rpm-linked damper with engine specific tuning that allows lower rev driving without the usual compromises in vibration and acoustic intrusion. The longer ratios assist, too, as does a sat nav-linked predictive shift. The gearbox talks to the sat nav – even when not routing – to allow the optimum shifting strategy for the driving situation, as well as a coasting function in Eco Pro mode.

    The 5 Series diesel has come a long way from its 1984 524td beginnings with 115hp and 40.9mpg. Now if only UK customers were offered somewhere as nice to stop for a coffee on the road all would be right with the world.

    TECG DATA BMW F10 518d SE & 520d SE #BMW-F10 /// #BMW-F11
    518d SE 520d SE
    ENGINE: Four-cylinder, 16-valve turbodiesel Four-cylinder, 16-valve turbodiesel / #N47D20 / #N47
    CAPACITY: 1995cc 1995cc
    MAX POWER: 150hp @ 4000rpm 190hp @ 4000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 266lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm 295lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
    TOP SPEED: 135mph (134) 146mph (144)
    0-62MPH: 9.5 seconds (9.4) 7.9 seconds (7.7)
    ECONOMY 65.7mpg (68.9) 65.7mpg (68.9)
    EMISSIONS: 114g/km (109) 114g/km (109)
    WEIGHT (EU): 1690kg (1700) 1695kg (1705)
    PRICE: £30,265 (£31,815) £31,965 (£33,515)
    Figures in brackets refer to eight-speed auto #ZF-8HP
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