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    F10 520d SE

    I knew I was going too fast as the nose of the M4 approached the apex. I was going to run out of track. In a heartbeat, cutting the corner a little more seemed the sensible thing to do. Severe of kerb and blind on the approach, I’ve driven this track enough to know what lay beyond, but even so in that moment I wasn’t sure quite how much road I would have left if this went wrong.

    In the next breath, I knew I’d misjudged it. The front rode the kerb well enough without displacing the chassis more than expected, but then a thousandth of a second later, the rear hit the kerb right at its most extreme and rather than enjoying that balanced feel of front and rear in unison, just on the edge and peeking over the point of no return, it all started to unravel with the rear of the car rotating into the air, the force through the steering wheel increasing, the windscreen full of trees and not the corner which I’d just been looking at, and with said bend now coming at us through the passenger window…

    Those of a certain age and a gaming inclination will recall the earliest days of the driving sim, and those halcyon days of the mid-‘90s, by when the earliest games (impressive but hampered by the limitations of the hardware) had evolved into something more realistic with the dawn of the modern console era, are the starting point of the evolutionary process which has brought us to where we are today.

    The likes of TOCA Touring Cars and Colin McRae Rally, plus of course Gran Turismo and later, the Microsoft Forza series laid the ingredients for the successful formula, and today’s iterations are something to behold. Virtual Reality is the latest thing in gaming. But if you’re like me, you’ll feel that sitting in a room wearing a headset and headphones which isolate you from the surrounding environment (not to mention looking like a dork) is a tad anti-social. I like to be aware of what’s around me, hence I stick to the 32-inch monitor. But games tell you they offer a realistic interpretation of the art of driving so is there any truth in that, or is it a load of tyre smoke and mirrors?

    The first thing to understand, whilst I’m hacking around the Nordschleife in my virtual BMW M4 (that wasn’t an actual #BMW-M4-Coupe-F82 I was referring to at the start, do you think #BMW had taken leave of its senses!?), is I’m not sat in one of these gaming rigs which wouldn’t look out of place in McLaren F1’s R&D studio. Some people do spend thousands on these setups, but for that kind of cash I’d rather buy an actual car and do some track days. But at the same time, I’m not sat there on a cardboard box twirling a plastic plate, so some cash has been spent beyond the presence of a sturdy, reclining office leather chair…

    We have a force feedback base by Thrustmaster, a TX to be precise at about 200 quid, to which is attached a 22-inch TM racing rim. Leather covered and equipped with tactile metal paddles and a solid metal centre, this adds weight and realism through avoiding feeling too plasticky or ‘light’ in your hands. And another 100 quid. Next, my feet drop onto the cool metal plate of my inverted #T3PAPRO pedals, offering up full threepedal heel-n-toe control and a socalled canonical brake pedal mod, which allows proper resistance to be felt underfoot and hence, the judging of braking effort up to the point of lockup. Thrustmaster will relieve you of £150 for those.

    The last item of what I consider the essential equipment without resorting to one of those rigs (and discounting the obvious requirement for a decent television or monitor, in my case a 32- inch HD 1080p LG bought used off eBay for 50 notes) is the TH8A shifter, again by Thrustmaster, and again fostering realism through allowing full manual gear changes when combined with the aforementioned pedal set.

    Seven-speed capable, cool to the touch at least at the start of a gaming session and with an exposed gate, it’s a beautifully tactile addition and really sets the rest of the kit off a treat. And another 120 quid or so.

    The total cost is somewhere around £570, to which we need to add around 50 quid for a decent set of headphones. With other sundries, we’re at 600 quid before factoring in the cost of the actual console. Xbox One bought new upon release, we’re at nearly a grand for the whole lot. Barmy, but still less than the £3.5k and up for one of those rigs. So, in short, it’d better be worth it…

    Back to the Hohe Acht turn-in around the latter half of the ‘Ring (on a rise, blind entry, falling camber on the exit, the fella who drew this place had a really sick sense of humour). I’d gone in far too fast, clipped the kerbs and immediately sent the inside rear into the air… Travelling too quickly on increasing opposite lock and with the outside wheel scrubbing the surface, lifting off now would spell disaster. Split-second analysis of the decision (hindsight is a wonderful thing) resulted in a little more power being deployed, and in a nanosecond we’re broadside on the track as the inside rear regains its useless purchase on the Tarmac. And Wippermann is now looming in the side windows. Hmm…

    At least it’s a right-hander, just about. As was the last corner, so we’re heading in vaguely the right direction. What to do? Drop anchor and hope enough speed is lost before the passenger side smashes into the Armco, or try to drive out of it? How to even try to drive out of it? Figuring that if this goes pear-shaped all I’ll lose is my pride and I won’t actually die, I work the situation. Modulating the power (coughs and crackles audible from the exhaust) but fighting the steering all the time, I twirl the wheel with such force my bottle of (thankfully, unopened) Dr Pepper falls off the table whilst I whoop far too loudly. The outside kerb of Wippermann is almost upon us but a combination of lost speed, reduced torque and a shallower steering angle scamper us around in a manner which almost implies pre-planning. My heart-rate says different. My wife looks up briefly from what she’s doing, shakes her head in amusement at my “THIS IS AWESOME” exclamation and returns to her task.

    The M4, with not a mark anywhere on it, continues on its way up the road. The next lap (still with the tyre marks showing on the surface through Hohe Acht – a nice touch) is a good deal less eventful and by the end of the second lap, the tyres are shot and we need fuel too. But my mind tells me that was epic and a very realistic modelling of an M4’s behaviour in extremis.

    But all this is supposition unless one has some actual real-world experience of the Nordschleife, not to mention your chosen wheels. So what are my credentials? An E46 320d which was collected new as a company car in Brussels years ago, and handed back two years later with 100km on the clock and decidedly second hand, gave me a few tastes of life around the ‘Ring. White-knuckled runs (bearing in mind company cars weren’t allowed to do such things if one listened to HR) and some interesting tussles with a muppet in an Opel Manta convinced me to get out whilst the going was good. So after four or five visits over a 12 month period, never once visiting the Armco, witnessing the increasing madness of some people and stringing together a circa ten-minute lap (in an E46 #BMW-320d-E46 , don’t forget) I declared the place ticked off my bucket list and haven’t been back since.

    Not physically anyway. But the number of virtual miles I’ve completed around that track would likely run into thousands, and it’s now gotten to the point that I can replay a lap in my head, every corner entry point, clipping point and track position on the exit logged in my brain on a virtual, rotating 3D image of the place. Whether that ever translates into a decent actual lap, I’m not sure I want to try and find out.

    And the M4? Well okay there’s some artistic licence at play here because I’ve not actually driven an #BMW-M4 as yet (and if anybody from BMW is reading this, I’d be more than happy to remedy the situation, and we don’t even have to go to the Nordschleife either). But time spent in an F80 M3 last year represents the next best thing, and whilst the ‘Ring wasn’t the stage for that experience, the noise, the feel and response and the gusto in evidence during the miles I drove the car on the public roads have stuck in my mind.

    I can therefore declare that Assetto Corsa, the game in question, is very realistic. Sound-wise, the game is spot on. Oh I know the M3 and M4 pairing have received a load of stick in the press for not sounding as good as the E90 generation, but that’s like criticising the Euro Fighter for not sounding quite as evil as the Vulcan bomber. Doesn’t mean it’s any less capable of ruining your day should the need arise.

    So the virtual M4 sounds pretty good, at least in terms of matching the real version. The creators have even successfully managed to model the interior, although as usual the lack of a HUD frustrates (other cars in the game get one). As for the handling, the one thing the game doesn’t model is weather beyond a little mist or fog, so the M4’s supposed spiky handling on the limit in damp conditions can’t be explored (a pity, one may have been able to learn to a certain extent, and in controlled conditions, how to drive around it).

    We can still comment on the dry handling though. So get the chassis loaded-up in a turn, now adjust the balance with a little more throttle, feel the rear start to slip. No need for corrective lock, at this point the rear is turning the car with the fronts pointing at zero degrees. Hold this attitude for as long as the corner lasts and the M4 arcs around gracefully; a mournful wail from the tyres filling your world. Allow some more power and the feeling of balance remains (remembering we are using a force feedback wheel, which accurately mimics steering and chassis loading, even if the fixed seat doesn’t) whilst the rear now slides out a little. This is where the simulation really starts to tell. One has to know exactly how much corrective lock to apply. Too little and the car will slide further outwards until it runs out of road and you crash into the barriers on the inside of the turn. Too much and the slide ends abruptly. From there it’s almost inevitable that you’ll nose it at speed into the opposite barriers on the outside of the turn. Get it wrong and you’ll tut-tut, press restart and try over. Get it right and you’re convinced you’ll never get it wrong, and you’re off to try it again at the next corner…

    Perhaps you can’t afford an M3. Or an M4. Or a 1M which is also modelled in the game and unnervingly accurate with its wailing straight-six and spin-in-its-own-length handling. I know I can’t. So for many, the possibilities offered up by a good driving sim are intriguing, and if you’ve not tried it, I urge you to do so.

    As for the 520d, no I wouldn’t dare attempt to take this one around the ‘Ring because it’s my own car! We’ve been to North Wales again this month though, and hacking across country from Shrewsbury and then out into the sticks up the A5 with the heated seats and wheels going full blast and -3°C outside (it was -7°C the following morning!), plus some decent toons on the hi-fi was a very pleasurable experience. I’ve said before that travelling at night in the F10 is a very pleasurable way of putting distance behind you and that doesn’t change with familiarity. One assumes the same sense of well-being will be evident in the G30 when it arrives. We spent a pleasant couple of days in Betws-y-Coed, nosing around the local shops and generally having a good time, and I spent far too much money in the model railway place.

    Again. Then the time came to leave and as night approached we scampered south back along the A5, the sun setting rapidly to our right as night crept over the hills, turning the landscape from green, through husky greys to darker browns before blackness and night enveloped us silently. Mercifully free of traffic, and hence cracking on whenever I had the chance, we made good time on the return trip and the nigh-on 40mpg returned by the B47 despite the aforementioned heated occupants proves that modern engines, for all their efficiency and as I alluded to last month, are better with more demanding usage than just crawling around town.

    CAR: #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520d-SE / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 / #BMW-520d-F10 / #BMW /

    YEAR: #2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 897
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 12,775
    MPG THIS MONTH: 39.6
    COST THIS MONTH: Nil
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    F10 520d SE LONGTERMERS / #Jaguar / #BMW

    How much more fuel do you suppose is consumed through running your heated seats on full blast all the time? The recent colder weather has meant that the Five Series has driven around west Oxfordshire for nearly a month with heated seats and steering wheel on full roast, and I think the resultant 37.6 is the lowest average figure I’ve seen since we bought the car. The only reason the overall economy is actually 39.1mpg is due to a lastminute return day trip to Sudbury the day before I submitted this copy to the editor, which has had the effect of dragging up the average a tad.

    Full anorak-spec this observation may be, but a ten percent difference in terms of inferior economy (or thereabouts) is a marked drop. I doubt there’s another reason for it, and next weekend we’re off to North Wales again for our annual freezing-our-bits-off- because-we-have-children shindig at Betws-y-Coed (there’s a Winter Wonderland there every year), and given that I like to travel in a toasty oven these days, and especially at this time of year, it’ll be mildly interesting to see what kind of economy we get.

    Enough maths though, what else have we been up to? Well I’ve driven a Jaguar, around a year after I said no to the last one. That car was the XE, which turned out to be too small, not special enough inside and despite the 3 Series-esque road manners, not quite what I was looking for. Shock horror of course, because I ended up buying a Five Series. Ergo trying the XE really wasn’t giving Jaguar a fair chance. The XF would have been a far more suitable foe, ignoring for a moment the alluring finance deals which supported XE sales at the time.

    Without boring you with the logistics, I was able to spend some quality time with the XF, the idea being (risky I know) to ascertain whether or not it would indeed have been a better fit. And the short answer? No.

    On castor-spec 17-inch alloys it looks too bloated, the rear deck especially sitting very heavily over the wheels. Square-on from the rear, there’s a distinct muffin effect, too (i.e a narrow track). The F10 runs equal diameter rims of course (at least it does at the moment) but the styling is better resolved, possibly through being a more traditional three-box shape.

    The XF’s frontal aspect is spot on though. It’s as you walk around the car that is starts to unravel.

    So you climb inside, and this is where a Jaguar is supposed to excel, right? No again I’m afraid. The days of the low-slung and snug, highdashboard, hide and wood Jaguar interiors which I used to own back in the day have long gone. No bad thing some would say, but the honest truth in my view is that, compared to the driver-centric and well-finished premium feel to the BMW’s interior, the open-architecture fascia was in stark contrast to the BMW and for the wrong reasons. Firstly because this is the latest iteration of the #Jaguar-XF – not an update of the previous model, but a whole new version. Hence you would expect it to match the F10, at least.

    When the G30 goes on general sale in the UK in February, it’s going to date the Jaguar’s interior something chronic (plus the tech in the Jaguar isn’t too hot either, but we’ll get to that). And secondly because the interior in general, with thin and brittle-feeling paddle-shifters, ditto the electronic parking brake actuator and even more thin, brittle and poor-quality seat height adjustment, plus an impressive looking aluminium rising rotary gear selector which unfortunately then sits in a sea of plastic, felt quite inferior to the #BMW interior. And let’s not forget, this is where you spend most of your car time.

    If this sounds quite harsh then it’s fair to also point out that the car did grow on me a little during the two days we had it, but nowhere near enough to be convinced by it. And I’m also acutely aware that I do like a bit of ‘wood’ trim in my cars. The standard BMW trim is also pretty awful in my view (and the metallic-look plastic in the M-Sport offerings is even worse) but it’s at least underpinned by some better thought-out design. Who, for example, decided to locate the driver assistance buttons in the XF down on the lower right-hand side of the dashboard by the driver’s knee, where they are almost completely out of sight and difficult to spot without considerable determination whilst on the move? And when you do activate the system, the tell-tale icon in the instrument cluster is apologetically small. Driver assistance? Hardly. In terms of overall tech, BMW wins again. Not in the availability of tech, as the Jaguar also offers up lane guidance, radar cruise, cameras and so on, but in how the tech is deployed. The iDrive pro-nav in the Five Series, as I’ve said before, is a fantastic piece of kit. As is the HUD. The Jaguar offerings however, lag behind. The touch-screen interface lacks appeal, the graphics are outmoded and the presence of a memory card for the nav’s maps in the armrest had me mentally winding the clock back ten years.

    Jaguar sold a little over 80k cars in 2015 (contributing around 20 percent to the overall JLR sales figures once the approximately 400k annual Land Rover sales are taken into account). BMW shifted 1.9 million. So naturally there’s a monumental investment hole. One does wonder how the gap will be closed on this evidence. In terms of the drive, bearing in mind I’d already been underwhelmed by the looks and the interior, the abrupt quality to the auto shift (which is the same ZF unit I believe, albeit with Jaguar-specific calibration) no matter the drive mode selected at the time, was the final nail in the coffin.

    The XE did this too and I didn’t like it then, either. Ride quality was excellent though, wind and road noise well-suppressed, and the rotating air vents are amusing pieces of theatre (even if the central vents are now bog-standard items on this latest version). These positives weren’t enough to tip the balance however. So no, I didn’t fancy it, and the F10 is definitely the better car, at least from my perspective. There’s a video review of the XF on my YouTube channel. And I’ll apologise in advance for the hat…

    TECHNICAL #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520d-SE / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 / #BMW-520d-F10 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-F10
    YEAR: #2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1319
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 11,878
    MPG THIS MONTH: 39.1
    COST THIS MONTH: Nil
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    Amar Chaudhry F10 #BMW-520d-M-Sport / #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520-SE / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-F10 / #BMW / #BMW-520d-M-Sport-F10 / #BMW

    The F10 5 Series has plenty of modding potential and Amar has certainly been tapping into it, wasting no time when it came to getting his recent purchase to stand out from the crowd. So far he’s added gloss black kidney grilles bearing the M logo, a carbon fibre front splitter and an M Sport boot lip spoiler. A big car like the F10 needs some serious wheels and Amar’s choice is spot-on, with a set of monster MK Motorsport 20s stuffed under the arches, measuring 9” up front and 11” at the rear, with massive dishes all-round and yellow calipers adding the finishing touch.
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    LONGTERMERS #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520d-SE / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-F10 / #BMW

    YEAR: #2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1373
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 8852
    MPG THIS MONTH: 41.1
    COST THIS MONTH: Nil

    It’s only taken around six months to get around to it but I’ve finally connected a GoPro camera to the car via the iDrive architecture using an iPhone. I’ve got no idea if it works through Android and given the utter faff in getting it to work on iOS, I’m not sure I want to try, either. One starts simply enough, by selecting the ‘ConnectedDrive’ iDrive menu option on cars thus equipped.

    It’s quite simple at this point, following the menus through until a BMW-branded screen appears on your iPhone’s GoPro app (provided you have the app running, which I hope is fairly obvious). From here, though, I’d love to be able to relay specifically what I did in order to achieve the image on the screen but, alas, only a combination of enabling and disabling, then re-enabling the wireless connection between the iPhone and the camera and trying different combinations of GoPro app running first before the wireless was connected, then vice-versa, seemed eventually to work. In short, it was a bit of a palaver.

    One thing which I think is correct is not to use the connection which gets established as normal between your iPhone and the GoPro as I suspect this ‘hijacks’ the protocol and makes the connection between the car and the iPhone impossible. It’s better to start the app, ensuring the cable is plugged in, do not use the ‘control’ or ‘media’ settings on the app and ensure that the wireless connection is running before starting the app. This, I think, is the way to do it. But if you don’t get positive results you should probably do what I should have done, and read the flaming manual!

    So once you’ve sworn several times, wondered to yourself what the hell you are doing sitting here in the dark trying to display a tiny image on a slightly less tiny portion of the screen, what’s the result like? A bit crap, if I’m honest. I was expecting/hoping the entire iDrive screen would be taken over by the GoPro but in actual fact, as mentioned, only a tiny image is relayed via a portion of the screen, and moving the camera results in an F10 520d SE awful delay before the image is updated. The image quality is rather poor, too (although it’s probably better in daylight). And don’t whatever you do then change focus on the mobile phone in order to take a photograph for a magazine Longtermers report because, when you then return to the app, the image on the screen may well have frozen and you will have to reconnect and start all over…

    …Or do what I did at this point, and unplug, switch off and return indoors, muttering to the bemused wife something along the lines of “what on earth is the point of that?”. I’ll try again next month and document the process properly but at the moment I’m really struggling to see the point.

    It’s been a quiet month otherwise. There’s still no news on the mudflaps. Every time my gaze falls on the lower portions of the bodywork, I make a mental note to get them ordered. Then my daughter blitzes us with another 400 questions and the thought is gone again. My attempts last month at inflating the tyres seems to have been less than 100 percent successful, too, as the TPM claims they are still 3psi short of where they should be. Apparently one has to inflate to the correct pressure first thing in the morning, then reset the monitor, when the tyres are cold. Who knew something so inanimate as a tyre could be so fickle.


    Oh and finally this month, a mention for my friend Geoff Calvert at www.theoldleatherworks.co.uk and his artisan approach to creating pretty much anything you care to mention with nothing more than his bare hands, several leather hides, a few tools, a workshop perched on the shores of the Isle of Harris and a ‘can do’ attitude. If you’re looking for something unique, tailor-made and absolutely not available on the high street, or anywhere else online for that matter, do please get in touch.

    GoPro camera has now finally been paired with 520d’s iDrive – it wasn’t an easy task
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    F10 520d SE

    A fairly quiet month for the 520d, although I did at least manage to put the sat nav to the test on the run back home from the Surrey Hills. We’d been down there for the day on a feature you can read about in a future issue, and the iDrive traffic updates looked rather sombre as we drove through Guildford, the ETA back to the house near Burford first extending to 45 minutes later than anticipated, then to over 90… I’ve learnt through the years to trust this system though, so instead of ignoring the alternative route suggestions I obediently followed the screen’s bidding and left Guildford by heading west, then towards Reading and onwards up to Newbury, as opposed to simply whistling up the A3 then around the M25.
    We succeeded in joining the M4 around Reading with no hold-ups, then exited at Newbury just as the traffic was building beyond the junction (my heart goes out to you if you have to do this run every day of the week). It then became clear that the sat nav was regularly snipping at the route and calculating where we needed to be, because no sooner had we joined the A34 than the re-route option popped up again. Twirl, click and we’re departing the A34, heading west once again, out towards Wantage. The nav was constantly keeping south and west of the M25, then south of Oxford, first from the perspective of approaching from the east and hence the spectre of getting jammed up in the Wolvercote roundabout road works (which are necessary, but infuriating) and then from the west for pretty much the same reason. We eventually popped up in Witney, and arrived home around 30 minutes later than would be expected, but well over an hour earlier than we would have done had we followed my normal route. Impressive stuff.

    Another impressive aspect of that day in Surrey was during the trip down there, OU16 succeeding in returning a scarcely credibly 52.8mpg at a little under an indicted 80mph.

    I’ve opined before on this apparent witchcraft, but quite how a big saloon with all the kit this thing has on it, but which is rowed along by ‘only’ a 2.0-litre four-pot, can then return over 50mpg is mind-boggling.

    I’m thinking of running a book on when the washer bottle will need topping up. Four months in and over 5000 miles covered, and there’s still no warning message appearing on the screen, despite regular squirts… I can only assume that when it does finally request replenishment, I’ll be stood there for an age whilst it feeds. Talking of which, one of the diesel fillups this month was a tank of Super Plus from Esso, and I have to say I didn’t notice any difference to the regular stuff, so I’ve reverted to the cheaper option. Not sure it’s worth paying extra for posh diesel, whereas super unleaded always seemed to bring tangible benefits, whether the car in question was new or old.

    Oh and finally this month, I had been intending to talk about the GoPro camera connectivity which is apparently offered up by the iDrive system, depending of course on the options fitted to your car. I’ve mentioned previously that we should be able to achieve this with OU16, so I thought I would give it a go. Alas I could not for the life of me either remember the wireless password for the camera (to enable it to connect to the iPhone) nor figure out how to reset said password. So I’ll have to work that out, give it another go then confirm in a future report as to whether it actually does as suggested.

    Car: F10 520d SE
    YEAR: #2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1064
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 5583
    MPG THIS MONTH: 41.7
    COST THIS MONTH: Nil

    DATA #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520d-SE / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 / #BMW-520d-F10 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-F10 / #BMW / #N47 /
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    F10 520d SE

    We’ve been doing the tourist thing around Florida this month, and the rented #Cadillac-Escalade-ESV was an interesting contrast to life with the Five Series. And not necessarily for the right reasons, either. But we’ll get to that. Incidentally, we had the usual polite and efficient Virgin Atlantic crew, whose efforts were partially undone by the brusque and cavalier attitude of the check-in staff at Orlando’s Disney Springs on the way home. You can’t have everything I suppose. The trip itself was good, featuring an hilarious airboat ride (8.0-litre #V8 , walls of noise), lovely, relaxed Disney resorts set against the frenzied Universal parks (I doubt we’ll go back to those as they’ve changed little since our last visit and the people are bleetin’ miserable), and a guided tour around Daytona International Speedway (where the people were lovely, even though when they showed us last season’s winning car, I clearly had no idea what I was looking at). Garnished with some great weather. Although, of course, there was some very disturbing news items during our visit. But let’s talk cars…

    1200 miles in the #Cadillac provided sufficient time to form an opinion. And my opinion is this – consider the context. In the US, this car works. Elsewhere in the world, it’d be akin to Eddie Murphy speaking at the Klan’s AGM. In the US, its over 17-foot length and 7-foot girth blends in with the other road furniture, and the 6.2- litre V8 knocking out 420hp and 460lb ft blends old-school pushrod tech with new-fangled direct injection and cylinder deactivation. Physics won’t be dissuaded though and shifting 2.6 tonnes with even this powerplant results in merely brisk acceleration and just enough of a V8 rumble to confirm you’ve not succumbed to the new twin-blower V6 in the rival Lincoln Navigator.

    Want more mass? Opt for the AWD version (not all SUVs in the US are allwheel drive by default) and bludgeon down the highway with 2.75 tonnes of prime American iron. Want more noise? Fit a ruder exhaust, which some people do. Want more, full stop? Then buy a pick-up truck where 6.7 litres of blown V8 diesel are available from Ford along with stumppulling torque to the tune of 860lb ft.

    But I digress, what was the Cadillac really like? Well, to storm down I-4, east towards Daytona and the coast, it was a pleasure. I’ve never driven anything which exhibited that much kinetic energy once up and running at speed but other than needing frequent and subtle steering tweaks in order to keep this leviathan thundering along in a straight line, driving the 90 miles to the International Speedway was relaxing. Slowing to 60mph when traffic intervened was no hardship, as a meaningful boot on the throttle dropped the transmission a cog or two and the V8 would spin past 4k as speed was regained, along with a roar from upfront. And overall, it returned 17.7 US mpg (or just under 15mpg in imperial), which was amusing.

    Launching from the lights with gusto would result in a chirrup from the rear (two-wheel drive remember) and once up to speed the eight-speed auto was unobtrusive in its operation, although it did suffer from that unfortunate ‘surging’ effect which seems to afflict all American SUVs if they’re run on anything other than premium gasoline. Wind noise was pretty well suppressed, despite the jumbo door mirrors, the brakes demonstrated an amusing effort-to-effect multiplication ratio (Lord only knows how big the servo is) and road noise was also kept to a minimum. The only dynamic flaw (as one could never really expect a vehicle like this to handle) was the steering which could best be described as vague and felt as if it was connected to the wheels via several hundred strands of gluedtogether pasta. The interior was a lovely place to spend time in terms of comfort levels and materials though and overall, one could see why this is the premier American SUV.


    Time was when the best from the European manufactures flaunted its technology in the face of embarrassingly basic American offerings. Not anymore. Equipped with HUD (although I prefer the BMW system), blind-spot monitoring, 360 degree cameras, active cruise (which I still don’t really like) and active lane keeping assist (which drove me mad on the curved interstate exit ramps as it was far too pessimistic), this most modern of Cadillacs offered up all the tech one could possibly want.

    Augmenting this list were other (standard) niceties such as ventilated seats, an electric glass sunroof, LED active headlights, a Bose stereo system of quite astounding quality, a powered tailgate, powered third row seats (in this, the extended version) and more USB ports and memory card reader slots than in your typical desktop support department. Not even the presence of the bizarre manual gearshift control button on the ancient column shifter detracted from the general air of sophistication.

    So why the negative vibes? Well the scuttle shake came as bit of a shock, considering the great expanse of metal above our heads. But sure enough, catch a pot hole and the steering column vibrated like a tuning fork. I’ve genuinely driven convertibles which felt better screwed together.

    And not modern ones, either. My biggest gripe though, concerned the Cadillac User Experience system, or CUE. This refers to the satellite navigation and infotainment system, plus by extension, the HVAC panel below, and combined they conspired to really sour our time together.

    CUE is touch-screen, which I’m already not fond of in cars. But worse than this, there is no controller option à la iDrive in your BMW. So you have to dangle your hands in mid-air in order to control the system. The first problem with this is that with the seat set low for my six foot frame, and combined with the screen’s square-on orientation (i.e, it’s not angled towards the driver) arm fatigue soon sets in.

    Next, you have to suffer fingerprints all over the screen which, when combined with the sun hitting the glass through the side windows (and this is Florida remember) renders the display nigh-on unreadable, especially when also combined with the ‘helpful’ proximity sensor, which changes the lower portion of the screen when it detects your approaching hand and in doing so, completely removes whatever you were seeing previously (such as the sat-nav map). Oh and the front passenger is forced to use the screen too, as there are no buttons for the audio system, other than those offered up by the touchscreen (which also removes the satnav view, but completely this time, which is bloody annoying when you’re confronted with an interstate junction the size of Cirencester).

    Get the idea? There’s more. The HVAC panel consists of another of these haptic feedback panels, but worse than the BMW offerings, the Cadillac approach is to affix slivers of aloominum to the dashboard in an attempt to locate your finger. This fails in its aim as you end up pressing that and not the actual ‘button’. ARGH! In short, as I’ve rambled enough, the whole thing feels like a solution which is two-thirds developed and needs to go back into the lab. Alas though I fear this is the future.

    So how does the Five Series feel upon our return, save for the fact that beyond having four doors, four wheels and a front-engined, rear-drive configuration, the two don’t really compare? Put simply, ignoring the sheer size difference for a moment, the BMW demonstrates a more resolved approach, more thorough thinking and a more cohesive drive as a result. Nowhere is this more visible than in the iDrive, nav, and audio system of course, where the presence of actual buttons make me again question the wisdom of BMW itself moving in the direction of touchsensitive panels on the new Seven.

    Aside from that though, the design of the BMW system is such that various functions can be operated in parallel, without impacting the prime requirement at that time, such as the satellite navigation map. It just seems much more thoroughly engineered overall and the product of a development team who have already done all their thinking.

    Returning to a 2.0-litre four-pot diesel may have felt like a bit of a comedown, but given the weight difference of around 900kg the truth is that the F10 feels almost as sprightly (although the power-to-weight figures are heavily in the Caddy’s favour, 110hp/ton versus around 160), if not quite offering up that unique feeling of a monumental engine deploying Himalayan torque in order to overcome sheer mass. I note with interest that the habit of left-foot braking I started whilst driving the Cadillac (due mostly to the amount of room in which the pedal box sits) has continued in the BMW, something I’ve not done since my rallying days. It now feels quite natural to keep my right foot hovering continually around the throttle, but time will tell whether I slip back into old habits.

    Overall then it was a pleasure to fall back into OU16 after the nine-hour return flight from the US, even if our daughter then asked why our car is so small (and even if I cannot now start our car remotely, which was one of the features the Cadillac had which I really appreciated). There is a level of intimacy to the drive which is missing in the SUV, and it’s further proof that I don’t think such a vehicle would suit our lifestyle and my approach to driving. It was a nice way to whistle around Florida though. There’ll be a video review on my YouTube channel in due course, but given my woeful record in that area it’s probably best I reactively confirm when it’s up, rather than promise it in advance…

    It seems that the B47 is loosening up a little perhaps, judged on fuel economy alone. But in addition, the power appears more readily accessible with the passing miles. And I made mention previously of a half-decent exhaust sound (one couldn’t really call it a ‘note’ for fear of contradiction), something which I have now nailed down to occurring in traffic situations when the car is warm. It sounds almost like a blowing exhaust, which it clearly isn’t. Whilst not an unpleasant sound, it does seem a tad out of place in a 520d, so it’s something else I’ll ask North Oxford to advise on when the car eventually goes in for a service. Anybody else noticed this?

    When we ordered OU16, friends and family smirked at the stabiliserspec alloys, and I have to now admit that the 17s do appear overwhelmed by the bulk of the body sitting atop them. So in addition to those mud flaps I want to get fitted, I think at some point during our tenure, and early enough to get the benefit from them (probably when the tyres approach replacement), a set of 18s will need to be purchased.

    Recommendations for suitable styles gratefully received, although I won’t be turning this into some ghastly M5 clone from the waist down.


    Further Autoglym leather cleaner is needed on the seats I’m afraid. I had intended to get some better quality denim when in the US, but the combined allure of both the Lego shop (see picture on the left – the Mercedes truck is deeply impressive, if fiendishly complex to put together, and they say it’s suitable for 11 year olds!?) and a cigar shop with humidor conspired to divert my attention. Ten minutes, one Technic set and $200 of smokes later, we’d wandered straight past the Levis shop, never to return. I’ll have to bite the bullet and buy some over here, if only to save on Autoglym costs.

    DATA #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520d-SE / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 / #BMW-520d-F10 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-F10 / #BMW / #N47 /
    YEAR: #2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1260
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 4519
    MPG THIS MONTH: 41.7
    COST THIS MONTH: nil
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    LONGTERMERS #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520d-SE / #BMW-520d-F10 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-F10 / #2016 / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 /

    I’ve switched to using the paddles on OU16’s eight-speed auto more frequently recently, partly because it seems quite intuitive to extend a finger and flick for a change (and hence, they feel far more natural than the pushme- pull-you versions I had on the E60 years ago), but also because I occasionally find myself one gear lower than perhaps is ideal.

    I mentioned this recently, where the transmission will hold fifth for example, but then roll along in sixth if I change up, leading me to question why it didn’t slot sixth to start with. It’s a trait rather than a flaw, but nevertheless I am mildly bemused that the ZF auto, so revered by pretty much everybody, does have one to two ‘faults’. It can also be caught napping approaching roundabouts for example, where it can sometimes be slow to change down and then, when you go for the throttle to fill a gap, it’ll lurch from third to second in order to pick you up and scamper across the lanes. This just proves the value of living with a car for an extended period, where little things rise to the surface which you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on a test drive.

    So far since taking delivery, I’ve had two cleaning sessions with the Autoglym Leather Care stuff I bought last year, in order to rid the seats (and also, I noticed recently, the leather on the central armrest dual lids) of the dye transfer from my cheap jeans. I’m either going to have to buy a load of expensive Levis during our Florida visit next month (a little over two weeks rumbling around Orlando and surrounding areas in a 6.2-litre V8 Cadillac Escalade; I can think of worse ways to spend most of June) or consign myself to purging the dirt once a month. At least the seats won’t dry out and split as they get older.

    I’ve had this problem with every light coloured interior I’ve ever owned. You’d have thought I’d have learnt by now and spent more money on better clothes. Still, no matter. Trading black and oppressive for light and airy as we have done on this occasion, applying a little cream is a price worth paying.

    I also have to buy the mud flaps I mentioned last month – I’ve added a reminder to my work calendar for that one. I really have to do it, if only to save the sills from the muck that the Pirelli P7s seem to be flinging up at the sides when the roads are even slightly grubby. And talking of tyres, when the road is wet or greasy, and no doubt again aided and abetted by the linear acceleration made possible by the ZF auto, the 520d is easier to shift sideways then the F30 320d was. I’m not too surprised by this, as the tyres are narrower (225s versus 255s) and the engine slightly torquier (295lb ft versus 280lb ft) but nevertheless, it doesn’t take too much provocation to persuade the rear into a little attitude when accelerating away in third for example. Something to keep an eye on/enjoy (delete as applicable) when winter comes. So, that’ll be September then…


    I’ve been threatening my wife with motorbikes again this month. Rather bizarrely, she has capitulated and agreed that I can spend the money on first, a licence (or at least, an attempt to get one) and second, an actual motorbike. Fickle as always, I’ve now started to look around and realised that for the £6k or so I’ll need to buy what I’m after (more in due course) I can put something with four wheels into the garage. I’ve made noises about getting a bike licence in the past of course (having done my CBT in late 2014) but never actually carried through with it. I’m keen this time though, especially since The Boss has agreed, so I’ve booked myself on a ‘Road Rider’ course for July, which in effect is a CBT refresher, where I spend all day long riding a CBF125 Honda on the roads around Oxfordshire. Oh how I wish we could arrange the weather to suit… I will then spend a few months mulling over what to do; car versus bike, and in the former camp something along the lines of a Porsche Boxster is mighty tempting indeed.

    As if to prove the theory that the only way to get somebody to approve of something is to suggest an utterly unacceptable alternative, my wife now wants me to buy the Porsche. And no, the Z3 doesn’t appeal. Not even remotely. And neither does the Mazda MX5, because the only time I ever drove one I apparently looked like a teenager sat in a kiddies’ pram…

    Economy-wise, I noted with interest that the average economy started out around 37mpg this month and seemed to remain there for a couple of weeks. A cross-country drive to Rugby at a constant 50 to 60mph cruise saw that increase to high 39s, which one would expect. What I didn’t necessarily anticipate is that the average economy hasn’t dropped since then, sticking at high 39s even though my commute hasn’t changed from earlier in the month. Maybe the engine is loosening up at the same time. Oh and those rust areas on the wheels I mentioned last month appear to be clearing up. So one assumes the cause was nothing more sinister than being parked up at a BMW holding location somewhere.


    There was one strange thing this month. I parked the car, switched off and opened the door all in quick succession, and the wipers briefly jumped in their parked position. And then it happened again a day or so later. There’s no obvious effects and it’s another of these things (such as the rattle from the rear, plus another indeterminable noise, which definitely isn’t my hearing, nor my paranoia, as other passengers have also heard it) that I’ll get attended to when the car goes in for a service at some point over the next year.

    Finally this month, other than further apologising for not as yet having uploaded the video review (it’s all shot of course, I just need to finish the editing) I spied KP12 HKG for sale recently (well okay, I was trying to find it on Autotrader), listed at a shade under £14.5k and reported as having 56k miles, both of which sound right. Hopefully the person who buys it will enjoy as many miles of reliable service as we did.

    CAR: F10 520d SE
    YEAR: 2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1021
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 3259
    MPG THIS MONTH: 39.7
    COST THIS MONTH: Nil
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    BMW F10 520d SE
    YEAR: 2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 445
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 470
    MPG THIS MONTH: 43.1
    COST THIS MONTH: Nil

    Car #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 / #BMW-520d-F10 / #BMW-520d / #BMW / #2016

    Sometimes it’s the little things in life that appeal the most. Like realising there’s actually one last Cadbury Creme Egg in the fridge when you thought they’d all been scoffed. Or discovering that in actual fact there isn’t a piece missing from the 1980s Lego Technic set you’ve just bought off eBay (more on this later). Or even a small button on the left of your F10’s steering column which, when pressed, glows orange and warms up the steering wheel for you in the morning.

    I am now 40 years of age. And I crave comfort. I don’t want to change gear myself all the time or suffer freezing hands in the morning. I wear slippers in the house and insist on having the heating on as soon as a cloud ventures onto the horizon. On occasion I can be found nestling under a blanket whilst snoozing on the couch of an evening and generally like to slow the pace down on occasion. And the same goes for my wife. Ergo the F30 320d Sport wasn’t really fitting into our lives so, as we all know, it’s gone, replaced with OU16 that you see before you.

    A combination of non-M Sport suspension, sumptuous and supportive sports seats, 17s wearing 55 profile tyres (the last time I saw a tyre this bulbous was on a ’70s Aston) and ZF’s simply marvellous eight-speed auto make this one of the most comfortable means of travelling at this price point. If you cannot afford £70k for a 7 Series, get one of these. Craving satisfied.

    It’s been an exciting few weeks building-up to taking delivery of the car in late March. All the paperwork formalities were completed in advance to ensure that on the day all we had to do was sign the delivery form plus a few other bits and bobs for the ConnectedDrive offerings (more on this in the coming months) before we could then climb into the car and go through the various pieces of kit – of which, thanks to my furious option box ticking, there is rather a lot.


    To recap, we have those sports seats, extended air-con, the aforementioned auto with now standard sports wheel but with added paddles, surround cameras, blind spot monitor, Professional Navigation, the Driver Assistance package (lane guidance, collision avoidance and pedestrian recognition), the Head-Up Display, speed limit recognition, sun blinds, the upgraded stereo, the Active Security Package, adaptive headlights, ambient lighting and LED fogs. Plus the wood trim, of course, although thankfully that isn’t too technical. Oh and that, ahem, heated rim…


    I’m not going to review all this for this month’s report to avoid BMW Car needing to print another 20 pages. We’ll cover different areas in due course. But the extent of the options list is worth bearing in mind because the (very welcome) desire of North Oxford BMW to ensure a full and proper handover, even though they know I’m already familiar with all this stuff, meant that it took nearly two hours to complete the exchange.


    As one would expect, the handover concentrated for the most part on the iDrive screen. Whilst the various buttons for the assistance systems and the cameras were covered off, the configuration of said options is performed via the iDrive. So all eyes were on the screen and its impressive visuals. And whilst we’re in this area, I’ll mention again that I prefer the look of the iDrive screen set into the dashboard and not nailed in landscape format to the top as per my old Three Series plus more and more new BMWs (including the new G13 Five, too, which is another reason why I wanted an F10).

    There are one or two items which I will mention at this point, though. First, the music streaming service, which offers up connectivity via the integrated SIM card and the presence of a suitable app on one’s smartphone (Amazon Music, Napster, that kind of thing) to provision on-line and real time music downloads to the in dashboard storage. All with no data charge on your phone. Indeed, the only time your phone is actually used is to make calls, which is worth bearing in mind given the amount of data this car evidently receives whilst it’s in transit. It apparently also connects to BMW to inform them that a service is due. They then ping me a reminder in case I forget. I think, based on what we were told, that the music streaming service is £160 per year or around that, but if you’re an Amazon Prime customer, as we are, then one can use their music streaming service instead.


    The other quite funky item which only became clear once we’d buried deeper into the various menus (and not something that even the salesmen at North Oxford have actually seen themselves as yet) is something related to ConnectedDrive. Basically, the suggestion is that via the GoPro app on my iPhone, I’ll be able to use the ConnectedDrive architecture to relay a picture from my Hero4 GoPro suckered to the side of the car, and display that view on the iDrive screen, using the iPhone as the wireless interface between the camera and the car. Which sounds like fun and hence something we are going to have to attempt at some point…


    So we spent over an hour going through all this stuff, buttons, functions, understanding how the adaptive lights work, how the real-time traffic reports can be saved as a favourite button on the dashboard, how the concierge service can be used at all hours of the day and night, how to switch between reversing camera and surround view and so on. We even had a peak under the bonnet and confirmed that, yes, there is indeed a big lump of plastic and metal under there which produces 190hp and 295lb ft of torque. And then my wife, miles away in the back seat, looked up from her magazine and reminded me that we had a lunch appointment in Reading. So we said our goodbyes and headed off.


    First impressions? Quiet. Noticeably reduced road noise compared to the Three Series, better suppressed wind noise and generally less commotion. And smooth, so very smooth. Not just in terms of ride quality but also in the utterly unobtrusive manners of the auto ’box. That said, I’ve had it a week at the time of writing and I’m not sold on the merits of the Auto Hold feature, plus why does the ‘box hold around 1500 revs when a click of the paddle engages eighth gear, which the transmission then holds. If the momentum was sufficient to warrant eighth, I’m not sure why it wasn’t already selected. But that’s a minor whinge. Overall, the auto is a triumph.

    We have a recommended ceiling of 3.5k revs for the first 1200 miles. Running in a car seems such a quaint notion nowadays given the engines are all bench-tested prior to installation, but one feels as if one should go through the motions. And I like to think that the 43mpg we have so far returned over the first 470 miles is as a direct consequence.

    The only slightly odd thing which has occurred in these early miles is the dashboard suddenly pinging up a 500-mile warning to the next service one morning at the start of Easter. We were about to leave to drive down to Southampton to join P&O’s Britannia for a short cruise break (to get a feel for the new ship… answer, very modern but very tasteful and cosy, highly recommended, so we’ve booked for next year) and I could only guess that the constant opening, closing, locking, opening, closing, locking and unlocking of the doors and boot whilst I was packing the car confused something deep down in the code. Engine restarted, the warning went, and every subsequent start since then has brought up the familiar 18k countdown notice in the base of the binnacle. So I’m not going to worry about it, although I did mention it to North Oxford, just to be safe.

    The cruise break meant that the car drove 70 miles on its first morning of our ownership before being parked up for three days, which did seem rather daft, but it was nice to come back to.

    Driving home up the A34 I was aware of a very satisfying laid-back feeling fostered by a high dashboard with that iDrive screen angled back ever-sos-lightly and a wider transmission tunnel that I’ve been used to. The sun blinds work well and obviate the need for privacy glass, something I’ve never quite been sold on, and our daughter seems to enjoy peeking through the gap at passing traffic, much like the cat does as he spies on the neighbours through the kitchen blinds. At night, the snug feeling of the interior is amplified by the illumination and the ambient lighting, and with seat heaters on low, steering wheel heating activated and a cool breeze to the face one is all set up for the 400-mile drive up the M6.


    The most impressive technology at this point is the blind spot monitor, which adjusts its activation point in relation to the approach speed of the inevitable Audi A5 in the outside lane. If said ‘Ingolstadt staff car’ is on a mission then the monitor illuminates orange in the door mirror housing good and early, whereas if you’re being overtaken more slowly the system waits for the car to be just behind your off-side rear before coming on. Clever stuff.

    The most bizarre tech has to be the Active Security package, and more specifically the actions of the seat belts as you drive off. The belt momentarily tightens across your chest, presumably as it ensures the slack is taken up in the mechanism. The idea is that in an accident the system instantaneously closes the windows and secures the passengers in the seats by forcibly retracting the belts. Which is sound theory. In practice it’s bloody unnerving the first time it happens (and it was one of the few things not mentioned in the handover, so we weren’t expecting it) but thereafter it becomes quite comforting, even if you do suspect that an engineer with a mischievous sense of humour has written a line of code into the ECU which also uses this function to draw conclusions on one’s weight.


    We even had surprising tech, meaning something I wasn’t expecting. Those with good memories may recall me whinging about the sports displays in the Three Series only reading in Kw and Nm, refusing to offer up hp and lb/ft options, even in the unit’s submenu. Well OU16 not only still has the sports displays (even though it’s an SE) but, rejoice, they can be configured in old money. Hurrah!


    As for the rest, we’ll get to it over the coming months. Plus at some point I’d like to get a set of mud-flaps fitted in order to protect the lower portions of the bodywork, so more on that in due course, too.

    And now, what about that Lego? I cannot recall what stirred the memory but in recent months my mind went back to the old Lego sets I had as a child. Like I said earlier, I’m now 40. Plus I still want to get a bike licence.

    So somebody go look up the definition of ‘midlife crisis’ and let me know if any of this fits. Anyway, my parents confirmed they couldn’t find my old Lego Technic set (roughly translated this means they threw it out when they moved house years ago) so eBay came to the rescue and £50 later a Lego Technic 8860 set arrived. Anybody remember these? It’s incredible how much of its build I was able to recall, even though we had the instructions included. And around four hours later, it was built. So, back onto eBay and another £60 and three days later, set 8865 arrived. This one was a good deal more complicated to put together, and even after four hours we’d barely advanced beyond chassis height. But it was all done in the end and now I’m rooting around for the next plastic challenge. Apparently these days Lego make a Mercedes truck kit which retails for around £150! Lord only knows how complex that one will prove to be…

    And what of KP12? Well, it’s gone now of course but not before finally getting those little jobs done, namely the scratches on the roof and the curbed alloy. Jim Kimber from Revive! (give him a call on 07701 071209 if you’re in the Oxford area and want a scratch removed) turned up at the house a few minutes early and proceeded to repair and then cure the wheel with a heater which was powerful enough to heat ourselves stood 15 feet away on a jolly cold morning. And then, via some judicious machine polishing and liquid polish, the scratches on the roof miraculously disappeared. I don’t know why I didn’t get it done sooner. A snip at £150 for the lot. Farewell KP12, you were a good motor.

    Midlife crisis? Mark’s taken to building Lego kits again! F30 repairs efficiently carried out by Revive!
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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 (www.specialistcarsbmwtring.co.uk) 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
    MAINTENANCE AND SERVICING: £2655 - £3110
    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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