It’s for the executive moving on up in his career or for the man (or woman) seeking something bigger than the 3 Series to upgrade to. Include those moving away from the mainstream non-luxury brands who aspire for a premium experience from their rides. Better yet, if their company is paying for it.
There are still people who shy away from plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) as they don’t want the complexity of the machinery and the higher price tag that usually accompany them.
BMW swings to market demands. Besides the 520i, BMW also offers the 530e PHEV and 530i, both in M Sport trim, for some variety. All are locally assembled.
At RM328,800, the G30 520i takes over as the base variant from the 530e Sport plug-in hybrid, which has been upgraded with the sportier M Sport package, and costs RM10,000 more.
All three variants use a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine but it’s detuned in all but the top 530i.
While the pricier 5 Series touts performance, the starter 5 dwells on the luxury aspect to sell itself.
BMW’s notion of luxury is to “chrome up” the exterior. The shiny bits are evident around the grille, fog lights, air breathers and around the window frames.
The back also sees a chrome bar at the lower bumper that just about mark the distance between the two chrome exhaust tailpipe finishers.
The 520i, in its seventh generation, cuts a sporty and elegant figure with its short front overhang, long wheelbase and flowing roofline to the rear end. The exterior dimensions are only a tad larger than those of its predecessor.
The kidney grille, flanked by twin circular headlights, lends the front a more appealing appearance. The glass headlight covers link with the kidney grille, emphasising the car’s width.
The rear lights reach deep into the sides of the car, creating a visual connection between its flanks and rear end. LED bars enable a slim interpretation of the hallmark BMW “L” shape and underline the width of the new sedan. The 520i rolls on Luxury Line-specific 18-inch light alloy wheels, with 19-inch an option.
The cabin features typical German fare with a dark sober (some say sombre) theme that we have got used to seeing in BMWs. Sports seats and sports steering wheel have been covered in Dakota leather while the dashboard uses Sensatec - vinyl actually - for durability.
The cabin is accented by high gloss-black plastics and aluminium door sill finishers with front and rear illumination. Ambient lighting in six colours bestows a soft glow to the interior at night. Rear window shades are a nice touch.
However, you didn’t pay BMW enough to get gesture control, panoramic roof or rear auto windscreen blinds. Still those are features that most people can live without.
Sitting atop the dash is a 10.25-inch touchscreen for BMW’s Navigation System Professional. The driver faces a 12.3-inch multi-functional instrument display with black-panel technology.
No complaints about the seat configurations as they offer enough comfort and support in the right places especially on long journeys.
With a longer wheelbase than the previous generation, BMW has carved a bigger cabin so that means rear seat passengers have more leg room. The rear seats slant downwards towards the seatback, making for a bigger effort to get out of the car though. The sloping roofline results in headroom that should be fine for most adults.
Adding to the respectable list of amenities are BMW ConnectedDrive, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, automatic 4-zone climate control, auto-hold, passive cruise control with braking function, Parking Assistant and rear view camera.
On the safety front, the 520i gets seven airbags, dynamic stability control, dynamic traction control, cornering brake control, dynamic brake control and antilock braking system with brake assist.
For the largely mature crowd who buys into the 520i, the modest 184bhp and 290Nm of torque is good enough. It’s not of the same calibre as BMW’s inline six but the 4-potter in the 520i manages to stay refined and smooth.
The cabin is quiet at speeds attesting to a well-made interior and a pliant suspension that isolates most road irregularities.
A slight turbo lag is discernible in rapid overtaking before the 520i is shoved forward. The driver gets to switch between Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport modes that alter engine speeds and gear shifts.
The 8-speed auto box that relays power to the rear wheels is not as quick shifting as a Sport transmission but it’s all good for this 5, as you pay for what you get.
The car stays composed and responsive even when tossed into corners.
One quibble concerns the auto start/stop function that jerks the engine back to life; it’s not as subtle as we would like it to be.
The 520i, on balance, offers a ride and performance that befits its entry-level stature, supported by a kit list that plays on the luxury theme.
Ownership of a 520i is backed by a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty with free scheduled service, a 2-year tyre warranty for run-flat tyres, roadside assistance and accident hotline, as well as access to BMW White Card.
BMW 520i Luxury
Engine: 1,998 cc, turbocharged, direct injection, in-line 4-cylinder
Maximum power: 184hp from 5,000 to 6,500 rpm
Maximum torque: 290Nm of torque between 1,350 and 4,250 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic transmission
Acceleration (0-100kph): 7.8s
Top speed: 235kph
Fuel consumption (combined): 5.2 l/100km
Features: Adaptive LED headlamps with LED foglamps, LED taillamps, seven airbags, rear-view camera, Comfort Access, Parking Assistant, passive cruise control, quad zone climate control, 12.3-inch LCD instrument panel, black Dakota leather upholstery, powered front sport seats, 10.25-inch BMW Navigation System Professional touchscreen, 12 speakers, BMW ConnectedDrive, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, ambient lighting, 18-inch alloy wheels
(OTR without insurance): RM328,800