2014 BMW 518d review
* Cheapest diesel BMW 5 Series tested * 119g/km; £179pm company car tax (40%) * On sale now, priced from £30,265...
The BMW 5 Series hardly needs an introduction, but the new 518d isn't such a well known quantity. As the badge suggests, the newcomer sits below the 520d (our favourite full-size executive car), offering 40bhp less power, with 141bhp from its 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine.
Despite the power deficit, the 518d fairs no better than the 520d on the efficiency front; both achieve a claimed 62.8mpg and emit the same 119g/km whether they're fitted with the standard manual or (£1550) optional eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The 518d does, however, undercut the 520d’s list price by £1700, coming in at £30,265 for the entry-level SE model. For company car users, this lower price equates to a saving of £120 per year over the 520d.
What’s the 2014 BMW 518d like to drive?
Unsurprisingly, it’s very much the same as the 520d. Refinement is very good regardless of speed, with the engine note dropping to a distant thrum when you’re not accelerating, and only moderate road and wind noise creeping in at motorway speeds.
However, the manual gearbox is too stiff and clunky, so we’d say it’s definitely worth paying extra for the sublime eight-speed automatic.
The engine itself is still a joy to use. It doesn’t feel strained, despite having a relatively small amount of power to call on, and it’s strong enough that you can leave it in a high gear without the engine labouring. The 518d feels a bit slower than the 520d - less keen to accelerate for overtaking or at motorway speeds - but it’s still no slouch by class standards.
Our 518d came complete with £985 adaptive dampers (Variable Damper Control), so delivered the same well-judged blend of slick ride comfort and sprightly handling that we’ve come to expect from the 5 Series. Some may find the steering wheel itself a touch too chunky, but otherwise the 518d, as with the 520d, is brilliant to drive.
What’s the 2014 BMW 518d like inside?
Not much has changed inside, but then it didn't need to because the only rival that can claim to have a classier cabin is the Audi A6 – and even then the difference is marginal.
The driving position is slightly offset (particularly in manual versions), with the pedals positioned too far to the right. However, the seats are comfortable and supportive, and there's lots of adjustment to help the driver get comfortable.
Rear space is also impressive. There's easily enough space for two six-footers, and three will fit – although whoever draws the short straw will have to straddle a fairly chunky transmission tunnel.
A 520-litre boot means luggage space is roughly on a par with that of rivals, such as the Audi A6 and Jaguar XF.
All versions come with BMW's class-leading iDrive infotainment system, which is controlled via a rotary dial (and surrounding buttons) on the centre console.
Pay a bit more and you'll now get a touch-pad on top of the rotary dial. This can be used to input letters and numbers without having to scroll through various on-screen menus. There's also an updated voice control function that you can use to dictate text messages and emails.
Standard equipment is hard to fault, with sat-nav, leather and xenon headlights fitted even to entry-level SE versions.
With that in mind, the more expensive trims – Modern, Luxury and M sport – aren't worth considering unless you really love your luxuries.
Should I buy one?
The 5 Series is still the best of its ilk if you're in the market for a full-size exec, and the 518d is a seriously compelling version.
However, we’d say the 520d is worth the £10 extra a month in company car tax (assuming you're a 40% rate taxpayer) given the extra performance it offers.
If you’re a private buyer, though, the BMW 518d is usefully cheaper and barely any less enjoyable to drive, so if you can stand to live with the smaller number on your bootlid (which you can have removed free of charge anyway) you won’t be disappointed.
What Car? says...
BMW 518d saloon
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £30,265
Torque 266lb ft
0-62mph 9.7 seconds
Top speed 133mph
Fuel economy 62.8mpg
BMW 518d auto saloon Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £31,815
Torque 266lb ft
0-62mph 9.6 seconds
Top speed 132mph
Fuel economy 62.8mpg