- The car: BMW 520d SE
- Run by: Steve Huntingford, editor
- Why it’s here: To see if this class-leading luxury saloon has any flaws which weren’t obvious when we group tested it against rivals
- Needs to: Offer outstanding comfort and refinement, a sumptuous interior and low fuel consumption
Price £36,815 Price as tested £42,815 Miles 5246 Official economy 68.8mpg Test economy 44.1 Options fitted 18in multi-spoke alloy wheels (£995), Electronic Damper Control (£985), electric front seats with driver’s memory (£895), Glacier Silver paint (£675), enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging (£475), sports front seats (£475), reversing camera (£375), folding, anti-dazzle door mirrors (£335), split-folding rear seats (£335), Anthracite headlining (£265), Apple CarPlay (£235), Display Key (£235), adjustable lumbar support (£225), Gesture Control (£160), online entertainment (£160), High-beam Assistant (£95), run-flat tyres (£0), WiFi hotspot (£0)
30 January 2018 – fifth report
“We’re going to France!” I exclaimed, grinning. “Lovely” replied my wife, looking as if she thought it was anything but.
I’d managed to keep this trip for her 30th birthday a surprise up until now, but as we headed down the M20 at some god-awful time in the morning with an eight-hour drive ahead of us and the weather drizzling, I began to fear my attempt at a romantic gesture was going to backfire.
Still, at least those eight hours would be spent in a car ideally suited to the job, I told myself. And so it proved.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine in our long-term BMW 5 Series offers all the performance you realistically need. What’s more, it’s extremely quiet at a cruise and on our trip south, which combined six hours of motorway with a couple on country roads, it averaged 44.1mpg.
Indeed, the 5 Series feels every bit as impressive on country roads as it does on motorways. Okay, you’d get a bit more agility with an M Sport model, thanks to the bigger, lower-profile tyres on these, but our chosen SE specification is more comfortable more of the time and still allows the 5 Series to change direction remarkably well for a hefty luxury saloon.
The driving experience is made even more enjoyable by the steering, which is precise and well weighted, and certainly helps build confidence when tackling tricky bends.
By the time we were close to the vineyard I’d booked us to stay in, it’s safe to say the mood in the car had improved considerably. And being an impeccable husband, I’d arranged another surprise: for two of my wife’s best friend’s to fly out and join us.
That brings me to another of the car’s strong points: its boot. The 5 Series is a saloon, yes, but there’s good access considering, and weekend bags for four went inside with room to spare.
It was then another half an hour or so to our destination, and by the time we arrived I was feeling remarkably fresh.
Frankly, eight hours in anything would take its toll, but my lower back wasn’t sore (thanks to the optional lumbar support) and BMW’s class-leading iDrive infotainment system had once again proved why it’s top of the tree. Not only is it easy to use with its rotary dial and menu shortcuts but the in-built sat-nav is easily one of the most intelligent and easy-to-understand systems available.
All sounds very positive, doesn’t it? But the thing is, this latest 5 Series is among the best all-round cars you can buy.
It’s not perfect: the cruise control can be slow to respond when you reach a steep incline, meaning your speed drops, plus I personally find the sound the indicators make quite annoying. But they’re the only things in the con column.
So, when it was time to jump back in the car and return to the UK at the end of a brilliant weekend, the journey ahead really didn’t seem so bad.
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