- 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 9602 Official economy 68.8mpg Test economy 42.2 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)
10 April 2018 – eighth report
As the snow fell outside my window, and the Met Office issued a red warning – its most severe, and ominous alert – I was uncharacteristically relaxed. You see, my girlfriend and I were due to travel to the French Alps the following morning for a week of skiing, (the day Storm Emma made her presence felt) and despite being a little apprehensive about road conditions, we were just happy that we’d made the last minute decision to drive, rather than fly.
While Heathrow was busy cancelling all outbound flights to Geneva, we simply woke up early, threw our essentials in the massive boot of the 5 Series, and headed off down the M20 towards Dover; a prologue to our journey that was made all the more effortless thanks to that perfect early morning combination of quiet roads and heated seats.
In fact, it was with some reluctance that we had to get out of the car’s warm and well equipped interior once on the ferry. With optional lumbar support I experienced virtually no backache during the journey, and the class-leading iDrive infotainment system made changing between our favourite podcasts and the in-built sat-nav a breeze.
But that’s not what impressed me most about our long-term 5 Series. That title goes to BMW’s truly magnificent 2.0-litre diesel engine. On the fast and flowing toll roads that sprawl from northern France all the way to the border of Geneva, the engine offered plenty of performance, while remaining both remarkably hushed and economical.
In fact, after eight solid hours of driving at an average speed of more than 70mph, we had returned around 42mpg and had made it to Chamonix without having to refuel. With performance like that, it really does make you question if hybrid technology will ever be able to truly replace diesel. I’m certainly sceptical.
For the rest of the week the 5 Series performed flawlessly as a shuttle to and from the slopes. With a handy ski hatch in the boot there was plenty of space for all our gear, and thanks to the BMW Display Key (a feature I always thought was a bit gimmicky) we could avoid frosty starts by setting the climate control for departure.
So were there any negatives? Not really. We did get stuck once (thankfully, in our own parking space) which wasn’t all that unexpected on summer tyres, but we were wise enough to pack snow socks, which swiftly got us out of trouble.
But really, as a long distance companion, it’s hard to think of a better car. Indeed, if anything speaks to the class of the 5 Series, it’s that I didn’t flinch when it came time to jump back behind the wheel and head back towards the UK. No small feat.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here