The engine is a turbo-charged, four-cylinder unit that displaces 1995cc, similar to the one in the 320d and old 520d. With 184bhp and 38.7kgm, performance is surprisingly good. It is responsive too, and helps make the car very driveable in urban traffic. Throttle response is almost instantaneous and you won’t be left wanting for more power in most situations. The Five cruises comfortably on the highway but this diesel’s forte is its petrol motor-like top end. Unlike most diesels, this one doesn’t mind being revved, which reveals its true BMW colours. Maximum torque comes from 1900-2750rpm and since this is where you reside most of the time, overtaking is a breeze, the eight-speed auto downshifting quickly when you floor the throttle. The well-matched, closely stacked gear ratios also help disguise this car’s displacement deficit. Of course, it’s no match for the 530d’s far more potent 3.0-litre engine, but it does the job nicely.
The performance figures speak for themselves – 100kph comes up in a very brisk 9.09 seconds while the car will hit its top speed without breaking into a sweat. Thanks to the quick-shifting eight-speed gearbox, the in-gear times too are pretty impressive.
If you are primarily chauffeur-driven and only occasionally take to the wheel, this engine will more than suffice. However, refinement and comfort, which are a priority in the rear seat, is where the 520d falls a little short. The engine is quite refined, but it can’t compare to the 530d’s silky-smooth six-cylinder motor. You will notice that it is more audible at idle and vibrates a tad more. It becomes a bit vocal too when worked hard.
There are few changes to the cabin – the beige colour and superb quality remain, making it a nice place to be in. Material quality and craftmanship are fantastic. The soft suspension setup remains, which means ride quality is very good and the car tackles rutted roads at low speed really well. But handling suffers and the car rolls and pitches a bit when you turn enthusiastic. Overall, the 520d feels in control and you can rate its handling safe but boring.
With sufficient power and a lower asking price, the 520d makes a strong case for itself. At Rs 36.90 lakh (on-road, Mumbai) it costs just Rs 5.3 lakh more than a 320d Highline. So for some it may make sense to stretch their budget a little and go for the bigger, and in many ways, better car. With a smaller engine and lighter kerb weight compared to the 530d, fuel efficiency should be better.
If performance is your priority, the 530d with 243bhp on tap will give you a bigger adrenaline rush and effortless performance. For all other purposes, the 520d will do nicely.