A mid-life update has given the BMW 520d plenty of power and an eight-speed gearbox for flexible driving, writes Gavin D’Souza

BMW has given its 5-series saloon a midlife upgrade, choosing to be subtle with the facelift and the visual updates are few. The headlights are now slimmer, all-LED units, there are new front and rear bumpers with more metallic accents, the wheel size has gone up to 18 inches, and the grille is more upright now and finished in matte silver on this ‘Modern’ trim. It certainly looks more premium and contemporary, but it’s not hugely different from the outgoing car.

On the inside, the 520d’s cabin has been given a few small updates that add to the luxury levels. The steering wheel and dashboard top are finished in beige leather instead of black, the wood is a lighter colour, and there are added brushed silver embellishments on the dash and wheel. The 520d gets the smaller 6.5-inch screen for its iDrive computer and misses out on the touch-pad controller that the 530d gets, but all 5-series models get a high-tech instrument panel instead of actual speedo and tachometer dials. These even change their appearance depending on if the car is set to Comfort, Sport or Eco Pro mode. The driving position is nice, but the dashboard top and window sills are a bit high, which takes a little getting used to.

At the rear, the 520d’s seats are generously bolstered and offer great support all-round. However, the downside of this is that, combined with the sharply angled rear door, this excessive cushioning makes getting in and out a bit tricky. A big change over the old car is that the front seats have now been made slimmer, so you don’t feel as cooped up sitting in the back.

There’s a lot of safety kit. The 520d gets eight airbags, full leather interiors, a sunroof, paddle shifters for the gearbox, electrically adjustable front seats with memory, electric steering adjustment, Bluetooth and USB support, fuel-saving engine stop-start system, iDrive and a rear-view camera. There’s also an aux-in port, dual-zone automatic climate control and an electronic parking brake. We did wish BMW would offer a full-size spare wheel though.

This 520d is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces 181bhp and 38.8kgm of pulling power. This is channelled through the same fantastic eight-speed automatic gearbox, and as before, the shifts are quick and smooth.

The BMW’s engine lives up to the car’s billing of being fun to drive. It revs very easily, spins effortlessly (for a diesel), and power delivery is quick and snappy, no doubt helped by the gearbox. However, the noise that accompanies this performance is a bit much for a luxury car in this segment. It is quite efficient though. On fuel economy, the 520d managed to return 10.3kpl in the city and its 70-litre tank means you can expect to go at least 700km between fill ups.

At city speeds, the 5-series appears very comfortable, with only a mild jiggle felt over sharp bumps. The moment you go quicker, however, you notice that it pitches and bobs a lot over road imperfections. Highway expansion joints and lumps in tarmac cause it to rock back and forth like a boat. However, the steering is very accurate, and feels solid at high speeds, allowing you to enjoy the car a bit.

It’s still a BMW though, so it responds well if you drive it enthusiastically, but it always feels big when you steer it.

BMW has concentrated on updating the interiors of its bestseller, and it’s clear, it has succeeded. The insides of the car are no longer just attractive but now feel genuinely rich and plush.

The car has plenty of power and the fantastic eight-speed gearbox helps make it very flexible to drive too. With this mid-life update, there’s now more reason to spend the Rs. 49.2 lakh it takes to get one.

Technical data:

L/W/H 4899/1860/1464mm

Wheelbase 2968mm

Kerb weight 1625kg

Engine 4 cyls, 1995cc turbo-diesel

Installation Front, Longitudinal

Bore/Stroke 84.0/90.0mm

Power 181bhp at 4000rpm

Torque 38.8kgm at 1750-2750rpm

Power to weight 111.38bhp per tonne

Gearbox 8-speed auto

Fuel tank 70 litres

Brakes F/R Ventilated discs/ solid discs

Tyre size F/R 225/55 R17