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BMW 5-Series 520d ED road test

  • Efficient 5-Series returns 62.8mpg, emits 119gkm of CO2
  • 184bhp, 0-60mph in 8.2s, top speed 144mph
  • Starting price £30,435, our car cost just £138/month in tax

Consider this: the new BMW 5-Series 520d Efficient Dynamics with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is more fuel efficient than a 1.0-litre petrol-engined Toyota Yaris.

Sound like we’re picking on Toyota? Not really, the 520d ED is also more fuel efficient than a 1.6-litre petrol MINI First, a 1.3-litre petrol Mazda2, a 1.0-litre petrol Vauxhall Agila and even a 1.2-lite Fiat 500.

Yep, it’s true – the latest 5-Series 520d ED beats the petrol superminis thanks to its hugely efficient diesel engine and fuel-saving technologies. The fact is, BMW has set the bar even higher with regards to its fuel economy/power output offering and with this new four-cylinder engine you get the best of both worlds.

For the record the 520d ED returns 62.8mpg – a stunning stat for a car that delivers 184bhp and 380Nm of torque. However, those bald figures tell only half the story. Get in the car, turn the key, put your foot down and you'll scarcely believe you are in a car that's easier on juice than the Yarises of this world. Once out on the open road you'll be feeling pretty smug, because you'll marvel at that maximum 380Nm of pull that comes at a satisfyingly low 1,750rpm. The performance stats are also surprising in view of the fuel consumption: 0-60mph can be achieved in 8.2 seconds and top speed is a very heartening 144mph.

The 520d ED then, looks to be the ultimate company car. It’ll happily cruise past the Agilas and Yarises on the motorway, and it’ll burn less fuel while doing so. All in the name of keeping a smile on the fleet manager’s face.

As a driver’s car there’s little to complain about too. You’d have to be overly critical if you felt short-changed by the performance and you'd be even more picky if you felt the handling wasn’t quite up to scratch. The 520d ED sticks to the road even when you corner at speed and it won’t lean or get out of shape in the process. If there is any criticism, you might find the ride a little firm, but it’s not anything to get uppity about.

Of course, you can specify BMW’s Connected Drive system, which should make life on the road much more tolerable. This is an uprated sat nav/communications system that operates in real time. Unlike other sat navs that highlight potiential congestion on roads, this will pinpoint exactly the traffic hotspots and if it thinks you can make up time with a detour it’ll tell you so. It also updates every three minutes so you do, quite literally, get up-to-the-minute traffic information. The system also includes other fancy communication tools and access to the internet that allow you to look at your Facebook page, Twitter feeds, latest news and so on. The downside is that this extra kit will cost an extra £2,000 which will bump up the P11d value.

The six-speed manual example we drove had an exhaustive list of options including, among other things, head-up display, the fancy BMW Professional media package, sports seats, DAB digital radio and 17-inch alloys with run-flat tyres. The cost of options was £6,630 which, on top of the standard £30,435 purchase price, meant a £37,065 total outlay. So, not cheap then.

The 119g/km CO2 emissions rate means low company car tax rates, though, so you can justify the purchase with a clear conscience. The Benefit-in-Kind tax rate for 2011/12 is 13% - very affordable – but it will go up to 17% in 2012/13 so there is case for getting hold of one before April this year. If you are on a 40% tax rate the monthly bill will be £138 making a total tax outlay of £1,661 for the year.

So, is the BMW 520d ED the ultimate company car? Well, that’s a heady claim, but you do get cheap running costs, an affordable tax bill, decent performance, a comfortable cruiser and something you’ll be proud to park in the car park in one package. Has to be pretty close then.

Also consider:
Audi A6 TDI SE
Does everything really well, but it does feel a little sterile.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class E220 CDI SE Edition 125
This’ll do just nicely but it’s just a bit more expensive to buy and run. Badge snobs will be pleased with it though

Jaguar XF 2.2 diesel
The most refined and comfortable of all four cars and if you still consider Jag a British car maker and want to go British, you’ll look no further