Delectable diesel

BMW's 520d offers authoritative progress on delicious waves of torque

The BMW 520d, with a 2-litre diesel engine, acquits itself well on crowded city streets and highways.
The BMW 520d, with a 2-litre diesel engine, acquits itself well on crowded city streets and highways. PHOTO: KONG YONGYAO

So here I am, sitting in the lounge of The Westin in Kuala Lumpur, after a 41/2-hour drive from Singapore.

I should be exhausted, but the truth is, the boredom of loping towards an endless horizon aside, I am not tired.

Downstairs and equally unstressed sits the BMW 520d that brought me here.

The car is in base configuration, with no adjustable suspension nor four-wheel steering. Its engine is a 2-litre diesel. Despite this, the BMW leaves you in no doubt that it comes from the land of the autobahn.

There was a time when a BMW suffixed by "20" meant much breathless and noisy straining. But in the 520d, you get authoritative progress on delicious waves of torque.

With an eight-speed automatic transmission, the 355km journey was accomplished with only a quarter of the tank's diesel - or 5.6 litres for 100km.

  • SPECS / BMW 520d

    Price: $266,800 with COE

    Engine: 1,995cc 16-valve inline-4 turbodiesel

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 190bhp at 4,000rpm

    Torque: 400Nm at 1,750-2,500rpm

    0-100kmh: 7.5 seconds

    Top speed: 235kmh

    Fuel consumption: 4.8 litres/100km

    Agent: Performance Motor

This was undertaken fully laden with four passengers, luggage, everything turned on and a cruising speed of 120 to 130kmh.

The 520d sails up to motorway speeds with utter nonchalance. No histrionics, no groans of complaint, no ungainly heaving, only the increasing blurring of the scenery to clue you in to the speed.

It devours miles of tarmac and countless Perodua Kancils with nary a hint of effort, in a hermetically sealed capsule lined with fine wood, aluminium and leather.

Within that capsule, there has been a quiet evolution of BMW's traditionally straight-edged aesthetic. Gentle sweeps now appear on the door and dashboard trim. Not enough to mimic a Mercedes- Benz's sculptural form, but enough to give it a sumptuousness absent from its generational forebear.

The quality of materials here is impeccably tasteful and succeeds immensely in creating an ambience of substance and palpable luxury.

Playing with gadgets is part of the modern motoring experience and BMW's infotainment engineers have obviously been working overtime.

A 10.25-inch display offers a myriad of connectivity functions. Its operation is fluid and lag-free.

I entered Kuala Lumpur at peak hour. Within its mass of intersections, flyovers, rutted back roads and thronging streets, the big BMW acquits itself as well as it had on the highway.

In corners, grip is apportioned beautifully to all four contact patches, while the car rotates around its centre in signature BMW fashion. It is a lovely sensation that shrinks the car, which some of its equally large rivals fail to replicate.

Complaints? Apart from a basic sound system lacking somewhat in richness and clarity, I can think of none.

It is rare to encounter such an astounding breadth of ability, but this executive sedan is genuinely a magnificent achievement.

• The writer contributes to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Delectable diesel'. Subscribe