2024 BMW 520i review | CarExpert

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Need proof the automotive world is going electric? Look at the new BMW 5 Series.

At one point, you could buy a 5 Series with four, six, and eight-cylinder power in Australia; now there’s only one petrol engine on offer, and it’s the price leader rather than a powerful hero car for the range.

The days of big sedan buyers demanding big engines are clearly long gone if you ask BMW.

As price leaders go though, the four-cylinder 5 Series is not what you’d call cheap.

WATCH: Paul’s video review of the 520i and i5 eDrive40

The outgoing 520i was less than $110,000 before on-road costs and options, while now it’s knocking on the door of $115,000 before on-roads.

BMW says the price hike is offset by the new 5er’s significantly more modern interior, and its bolder exterior which is close to 7 Series-sized. We hopped behind the wheel to find out if that’s true.

How does the BMW 5 Series fare vs its competitors?

View a detailed breakdown of the BMW 5 Series against similarly sized vehicles.

BMW 5 Series cutout image


5 Series

How much does the BMW 5 Series cost?

  • 2024 BMW 520i: $114,900
  • 2024 BWW i5 eDrive40: $155,900
  • 2024 BMW i5 M60 xDrive: $215,900

All prices are before on-road costs.

The BMW 5 Series goes head-to-head with a number of big German and Korean sedans in Australia. To see how it stacks up, use our comparison tool.

What is the BMW 5 Series like on the inside?

Wow. This might be a base model, but it’s an absolute showstopper.

From the materials to the technology, it feels as though every element in the cabin has been designed to surprise and delight. It doesn’t go quite as far as the 7 Series, but the coloured backlighting flowing like water through the crystal dashboard trim is stunning at night.

It’s not even remotely subtle, but it’s all so confidently executed it’s hard not to fall in love. Mercedes-Benz used to be the king of showroom appeal; BMW has taken that mantle with its latest cars.

The 5er is more than just a pretty face. The driving position is exceptional, with acres of adjustment for all shapes and sizes, and the chubby steering wheel is as beautiful to hold as it is to behold.

BMW has made a conscious effort to improve its screen technology of late, and it’s paid off.

The curved setup rolling out across the range, including in this 5er, has rich graphics and responds quickly to inputs from the touchscreen, a rotary controller on the transmission tunnel, or Hey BMW voice prompts.

Work has also gone into making it simpler to use than at launch, where we complained about the menus, sub-menus, and sub-sub-menus standing in the way of what used to be basic tasks. It’s easier to turn on the heated seats, for example, but adjusting the fan speed is still a multi-step job.

At least wireless Apple CarPlay looks great on the big screen, and the wireless charger at the base of the dashboard holds a modern smartphone securely in place.

The rear seats are every bit as well thought out as the fronts. The door opening is broad enough to make loading in kids relatively simple, and both head and legroom are excellent by class standards.

There’s a considerable transmission tunnel hump in the floor, which impedes on foot room for anyone sitting in the middle seat, but the left and right foot wells are nice and deep. Air vents, USB-C ports, and a fold-down central armrest all feature, although there are no pockets in the seat backs for devices or maps.

The rear bench folds 40/20/40 to free up more space for long items, and there’s a pair of ISOFIX points to match the trio of top tethers for child seats.

Boot space is a claimed 520 litres with the rear seats in place, and the boot lid opening itself is nice and wide. That makes it easier to load in bulky boxes or awkward items than in some rival sedans.

BMW is working on a wagon version of the 5er as well, which will no doubt have even more space.

What’s under the bonnet?

Model BMW 520i
Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Power 153kW
Torque 330Nm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Driven Wheels Rear-wheel drive
Weight 1725kg (kerb)
Fuel economy (claimed) 6.8L/100km
Fuel economy (as tested) 7.4L/100km
Fuel tank 60 litres
Octane rating 95 RON

How does the BMW 5 Series drive?

Like the bigger 7 Series, the 5 Series is incredibly refined. There are no vibrations in the cabin, and you can barely hear the engine on a cold start.

That theme carries on through the entire 520i experience. This is the ultimate cruising machine, with some of the best noise suppression for any large sedan we’ve ever driven, and is an impressively comfortable ride over pimply city streets.

The 2.0-litre engine packs a decent punch at city speeds, ably aided by a smooth 48V mild-hybrid system. As you coast to a stop it turns off the engine without any juddering or stuttering, and it fires so smoothly you need to be looking at the rev counter to know what’s actually going on.

Ask for more than a cruise; though, and you’re aware this is a small engine hauling a 1700kg luxury sedan. Flatten the accelerator and you can hear it working hard as it revs towards redline, but there’s not much of a shove in the back or a particularly impressive surge to the horizon.

The amount of performance on offer is perfectly adequate, but if you’ve been raised on a steady diet of inline-six and V8 powered large luxury cars, it’s going to feel undercooked.

BMW has always offered entry-level engines in its big cars, but this time around there’s no bigger, more powerful option on hand with petrol, diesel, or even plug-in hybrid power. If you want more grunt your options are all electric, which is a shame, but perhaps a sign of the times.

Despite its size, the 5er is an easy car to drive in tight spaces. Visibility over the long bonnet is decent, and the cameras mean there’s no excuse for scraping wheels or bumpers. Even without rear-wheel steering the turning circle is acceptable for a car this size; although, the system fitted to the i5 line-up makes it more like a 3 Series to park.

Where the 5 Series is most at home is on the highway, where it just cruises along effortlessly – even if you need a bit of a run-up for overtakes on undivided stretches.

There’s barely any wind or road noise, the engine is able to hum away above idle, and the ride is excellent at 100km/h. It’d be every bit as comfortable at 200km/h no doubt, but there’s not really anywhere you can do that in Australia.

The assistance features all work beautifully. The adaptive cruise control smoothly maintains a gap to the car in front, the lane-keep only intervenes when it really needs to, and the blind-spot monitor doesn’t jump at shadows.

It’s a shame BMW has made it harder to fiddle with those driver assists, though. Want to change the following distance on your adaptive cruise control? You need to dive into the touchscreen for that, rather than just using the buttons on the steering wheel that have been blanked out as part of the update.

What do you get?

520i highlights:

  • 19-inch M alloy wheels
  • Adaptive LED headlights
  • Remote start
  • Panoramic glass roof
  • Power boot-lid
  • BMW Iconic Glow illuminated grille
  • M Sport package
  • Comfort Access (keyless entry and start)
  • 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
  • 14.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system with BMW Operating System 8.5
  • Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Head-up display
  • Gesture control
  • Alcantara and Veganza leatherette upholstery
  • Interior camera
  • Ambient lighting
  • Carbon-fibre interior trim
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Heated front sports seats
  • Wireless phone charger
  • 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system
  • Driving Assistant Professional
  • Parking Assistant Professional
    • Semi-autonomous parking assist
    • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Surround-view camera
  • Travel & Comfort System
  • ConnectedDrive

Enhancement Package (520i: $5400) adds:

  • 21-inch alloy wheels
  • Metallic paint
  • Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system

Comfort Package (520i/i5 eDrive40: $5700; i5 M60 xDrive: $3200) adds:

  • Heated steering wheel
  • Roller sunblinds
  • Ventilated front seats (520i and i5 eDrive40 only)
  • Front comfort seats
  • BMW CraftedClarity Glass application (520i and i5 eDrive40 only)
  • Heated rear seats
  • Four-zone climate control (520i and i5 eDrive40 only)

There are also a range of optional alloy wheels that can be chosen, as well as upholsteries and interior trims.

Is the BMW 5 Series safe?

The BMW 5 Series wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on testing carried out in 2023.

It scored 89 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 86 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 81 per cent for safety assist.

Standard safety equipment includes:

  • Autonomous emergency braking
  • Front and rear cross traffic alert
  • Driving Assistant Professional
    • Lane-keep assist
    • Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
  • Parking Assistant Professional
    • Semi-autonomous parking assist
    • Front and rear parking sensors
    • Surround-view camera
  • Tyre pressure monitoring

How much does the BMW 5 Series cost to run?

The BMW 5 Series is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty like the broader line-up.

Maintenance is required every 12 months or 20,000 kilometres. A five-year service package will set you back $2400 if you pay upfront.

CarExpert’s Take on the BMW 5 Series

The new 5 Series is another confident, luxurious BMW. The brand has found its mojo again.

It looks great on the outside, and packs a thoroughly modern interior that wouldn’t be out of place in a 7 Series.

If you’re a hire car driver, the 520i is frugal and refined – and if you’re a traditionalist not willing to make the leap into the SUV world, it presents as an interesting alternative. But the move to offer a four-cylinder petrol base model and a pair of electric options leaves a gap BMW Australia really should think about filling.

Luxury is about more than just big screens and fancy ambient lighting. Traditionally in cars like the 5 Series, it’s about having a surfeit of performance, and the ability to go anywhere.

The new line-up takes that away. You can go anywhere in the 520i, but you’ll have to put up with an engine that feels adequate and nothing more.

You can have a surfeit of performance in the electric range, but if you want to load up the family and go on a properly long drive you’re at the mercy of Australia’s growing but often unreliable public charging network.

The base 520i is so lovely, it’s a shame there will be no 530i or 540i sitting above it to build on those strengths.

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BUY: BMW 5 Series
MORE: Everything BMW 5 Series

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