Bossing it with the BMW 520i

BMW’s best-selling executive sedan goes about its business with ease for its eighth iteration

“Oh, a boss’s car,” remarked a colleague when she found out that I was going to take the new BMW 520i for a spin. The reputation for the new 5 Series Sedan seems to precede itself. But it’s all good—after all, there is nothing more gratifying for a business sedan than to be hailed as a symbol of elevated boardroom stature.

Since its roll-out in 1972, the 520i has steadily built up its cachet to become one of the world’s most desired luxury saloons. BMW’s ability to hone the 5 Series’ levels of prestige and performance over the years, in a manner that consistently hits a sweet spot for moneyed managers, has earned it a loyal following. And it has the numbers to back it up, too. In the past 15 years, the company has sold more than 16,000 units in Singapore.

A restrained design language expresses the new 5 Series Sedan’s sporty elegance and presence. Photo by BMW

Refined on the outside, while humming with power and innovation under the hood, the 520i doesn’t necessarily rock the boat, but builds a darn solid and handsome vessel. And these qualities are exactly what you will get with the eighth-generation 520i.

For one, if size matters to you, the 520i will duly deliver. The car dominates the road with its dimensions. Slightly longer, wider, and taller than its predecessor, it stretches a little over 5m in length and is almost 2m wide. You certainly get the sense of the heft when navigating tight turns—although its parking aid’s panorama front and 3D views will negate concerns of scuffing the car.

The front view of the new BMW 520i is characterised by its redesigned twin headlights and kidney grille. Photo by BMW

Of course, the impressing proportions also accentuate the 5 Series’ sporty and elegant aesthetic. There is a muscularity about the silhouette; a bulked up profile that looks sharp and lean at the same time, powerful lines softened with curves at just the right spots. A newly designed forward-projecting kidney grille anchors the front, flanked by sleek twin headlights with vertically poised LED elements that perform double duty as turn indicators and daytime driving lights. It is a look that suggests athleticism, but dressed up in BWM’s signature three-piece finery.

The 520i’s urbane disposition extends to its utility. Whether driving or being driven, you are cloistered in luxury. The sports seats are cushy but firm, ensuring plush and ergonomic embrace, while the fully vegan leather upholstery—a standard feature for the first time in a BMW model—feels appropriately sumptuous minus the guilt.

The new 520i is the brand’s first model to feature a fully vegan interior as standard configuration. Photo by BMW

Having a grandmotherly appetite for on-road thrills, I naturally checked to see if all the vital cockpit features and adjustments are visible, accessible, and easy to operate. BMW says that it has “significantly reduced” the number of buttons and controls compared to the predecessor model—greatly appreciated when I adjusted the controls.

The fully digital display 12.3-inch information display and 14.9-inch control display, while prominent, didn’t distract from the road. Points also go to the steering wheel’s haptic feedback on the control panels, and the selector lever on the centre console, which allowed me to adjust the controls safely and with little fuss.

The BMW iDrive Controller on the centre console is designed for the driver to access the controls intuitively and safely. Photo by BMW

Its specs sheet says that the car can do the century sprint in just 8.1 seconds, and boasts 187bhp and 310Nm of torque. Those features weren’t verified by yours truly, who was more than well pleased with buttery smooth drives to the office and quick lunches out in the suburbs. The light but responsive steering was a delight, and cruising down the highway—even with dense traffic—felt rather agreeable, when cradled by the cockpit’s creature comforts. There is Sport mode for those inclined, but I never once felt tempted to flick that switch.

Expect pleasurable drives navigating both everyday traffic and long-distance journeys with the new 520i. Photo by BMW

The 520i is very a car made for city commute. For making the morning rush hour traffic a bit more bearable, the zip from meeting to meeting a tad more rapid, leisurely weekend drives a lot more chilled and, especially, for feeling like a boss while at it.