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First drive: BMW 520d Gran Turismo. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW 520d Gran Turismo
Entry-level BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo widens the appeal.

 



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| First Drive | Cotswolds, England | BMW 520d Gran Turismo |

Overall rating: 3 3 3 3 3

Up until now the 5 Series GT hasn't really worked in the UK; it's too big, too ugly and too expensive. There's not a lot the firm can do about the looks or the size at this stage, but it can introduce a more efficient, cheaper to buy (and run) entry-level car. Which is why we find ourselves behind the wheel of the new 520d GT, promising lower running costs and a sub-40,000 price tag - even in M Sport trim.

Key Facts

Model tested: BMW 520d Gran Turismo M Sport
Pricing: 39,905
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Audi A7 Sportback, Mercedes-Benz CLS, Range Rover Sport
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
Economy: 53.3mpg
Top speed: 132mph
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Power: 184hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,750- to 2,750rpm

In the Metal: 3 3 3 3 3

If you thought the first Bangle BMW designs were challenging, then the 5 Series GT will shock you to the core. Even the typical BMW design cues can't save this car's image. It's too big for UK roads as well, clearly a product built for other markets and merely sold here.

The offshoot of its rather gargantuan shell is a cabin boasting more space than almost any other BMW. There's more room in the back than a 7 Series, the individually sliding and reclining chairs set high for a commanding view out, and the twin-opening boot hatch makes for easy loading. As for the rest of it, the GT is pretty much regular 5 Series - so the dash layout is neatly designed and the construction and switchgear of obvious quality.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

The first thing you'll notice from behind the wheel is this car's size, and no matter how much time you spend with the GT that's a feeling that never completely leaves you. It's especially apparent on the narrow Cotswolds roads, and we soon find ourselves wishing for a stretch of wide-open American highway. Location and size aside for moment though the 520d GT has plenty of positives.

For a start it feels just like a 5 Series from behind the feedback-laden steering wheel, and though the higher centre of gravity (and commanding driving position) means there's a little more body roll, there's still plenty if grip. In fact, if you're feeling confident the GT really can be driven quite hard, with some enjoyment.

Of course fitted with a 184hp 2.0-litre diesel engine the near two-tonne kerb weight looks like it could be a recipe for disaster. That's not the case though, as despite the leisurely 8.9-second 0-62mph time, when on the move the 520d GT feels willing. We've seen this engine used throughout much of the BMW range, and it remains smooth, linear and refined in the larger GT.

It's all helped by the eight-speed automatic gearbox, its expertly judged ratios and smooth shifting nature making it easy to take advantage of the engine's capabilities. The lack of gearbox paddles behind the M Sport steering wheel is a disappointment and the GT is still hampered by the heavy run-flat rubber crashing into potholes despite the best efforts of the otherwise impressive Variable Damper Control system.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

Up until now the entry-level GT models came with 3.0-litre engines, with prices beginning at around 45,000 for the SE models. Now you can find yourself behind the wheel for over 9,000 less - though the M Sport model featured here adds 3,300 to the entry-level SE cost.

Regardless of which trim you opt for the 5 Series GT comes with leather seats, satnav, panoramic sunroof and Park Distance Control as standard. And of course the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine brings with it lower running costs: annual road tax is only 120 while the 53.3mpg combined fuel economy means you'll save money at the pumps as well. The firm's Service Inclusive means maintenance is covered for five years or 60,000 miles for a bargain 400 as well.

Worth Noting

This GT is another car fitted with BMW's ECO Pro system, a device that encourages drivers to be more efficient behind the wheel. Activated by a rocker switch on the centre console a dashboard display then prods the driver to be gentler on the accelerator pedal. What's really clever though is the way that the GT tells you just how many extra miles that technique has added to the 520d's total range.

Summary

It's not an easy car to love, but there's no doubt that this new model is the best BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo yet. A sub-40,000 price tag, over 50mpg and low emissions combined with ample performance add to the car's core interior space and quality values to make it the only model in the range we'd happily recommend.


Graeme Lambert - 4 Oct 2012









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2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.

2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.    


2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.
 

2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.
 

2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.
 

2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.
 

2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.
 

2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.
 

2012 BMW 520d GT. Image by BMW.
 






 

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