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BMW 520i 2024 review

Dylan Campbell

The electric versions are stealing the show, but BMW’s comparatively lightweight 520i could be the dynamic sweetheart of the new 5 Series range

Good points

  • Capable chassis with proper driver appeal
  • Highway efficiency and range
  • Impressive refinement and quietude
  • Luxe-feeling cabin for a ‘base model’
  • Superb driver assist system
  • Looks sharp with standard M bits

Needs work

  • $126K as-tested is a lot for a base 5 Series
  • Front row could use more storage space
  • Back seat space can’t compete with an SUV
  • Not especially powerful
  • Few buttons, interior almost feels bare
  • No spare wheel limits touring appeal

Australians love a big, rear-drive sedan – traditionally, at least. And maybe more would do well to snub the SUV trend and try a car like the new BMW 520i.

The electric versions of BMW’s new 5 Series have taken the headlines, but flying under the radar is the superb base model 520i which glimpses the dynamic potential of the new, eighth-generation model.

BMW 520i 2024 rear 3/4

Weighing 1725kg (kerb), the 520i is 580kg lighter than the range-topping, electric dual-motor i5 M60 xDrive – and behind the wheel, which we’ll get to later in this review, the lighter weight is obvious in surprising ways.

The lone internal combustion model in a part-petrol, part-electric line-up, the new 520i represents the entry point for 5 Series in Australia and takes on rivals such as Audi’s $104,100 A6 40TFSI S Line and the $106,600 Mercedes-Benz E200.

With more than 50 years of history behind it, the 5 Series – one of BMW’s most-loved nameplates – looks set to live on well into the electric age.

In its last year of production, the previous-generation 5 Series was globally the third biggest-selling model in BMW’s line-up – meaning the nameplate is not going anywhere anytime soon.

BMW 520i 2024 front

As ever with a new generation, the eighth-generation 5 Series is larger than the one it replaces – 97mm longer, 32mm wider and 36mm taller. The wheelbase is 20mm longer at 2995mm while weight has also risen, 115kg in the case of the 520i.

Continuing the upwards theme is the price. While the previous generation 520i cost $107,700 before on-road costs when it bowed out of Australia, not long before that it was $102,400.

Of course, BMW would argue the additional premium gets you a more richly equipped, higher-tech, more efficient and safer vehicle that’s nicer to drive.

BMW 520i 2024 engine

The 520i we’re driving today benefits from a new generation of modular engines, meaning its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is of a brand new design.

With the exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head, it produces 140kW and 310Nm, the engine paired with a 13kW/200Nm integrated starter-generator which delivers mild hybridisation and can assist with acceleration, for a total output of 153kW/330Nm.

BMW 520i 2024 logo

Sadly a sexy wagon version of the 520i is off-limits for Australia for now, but BMW has at least confirmed there will be a 5 Series Touring sold locally in a sole i5 M60 electric variant.

Styling-wise, the 520i comes standard in Australia with the M Sport Package which adds bigger front intakes, gloss black side skirts and a gloss black rear bumper with a diffuser insert.

Our test car contrasted rose gold exterior accents and wheel inserts with its optional, deep Tanzanite Blue metallic paint.

What are the 520i’s features and options for the price?

Even though it’s a base model, the 520i is richly equipped – and costs $114,900 before options and on-road costs. It features the following standard equipment highlights:

  • 1998cc turbocharged inline-four producing 153kW/330Nm
  • Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
  • “Mild hybrid” system with 13kW/200Nm integrated starter generator and 12Ah lithium-ion battery
  • 20-inch wheels
  • M sport brakes
  • Passive M sport suspension
  • Panoramic glass roof
  • Head-up display
  • 12.3-inch digital instrument display
  • 14.9-inch curved touchscreen infotainment screen
  • 12-speaker, 205w Harman Kardon sound system
  • Wireless phone charger
  • Apple CarPlay (wireless)
  • Android Auto (wireless)
  • Front electrically adjustable ‘sport seats’
  • Front seat heaters
  • M leather steering wheel
  • Remote engine start with remote pre-conditioning
  • Built-in dashcam
  • Electrically opening and closing boot
  • 360-degree surround view parking camera
  • BMW Parking Assistant Professional (more details below)
  • Keyless entry on the front doors only

The 520i also comes fitted with adaptive LED headlights with Matrix high-beam, which can cleverly, selectively deactivate individual LEDs at night to enable high beam without dazzling cars ahead or approaching.

BMW 520i 2024 front 3/4 headlight

Our test car came with $11,800 of options – the $7800 Enhancement Package and $4000 of BMW Individual ‘Merino’ leather in Copper Brown and Atlas Grey – for a fairly lofty as-tested price of $126,700 before on-road costs.

The Enhancement Package adds:

  • 21-inch BMW Individual ‘aerodynamic’ wheels in Bicolour Jet Black (although our test car kept its 20-inch wheels)
  • Tanzanite Blue metallic paint
  • 17-speaker, 655w Bowers & Wilkins sound system

For the price, there is some equipment we would have liked to see available such as cooled front seats and tri-zone air-conditioning. 

How does the 520i drive?

The 520i is one of those rare cars you can tell is excellent mere moments after first getting in it and driving away.

Its relatively light 1725kg gives it a lightness immediately obvious even at low speeds – especially over bumps, where the suspension obviously just doesn’t have to work as hard as the many heavy vehicles we test these days, such as SUVs, electric cars and dual-cab utes.

BMW 520i 2024 driving front 3

In that sense, the sweet-feeling 520i is refreshing, its passive suspension offering a lovely ride quality – while road noise is minimised and general refinement maximised. In the urban environment this would be a very easy and pleasant car to drive every day, not feeling too large, either.

Find yourself on a winding road and you’ll soon learn that the front-side M badges and blue, M-branded brakes hint at some genuine dynamic ability.

Multiple drive modes include the ability to customise Sport mode. You can mix and match Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus drivetrain; Sport, Sport Plus and DSC Off for dynamics; and Comfort and Sport steering.

BMW 520i 2024 driving rear

Select your settings of choice in Sport mode and the car feels to tense up a little, the ambient lighting, easily visible in the daytime, turning red, as if little horns have also grown out of the roof.

Dynamically, the 520i is very good – a bit of a surprise. As well as a near 50:50 weight distribution, there are double wishbones up front and a five-link axle at the rear.

Connected to those are wide, staggered 245-section front and 275-section rear Pirelli P-Zero tyres which grant huge amounts of mid-corner grip and an abundance of traction. You can carry surprisingly high speeds into corners, where the 520i sits impressively flat.

BMW 520i 2024 wheel far

Less surprising is that while the 520i has enough grunt to hustle along, at 0-100km/h in a claimed 7.5 seconds it gathers momentum steadily rather than explosively.

It’s also an engine that gives its best in the mid-range – with peak torque of 330Nm available from 1500 to 4000rpm – running out of puff a little in the upper revs.

Credit to BMW, there is some proper driver-focused DNA even in this car. A true manual mode with the gearshift paddles will allow you to merrily bounce against the rev limiter rather than automatically change up.

BMW 520i 2024 interior PTC

Yellow and red shift lights even activate within the digital dash in Sport mode, which adds some richer artificial noise through the speakers. If you listen carefully, however, there’s a bit of genuine turbo whistle on offer under load.

The eight-speed transmission is responsive up the gears, but a little lazy on the down-changes, obviously tuned for comfort and refinement than outright sportiness.

It’s possible to fully deactivate the ESC where you’ll find an old-school rear-drive character, and a rear axle that does a great impression of a mechanical limited slip differential using the brakes. That’s even if extracting some power oversteer takes a bit of effort as you’ve only got 153kW to work the wide, 275-section rear tyres.

As part of all the M-supplied bits, the 520i comes with Boost mode. Pull the left-hand steering wheel paddle and a ten-second timer begins counting down on the dash, although anticlimactically it doesn’t seem to do an enormous amount.

BMW 520i 2024 side driving

Away from the winding road and back in suburbia, those who don’t like parking will love the 520i. It comes standard with BMW’s Parking Assistant Professional which could not make parking easier.

As well as its impressive suite of parking cameras, the 520i can reverse into a parallel space for you, and can also ‘record’ a parking path up to 200 metres long and complete it for you semi-autonomously – such as reversing up a twisting driveway and into a garage, or even into a dedicated spot in an underground car park.

You can either remain in the car supervising, or the car can do it with nobody inside, controlled using an app.

What is the 520i’s interior and tech like?

The 520i’s interior is so well appointed it redefines the meaning of entry-level grade.

A spacious and light-filled place, it’s also a bit minimalist, many hard buttons and dials having migrated into the large central infotainment touchscreen. Even the air-vents are now concealed in the dash, blowing directed air at you through barely noticeable slots.

BMW 520i 2024 interior 2
BMW 520i 2024 door inlay

There’s a curious design theme of prisms and trapezoids – and aversion to curves and circles – something obvious throughout the whole car, as if the BMW badge itself was almost made a hexagon.

Our test car, with its BMW Individual Silver Bronze accented trim, featured unusual gold lightning bolts inlaid into the wood trims – a curious addition guaranteed to solicit opinions from any passenger.

The bright, vibrant, high-resolution dual displays take pride of place otherwise, and the Apple CarPlay integration is excellent, filling the vast, horizontal centre screen.

BMW 520i 2024 touchscreen

BMW’s Operating System 8.5 is fast, attractive and easy to use – even if the jury is still somewhat out for us on the central ‘app menu’ where lots of disparate functions are presented in alphabetical order (rather than in sub-menus).

It can mean taking your eyes off the road for a bit too long while you try to find what you’re looking for.

We have to give credit to BMW’s integration of the heating and cooling controls in the central touchscreen, which reside permanently on the bottom of the screen – even when using Apple CarPlay. There’s a small ledge under the central screen which you can rest your fingers on, making for easy and accurate changing of the temperature.

BMW 520i 2024 interior detail
BMW 520i 2024 door card

The physical iDrive hand controller also lives, although it’s a wonder BMW didn’t delete it to free up space as it’s much easier to simply navigate the central display using touch.

That said, we are grateful there are some hard buttons and a physical dial to use, not just for the sake of usability on rough roads but also for those of us who are mobility impaired and may lack the fine motor skills to hit small touch targets.

We are also grateful for the optional and fantastic Bowers & Wilkins audio system, although we’d be curious to try the standard 12-speaker, 205w Harman Kardon system to confirm a hunch that it’s more than enough.

BMW 520i 2024 front seats

One complaint for front-row occupants is there’s barely the minimum storage space for bits and bobs.

Once your phone is in the charging cradle, your only options for wallet and keys – let alone anything else – are the two front cup-holders, the door bins or a small-ish centre console. For a large sedan we would have expected a bit more stowage space.

Meanwhile in the back, there’s plenty of light thanks to the glorious, full-length 841mm panoramic glass roof (which feels like a novelty in a sedan). There’s lots of room for adults although while large sedans used to reign supreme for rear-seat space, they’ve since been pipped by SUVs.

BMW 520i 2024 back seats

If you often transport adults in the back seat, an SUV might be a better bet.

There are simple air vents for rear seat passengers, two sets of ISOFIX points on the outbound back seats and three top tether anchorages.

For luggage there’s a large, 520-litre boot (yes, that amount exactly) with a puncture repair kit – no spare wheel here. BMW kindly includes boot-situated levers to conveniently fold down the rear seats which offer a practical 40/20/40 split.

BMW 520i 2024 interior boot 2
BMW 520i 2024 boot

Build quality feels rock-solid however some functions, such as the door lock/unlock button, are situated on a thin plastic bit of trim which can creak and feel cheap.

BMW also says the new 5 Series is its first model to offer a fully “vegan” interior upholstered in the highest quality, imitation-leather vinyl – including even the steering wheel.

Our test car came with the $4000 optional Merino leather trim so until we try another 520i without this option, it’s hard for us to give any thoughts. The Merino – the highest quality leather available from BMW – certainly gifts the 520i a luxurious touch, making it feel more than a few rungs above the traditional base model.

Is the 520i a safe car?

As one of its latest models, the 520i is practically as safe as a BMW has ever been in the brand’s 108-year history. While it hasn’t been crash-tested locally by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), its European equivalent, Euro NCAP, awarded the new 5 Series five stars when crash-tested in 2023.

The 520i comes with the following safety features as standard:

  • Seven airbags (including a front-centre airbag)
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane change warning
  • Lane departure warning with steering assist
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Front cross-traffic alert
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Exit warning (will alert you of approaching vehicles or cyclists when going to open the door from inside)
  • Automatic speed limiter
  • Autonomous emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection
  • Reverse autonomous emergency braking
  • Rear view and surround view parking cameras
  • Driver attention monitor

BMW 520i 2024 driving front 2

The 520i’s advanced driver assist system is BMW’s superb Driving Assistant Professional, comprising the latest adaptive cruise control and semi-autonomous lane-keeping. The 520i tracks within its lane very confidently, while also offering stop-and-go traffic jam functionality we’d have no hesitation activating and trusting. 

If you often find yourself sitting in traffic jams on your commute, this feature is ground-breaking.

What are the 520i’s ownership costs?

After testing a lot of electric cars lately – often you jump in to see a maximum of 400 or 450km of predicted range – there was something novel for us about getting into the 520i and seeing 840km of range with a full tank of fuel.

We measured exceptional highway fuel economy of 5.0L/100km over a 20km stretch at approximately 100km/h, which would theoretically grant 1200km from the 60-litre fuel tank – enough fuel to drive from Melbourne to Sydney with 300km range remaining.

BMW 520i 2024 grille

In urban environs, the 48-volt “mild hybrid” 520i gets closer to 8.0L/100km.

BMW says the engine’s maximum outputs of 153kW/330Nm are only possible with 98RON premium unleaded fuel. The 520i’s recommended fuel is 95RON.

Servicing is $2950 over five years or 8000km. BMW uses “condition-based servicing” and said there are no set service intervals. BMW’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is industry standard.

The honest verdict on the 520i

If you have no real need for an SUV and are tempted by more of a conventional car like the 520i, you shouldn’t hesitate – even in 2024, sedans are simply nicer to drive.

As a base-level car on steel springs and passive suspension, the 520i is very impressive, with an astonishing level of refinement for an entry-level model and grade.

BMW 520i 2024 driving front

Beyond that, the new 520i is just a good car – it does everything well – and is a reminder how pleasant cars can feel to drive, compared to heavier options which are becoming the norm.

That’s if you can stomach the price – $115K before on-roads is a lot, the $126K as-tested of our vehicle even more. Base models aren’t what they used to be, cost included.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Overall rating
Running costs
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

1998 cc
153kW at 4400rpm
330Nm at 1500rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
60 litres
Rear Wheel Drive
5060 mm
1900 mm
1515 mm
Unoccupied weight
1725 kg

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