We’re driving a rear-wheel drive, manual gearbox-equipped executive saloon with a BMW roundel on the bootlid, and it costs less than £30k. It sounds like enthusiast heaven.
Hold your horses – this is the 518d. It’s the new entry point to the BMW 5-series range, starting at £29,830 – that’s £1700 less than the next-up 520d will cost you. A Bavarian bargain? Read on for the CAR verdict.
Can you decode ‘BMW 518d’?
This 5-series uses the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that’s found in the top-selling model, the 520d. Here, it’s been detuned to deliver 143bhp and 265lb ft – a 520d musters 182bhp and 280lb ft. So, although the 39bhp power deficit looks unhealthy, there’s only 15lb ft less for in-gear surge.
Nevertheless, the 518d holds the unfortunate distinction being the slowest Five you can buy. It touches 62mph in 9.7sec (a 520d takes 8.1 in manual guise, or 7.9sec as an auto). The 518d tops out at 132mph – a 520d is slightly more autobahn friendly, with a 140mph v-max.
Does the 518d feel underpowered?
No, it gets away with the detuning exercise. There’s less overall urge across the rev-range, but you’ll only miss the extra power if you’ve just stepped from a 520d, and the 518d doesn’t feel overly lethargic.
Meanwhile, the F10 5-series’ excellent dynamics are preserved. Controlling proceedings from an excellent, low-set driving position, the 5-series exhibits agility that belies its size, and inspires confidence through its well-weighted (if numb) steering, superb body control, and overall sense of balance.
But is the 518d noticeably more frugal?
This is awkward. The 518d registers identical claimed economy figures to its brawnier 520d sister: namely 62.8mpg, and 119g/km of CO2. In fact, the 520d auto has a 1mpg better figure for its urban cycle… In the real world, you might see an oh-so-slight advantage in the less potent version, but on paper, the only saving you’ll make is in the 518d’s lower purchase price.
All is not lost, though. Option the eight-speed automatic instead of our test car’s slick-shifting six-speed manual for your 518d, and you’re still £200 ahead of the manual 520d. Given the automatic actually makes the 518d slighter quicker (okay, by one tenth to 62mph, but it all helps), achieves its best fuel economy and should boost resale, it’s the pick of the litter.
As part of the unremarkable 2013 facelift, all 5-series are now specified as standard with BMW’s ‘business navigation’ package, which includes sat-nav and a comprehensive multimedia system into the refreshed iDrive interface. A top-spec ‘Professional’ system, supporting downloadable apps and a touch-sensitive iDrive control wheel, costs an extra £1290.
Fine car though the 518d is, its small price reduction versus the quicker and (officially) no thirstier 520d makes it difficult to justify as a private purchase.
If your company fleet manages tosses you the keys, accept gratefully, but if you’re walking into the BMW dealership yourself, wait for one more paycheque and take the plunge on the punchier model. The 520d is Britain’s top-selling Five for good reason.