The 520d makes up the majority of BMW 5-series sales here in the UK – its blend of performance, frugality, space and low C02 emissions means it’s hard to beat, particularly for company car drivers. But here’s a thing: the AC Schnitzer ACS5 2.0d Sport. It’s sold in the UK through Rossiters in Kings Lynn, and promises similar pace to the six-cylinder 525d, without compromising the 520d’s mpg and C02.
Whether or not the economy claims are true (we didn’t have the car on test for long enough to get representative fuel figures), two things are for certain: your road tax and company car tax will still be calculated based on a standard 520d; and this car is most definitely quicker than a 520d. Read on for CAR's first drive review of the AC Schnitzer ACS5 2.0d.
How does the AC Schnitzer ACS5 2.0d's performance compare with standard BMWs?
A standard 520d puts out 181bhp and 280lb ft, while a 525d manages 204bhp and 332lb ft. The ACS5 2.0d trumps both with 218bhp and 336lb ft. Only the 530d can beat it, with 242bhp, 398lb ft and a £38,790 sticker.
How much does it cost?
Well, a standard 520d Efficient Dynamics (on which the ACS5 is based) costs £30,435, where the full-house Schnitzer model costs £37,995 – as well as the power upgrade, this includes styling add-ons, a lowered spring set, 19-in alloys, twin-exhaust system, winter wheels and tyres and some extra interior trim.
All the parts can be ordered individually, including the engine upgrade. This costs £2500 fitted, and includes a two-year engine/drivetrain warranty to run alongside the BMW warranty. Buy the fully specced car from Schnitzer for £38k and this increases to a three-year warranty.
That means you’re looking at a near £33k car if you just take the engine-tuning route, while a 525d is still a £2k stretch away at £35,135.
But then there are tax benefits too…
Indeed. In terms of road tax, a 520d with a Schnitzer conversion (with C02 figures unchanged) would cost nothing for the first year, rising to £30 annually thereafter; a 525d would cost £115 a year full stop. As for company car tax, someone paying tax at 20% would be billed approximately £1080 – or £2160 for a 40% tax payer – in the 520d. That rises to £1400/£2800 for a 525d.
There are cheap chip conversions, aren't there?
Yes. AC Schnitzer says the cost of its conversion is down to ‘the extensive R&D’ that it conducts, plus the comprehensive warranty. The warranty is a no-quibble guarantee that AC Schnitzer will pick up the tab if the engine/drivetrain fails and BMW refuses to honour its own warranty because the car has been tuned. AC Schnitzer claims that rival companies have a small print that limits this to the unit that they supply failing – so long as that unit works, you’re not covered for any damage to the engine or drivetrain. AC Schnitzer also points to the reduced cost of the conversion if you buy it as part of the full £38k ACS5 2.0d package.
How does the ACS5 2.0d perform on the road?
It’s good, noticeably faster than a 520d, if still substantially slower than a 530d. There’s a nice, chunky, useable powerband from 1600rpm up to 4000rpm, the first 1000rpm or so of which really shoves you back in your seat.
The only downside, of course, is that this is a four-cylinder engine, so it’s less refined than the smoother six in the 525d. And it seems the ACS exhaust has exacerbated this, with some noticeable resonances at certain points in the rev range. Still, you don’t have to spec the system.
If you’re a company car driver looking for a substantial bit of extra poke from your 520d, this is a good bet – it offers up lots of easily accessible, real-world shove, and it ends up being both cheaper to buy than a 525d, plus less expensive from a tax point of view. There’s also a comprehensive warranty, which means no nasty surprises for your fleet manager.
What this conversion can’t do is offer 525d levels of refinement, simply because it’s still a four-cylinder engine, not a smoother six like the 525d. But if you can live with that, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you.