2021 BMW 520i LCI M Sport Review

What do you do when everyone calls their mid-life update a facelift? You give it a fancy name, like ‘LCI’, or ‘Life Cycle Impulse’ in BMW-speak. So, let me introduce you to the 2021 G30 BMW 520i LCI M Sport.

Now available only in the popular M Sport trim, the changes aren’t obvious at first, but look closely and you’ll spot the new, squarer headlights with squared-off daytime running light signatures, a larger kidney grille (though thankfully, not new 4 Series size), and restyled and smarter-looking front bumper.

Around the back, there is a fresh set of sculpted taillights with L-shape light signature and a mildly reworked rear bumper, while the 19-inch Y-spoke style alloy wheels are familiar from other M Sport models.

There are no changes to the sheet metal, not that the G30 was in desperate need of one, as it is arguably the best-looking 5 Series thus far in its long 49 years history.

Yes, the 5 Series is turning the big Five O next year!

Prices start from a whisker under $100k, from $99,900 plus on-road costs, which means you’ll need a six-figures bank balance once the smartly dressed salesman brings out the temptatious option list.

Our tester, for example, tips in at $106,480 RRP, thanks to the $5,500 Enhancement Package, which brings a glass sunroof, BMW Laserlight headlights, Phytonic Blue metallic paintwork, and 20-inch alloy wheels, the $690 remote engine start, and $390 BMW Drive Recorder options.

These are on top of a rather generous standard equipment list, which amongst others, includes:

  • LED headlights (replaced with Laserlight when optioned)
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Automatic climate control
  • Electro chromatic rear view and exterior mirrors
  • Comfort access system
  • Electric front seats with memory
  • HiFi sound system
  • DAB+ digital radio
  • Wireless phone charging
  • Wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto
  • Surround View Camera
  • Parking Assistant Plus

Powering the 520i is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine producing 135kW at 6,500rpm and 290Nm at 1,350 – 4,250rpm. It won’t leave behind a set of skid marks at the lights and is a little down on torque compared to the E-Class or Audi A6 with 320Nm.

However, in reality, the 520i makes good use of what it has with near instantaneous power to motor through busy city streets and ample mid-range torque for overtaking on country roads and freeways; only minus the head-pin-to-the seats feel of a more powerful engine.

And because of the lower power-to-weight-ratio, the engine does make itself known when you demand too much of it. Still, it isn’t thrashy or uncouth and still comes with a level of civility and classiness you’d expect from a Beemer.

Connected to the engine is a smooth eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission, which harnesses the modest output effectively by keeping the car in the right gear in most situations, thus, making the 520i responsive enough to keep you interested.

While it’s not what you’d call quick, it’s pleasing to know that BMW hasn’t forgotten how to make their cars go around corners, with classic rear-wheel drive handling when pushed, and a well-weighted and responsive steering.

As expected, its performance isn’t an equal match to the 520i’s capable chassis which has been designed to take on higher performance such as the twin-turbo V8 in the M550i. Nevertheless, it’s an extremely capable and comfortable grand tourer that’s been infused with a generous dollop of sportiness when you’re in the mood.

Despite the stiffer M Sport suspension that comes as part of the M Sport Package, the 520i’s ride quality is surprisingly compliant around the burbs, ironing out little road imperfections with ease.

Cabin noise is well suppressed, too, with wind and road noise kept appropriately where they belong – outside. You could drive from Adelaide to Melbourne and still feel fresh at the end of the journey. That’s how easy the 520i is to live with.

Speaking of things that make life easy, I absolutely love BMW’s virtual assistance, or the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistance to give it its proper name.

Why do I love it? It works!

Equipped as part of BMW’s new Operating System 7.0 and much like Siri or Alexa, you start the interaction by saying ‘Hey or Hi BMW’. You can also customise this, for example, to ‘Hey Beemer’ to make it less of a mouth full.

The car will then respond with ‘Hello, what can I help you with’. Just say what you need the car to do in your natural voice, for example, ‘lower the driver’s side window’ and voila, the driver’s side window magically opens! It’s a need party trick to impress your passengers, too!

But back to the more useful stuff, you can ask the car to turn on your seat heating, set the aircon to your desired temperature, change radio station, and even change the colour of the cabin mood lighting, all without taking your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. You can also check on the car’s function, such as tyre pressure, fuel level, and so on.

Instead of fiddling with the touchscreen to input your address, you can ask the car to guide you to your destination simply by saying ‘Take me home’ (once you’ve set up your home address on the system) or ‘Take me to the nearest petrol station’.

But like Siri or Alexa, Hey BMW can also be temperamental sometimes, providing the opposite response to what you’d expect, which could elicit a few giggles from your passengers. It also didn’t know the car was equipped with a sunroof and refuses to obliged when I asked for it to be opened. Strange.

Back to the interior, the dashboard is typical BMW, with easy to reach buttons and a brilliant iDrive dial to supplement the 12.3-inch touchscreen (up from 10.25-inches). There are two USB ports upfront, and another two at the back for rear seat passengers.

Compared to some of its rivals, some might feel the button-heavy interior a step backwards but if you’ve ever tried to adjust the air con on a Volvo S60 touchscreen, the small twiddly climate control knobs of the 5 Series are a godsend.

The driver faces a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, which will not worry Audi drivers due to its lack of customization and questionable graphics. Happily, the crisp and easy to read head-up display regurgitates the speed, speed sign recognition and sat-nav prompts right in the driver’s line of sight.

Unlike the cookie-cutter centre console of the newer 1 Series, 3 Series, and X5, the 5 Series retains its own unique climate and gear selector panels to make it feel a little more special inside.

Interestingly, it took me a while to get used to the 5 Series’ driving position but once settled, the ‘Dakota’ leather upholstered seats are comfortable and snug. Head and legroom are plenty all around, along with in cabin storage.

Further aback, it comes with a handy 530L of boot space, which can be expanded by dropping the 40:20:40 split rear seats. Like most other BMWs, the 520i comes with run-flat tyres. So, don’t go looking around for a spare in the boot.

The 520i’s adaptive cruise control also works incredibly well and sets the benchmark for being one of the most intuitive and pleasant to use. Rather than detract from the driving experience, the technology works seamlessly, with its Stop and Go function requiring no driver intervention whatsoever.

Its myriad of cameras and radar senses when the car ahead pulls off and quickly kicks the car into motion without requiring any driver input. Unlike some others, it accelerates quickly to keep up with traffic. Now, that’s what we call smart!

Other drive assist system on board includes lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, speed sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic alert and forward and reverse autonomous emergency braking.

In terms of running costs, the 520i M Sport returns a very respectable 8.3L/100km in mixed driving, or a slightly less impressive 10.2L/100km around town. That’s against BMW’s highly optimistic claim of 6.8L/100km.

BMW offers service packages which are available with up to five years or 80,000km from $1,950, covering all scheduled filters and fluids. While some rivals have 5-years warranty, BMW continues with a meagre 3-years.

Verdict

Design & Comfort

8.0/10

Performance & Handling

8.0/10

Quality

8.0/10

Economy

8.0/10

Equipment & Features

8.0/10

OUR SCORE

4.0/5

Our Score: 4/5

+ Plus

  • Updated styling looks fantastic
  • Driver assist tech that works a treat
  • Great long distance cruiser
  • Luxurious and comfortable interior

Minus

  • Quirky digital instrumentation
  • Modest output for the money
  • Stingy warranty

Overall

Smart, comfortable, luxurious and easy to live with. The refreshed BMW 520i is every bit the luxury car you’d expect, although its 135kW output along with meagre 3 year warranty are certainly on the low side.

BMW’s efforts in polishing its driver assistance system is commendable, with it being one of the best we’ve tested thus far.

2021 BMW 520i LCI M Sport Pricing and Specification

Price (Excl. on-road costs):From: $99,900

As tested: $106,480

Tested options:

Remote Engine Start: $690

BMW Drive Recorder: $390

Enhancement Package: $5,500

Warranty:3 years/Unlimited kilometers
Warranty Customer Assistance:3 years Roadside
Country of Origin:Germany
Service Intervals:Variable
Engine:2.0-litre turbocharged in-line high-pressure direct-injected four-cylinder petrol:

135kW @ 6500rpm; 290Nm @ 1350-4250rpm

Transmission:8-speed automatic
Drivetrain:Rear-wheel drive
Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):86.2
0-100km/h (s):7.8
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):Claimed: 6.8

Tested: 8.3

RON Rating:95
Fuel Capacity (L):68
Body:4-door coupe, 5 seats
Safety:ANCAP not rated, 6 Airbags, Adaptive Cruise Control, Head-Up Display, Driving Assistant, incl. Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Warning, Rear Collision Prevention and Speed Limit Info, Parking Assistant, incl. PDC front and rear, 360 Degree Camera, Reversing Assistant, Hill Descent Control (HDC), ABS, BA, TCS, EBD
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:4963/1868/1479/2975
Boot Space (L):530
Turning Circle Between Kerbs:12
Kerb Weight (kg):1,610
Towing Capacity (kg):Braked: 2000/Unbraked: 750
Entertainment:Navigation system Professional with 10.25-inch colour touch display, 12-speakers HiFi system, DAB+, Bluetooth/USB, Apple CarPlay (wireless), Android Auto, Connected Drive

Competitors: Genesis G80, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi A6, Jaguar XF

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