mReview: BMW 520i Launch Edition – Is New Always Better?

Published by on . Updated on 24 May 2024

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1712500719627 Mreview Bmw 520i Launch Edition Is New Always Better Featured

The BMW 5 Series has long been one of the stalwarts of the executive saloon segment with a fervent fanbase. But progress never stops and BMW has introduced a world of change to the newest eight-gen 5 Series. Are these changes any good though? Time to find out. 

The 5-er in the spotlight today is the 520i Launch Edition, the base model version of the new 5 Series line-up in special Launch Edition trim. Included in the Launch Edition are version-specific Titanium Bronze elements on the front grille, door surrounds, rear bumper, interior, and the 20-inch rims.

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In my opinion, I found the gold look of the special trim to be a little too gaudy for me, coming off a bit tacky and cheap-looking. So it’s just as well then that the Launch Edition is no longer being sold, leaving behind the 520i and 520i M Sport as the only available variants of the 5 Series in Singapore. 

However, as the only differences between the models are purely cosmetic, the overall shape of the new 5-er is the same no matter which model you pick and that silhouette leaves a fair bit to desire too. 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1712500760416 D38 V2266 FotorThese new taillights look sleek and modern. I dig them.

The new lighting systems in the Iconic Glow light-up front grille and the redesigned taillights that look fab but that’s about the only two things I like from the 520’s exterior. The overall proportions seem a little out of wack, with its long front bonnet but a short rear overhang. The 520i just feels rather disappointing style-wise especially when compared to the elegant and clean lines of its ancestors. 

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Part of the reason for that is of course the sheer size to which the 5 Series has grown, it’s taller, wider, and longer than ever before and now occupies quite the footprint on the road, something that becomes especially apparent in tight carparks. The length of the bonnet combined with thick A-pillars and a large dashboard make it challenging to gauge where the front of the car is.  

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1712500781354 D38 V2279 FotorFit and finish of the interior is still top-notch.

Rather strangely though, the increase in size doesn’t seem to have translated into an increase in interior room for the passengers. While headroom is no issue, leg and knee room for rear occupants is unremarkable and not all that much. The seats themselves (both front and rear) are also really difficult to find a comfortable position in. 

But the seats are far from the worst part of the interior, that unfortunate accolade will have to go to the overall user experience. The interior looks great I cannot deny that, there’s vegan Veganza leather as standard, a trick interior lighting panel in the dashboard, and the giant 14.9-inch curved infotainment and 12.3-inch digital gauge displays.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1712500889183 D38 V2275 FotorThe curved centre display is ultra-HD and easy to use.

The problem is that trying to use any of the vehicular functions is a process as ungainly as it is infuriating. BMW’s own words from its press blurb on the 520i were, “The cockpit of the all-new BMW 5 Series Sedan has a significantly reduced number of buttons and controls. This is achieved by constantly digitalising functions”. But why? 

First they came for the simple things like the air-con controls and the seat heaters (not that this car has heated seats), then they came for car functions like auto start-stop and traction control. But now, BMW has gone a step further and taken away the physical air vent controls and has instead replaced it with a system so unnecessary that I cannot fathom how it made it into production. 

Because of the pretty interior, BMW has concealed the air vents which means they’ve had to redesign the air vent controls. Their solution was to turn the control for the opening of the vent into a touchpad with lights to show how much the vent is opened. They then had to make these rubber d-pads to adjust the direction of the air which doesn’t look very nice either! This is a ridiculous inclusion and one I cannot look past, it’s an unnecessarily complicated solution to a problem BMW created for themselves and the worst part is that it doesn’t even work very well. 

The simplest of functions like the door locks and hazard lights have received the piano-black-touchpad treatment. The silver lining is it seems that brands are finally waking up and reversing this nonsensical trend and are beginning to put physical buttons back into their cars. Hallelujah. 

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Unfortunately, the doom and gloom is not over yet. The 520i has received a new powertrain in the form of a 2-litre, turbocharged, inline-4 combined with a 48V mild hybrid system making a combined 190hp and 310Nm of torque. The electrified power is sent to the rear wheels only through an 8-speed automatic and it’s enough to get the 520i from 0-100km/h in 8.1 seconds and flat out it’ll do 230km/h which is plenty for the average owner. 

My gripe with the engine is that it feels unrefined. At casual speeds with gentle inputs, the drive is quiet and comfortable. But the moment you ask more of that 4-pot, it becomes quite the racket and I was surprised by how much of that sound entered the cabin. 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1712500820340 D38 V2307 FotorThe upsized 5-er has stateliness to spare thanks to its increased footprint.

In the press blurb’s section on driving dynamics, BMW made mention of the 520i’s increased track widths, perfect 50:50 weight distribution, lightweight construction, increased rigidity, and rear wheel drive. Now, that’s all fantastic stuff but unfortunately, it’s all for nought because the steering is video-game levels of light and provides no feedback whatsoever as to what the wheels are doing.

The 520i does have several features that are actually useful like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, parking assist, gesture control, and a 360˙ camera but it still lacks features that I feel are necessary for a car at this price point like adaptive cruise control. 

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In an isolated world, the 520i would be a competent enough car for gentle cruising through cities but in the real world where we know BMW can create stunners, this car feels like a real let-down and a low point for the brand.

More than that, the 520i is a big-name, big-sales-numbers car and that makes this a sign of just how much the car industry has trended towards over-digitised, sanitised, and ever-more-disconnected machines instead of the personable, functional cars we used to love. If for nothing else, just bring back the physical buttons, please.

BMW 520i Mild Hybrid Launch Edition
Price (at time of publishing): $340,888 for 520i, $348,888 for 520i M Sport, Launch Edition as tested no longer available, all prices are including COE  VES Band: B
Engine:
Turbocharged 4-cylinder


Capacity:
1,998 cc
Power & Torque:
190 bhp 
& 310 Nm 
@ 1,500 - 4,000 rpm
 Transmission:
8-speed automatic
Driven Wheels:
Rear
Consumption:
15.6 - 17.5 km/L
0-100 km/h:
8.1 seconds
Top Speed:
230 km/h
Fuel Tank Capacity:
60 litres
Dimensions (L x W x H):
5,060 mm x 1,900 mm 
x 1,515 mm
Wheelbase:
2,995 mm
Cargo Capacity:
520 litres

Read More: mReview: Mercedes-Benz E200 Exclusive - E For Evolution


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