Despite being the biggest of the lot, the 520i Touring proved to be a breeze to pilot. The energy and power bubbling through the potent new four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo powerplant infused a sense of urgency when needed without losing its sense of sportiness, which was proven at the race track. Keeping up with the pack is but mere icing on the cake.
Track experience with the 5ers
Meanwhile, the track activities at the Bonanza Circuit demonstrated the enhanced power of the new four-pot engine, which worked in perfect harmony with the innovative chassis engineering to deliver outstanding driving agility and ride comfort. Other than our very own Touring, we also had the chance to get behind the wheels of the 520i, 525d, as well as the 528i. All of which, mind you, impressed us with their handling and enthusiastic attitude.
There were three main courses that were prepared for us - lane change, slalom and a theory course. The Touring, weighing 100kgs more than the sedan, was used for the lane change. The requirement was simple: Drive no less than 50km/h and make a lane change in what is a very tight and narrow series of cones without knocking them. The objective was to demonstrate that the estate, although heavier and bigger, wasnít clumsier than the sedan sibling. The gigantic size of the car can be felt but when negotiating tight turns at higher speeds, the heft of the car was diminished, thanks to its excellent handling.
The slalom was an easy feat with the 528i Sedan but was slightly tougher with the 520i Sedan. Equipped with the Integral Active Steering, swerving in and out of cones in the 528i was a walk in the park. This is because when the car is travelling above 60 km/h, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction to ensure an extremely comfortable and superior response on the road when changing lanes. When going under that speed, on the other hand, the front and rear wheels steer in opposing directions to reduce the turning circle, ensuring that every bend is taken with precision.
The 520i, however, did have some difficulty when going through the slalom course at high speeds. Understeer is inevitable without speed control but it does give drivers full control over the car without the need for Ďtechnologiesí to step in.
Then there is the 525d which came up tops, credit going to its 450Nm of torque on tap - a galore compared to the 520iís 270Nm and the 528iís 350Nm. Going round the track, we enjoyed a perfectly good combination of comfort and sportiness in the diesel. Not only did the 525d have better acceleration off the line, it has the obvious frugality on fuel and better emissions too. Talk about having your cake and eating it.
There was this theory course that was held by Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT). They were there because BMW did a collaboration with PTT, using one of its oil products - BlueInnovation. There were a lot of things that were highlighted during the presentation but none of that really got my attention. Except one. Singapore is still using Euro 2 compliant petrol. Considering that a less advanced country like Thailand is already on Euro 4, we are quite behind. Perhaps our Government isn't encouraging cars at the moment but haven't they been encouraging cleaner air and better emissions? I shall not digress...
There is a strong sense of occasion and purpose in each and every 5er that its competitors canít match and the smallest BMW 520i Sedan is no exception. To prove that this four-pot sedan was faster than its predecessor, 523i (which had two more cylinders), a drag race was organised on the track between the two. Needless to say. the downsized 5 substantiated the fact that being smaller in engine capacity simply does not mean that itís slower.
Perhaps not all small-engined cars are badly behaved.