BMW Launches World’s Quietest Diesel In The 523d Model – Forbes
First things first. The new BMW 5-Series comes with a surprisingly good selection of engines including a 540i gasoline version, 530e plug-in hybrid and the 523d and 530d diesel variants. While I give a resounding thumbs up to the power delivery and sure-footedness of the 540i, I am going to focus on the quiet one — the 523d that makes up more than half of all BMWs sold in Japan. It is shockingly quiet. Hang on, it’s a diesel you say? So it doesn’t vibrate like a truck, and it doesn’t make those horrible chaff-cutter noises? Exactly! And no, we’re not here to talk about what certain German automakers did in the diesel-gate fiasco. Let’s leave that downside discussion for another day.
The 523d is the most non-diesel-like diesel I have ever driven. It’s quiet and refined, noticeably better than any rivals from Sweden, Germany or the UK. It has loads of bottom end torque, handles superbly and just happens to be one of the best-packaged cars on the planet. So did I just take one paragraph to call it the perfect car? Not quite.
This diesel is a definite watershed moment for BMW, but the 5-Series has its controversial edges too, like too many electronic safety nets, as I will touch on in a moment. But first, I have to blow this diesel’s trumpet.
Without doubt, the highlight of the car is its 2.0 liter turbo diesel powerplant that generates 190 hp and a meaty 400 Nm of torque. Teamed up with a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, the 523d delivers its power effortlessly with mere minor extensions of your right boot, and will jump from zero to 100 km/h in just 6.2 seconds. This diesel has bags of torque in the low to mid ranges so will get you off the mark as quickly as it will merge on a highway or squirt into a gap to overtake.
And even though it’s a medium capacity 2.0 liter turbo diesel, it still gets “huge” mileage of over 45 mpg so it won’t cost you an arm and a leg at the pump. But the only time you can tell it’s a diesel is when you start the engine or sit there idling at the traffic lights. At idle, there is a subtle, faint diesel chatter that gives it away with almost no vibration. Push the tacho beyond 2000rpm, however, and the tell-tale diesel sound disappears completely with no vibration whatsoever. And when accelerating hard, the engine feels and sounds like a gasoline engine.
The steering is nicely weighted and responsive, giving the driver enough road information. Select the comfort settings in the computer, and ride quality is some of the best in class, with plenty of compliance in the suspension as it expertly absorbs bumps.
The exterior design is a stylish tweak of its predecessor and so is therefore not a huge leap forward. But let’s face it. A BMW is a BMW. And you either like the styling or you don’t. It’s the most subjective part of the car-buying process, so I’m not going to tell you that this new 5-Series has nice proportions and looks more stylish than the outgoing version. You will already think so or you will be leaning towards a Mercedes.
Inside the car, luxury levels are slightly elevated with leather all-round, some wood veneer and polished aluminum-effect accents with multicolored illumination. In addition to sat-nav and audio functions, the large dash display gets a new feature called ‘gesture control’ that allows passengers to wave their fingers or hands in front of the screen, kind of like a conductor with his orchestra, and change radio stations or answer phone calls. It works most of the time, but to be honest, it feels somewhat gimmicky.
What is most impressive, in addition to that diesel engine, are the car’s electronic safety nets – its safety features. You know, adaptive cruise control, auto braking, lane keep, lane change warning, and blind corner warning. It even has speed limit assist, a feature that hinders your progress if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere. But the 5-Series has taken these functions to another level, and dare I say, some of these items like the lane keep or lane change warnings, are a little too intrusive. Where as some systems gently nudge the steering wheel to hint that perhaps you should move back into your lane, the BMW system is a lot more forceful. You can turn it all off if you want, but then what’s the point of having all this safety gear?
In Japan, BMW sells a little over 50,000 units a year and the 5-Series comprises around 10% of that figure. And of the 10%, the 523d diesel, starting at around 8.1 million yen, makes up over half of all 5-Series sold here. As one local BMW spokesman said, this model offers the best package of performance, fuel economy and price.
As I alluded to before, the 523d could just be one of the best cars on the planet. With the world’s quietest diesel engine and superb mileage, class-topping handling and ride quality, and its established luxury cache, the only things that some may query are the electronic nannies that can get in the way of this car’s exceedingly good poise.