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BMW 520i Luxury (G30 LCI): A refined design, same excellent engine

When puberty hits the G30 5-Series hard

The humble 5-Series is beginning to look like its bigger brother sans the massive grille. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

BMW’s “Life Cycle Impulse” (or midlife facelift) has had a history of being a hit-or-miss on several of its previous models. The G30 5-Series was already a good-looking executive sedan, but I can say that the BMW design team hit the nail on the head with this update to the 5-Series.

And the best part is that the vehicle gets some much-needed technology updates while retaining most of the features that made the previous model such a good buy. We first saw this refreshed design in the M5 Competition, which was launched on our shores last year. But for those who wanted a more restrained (and affordable) option, fans had to wait a little bit longer for the vanilla 5-Series to arrive.

I think it is one of the best-looking modern designs in the lineup, only second to the gorgeous 8-Series. Who knew that tweaking the light design could make such a big impact on the overall design?

Sometimes, the evolution of a design is better than a revolution. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The new angular headlights with L-shaped DRLs have excellent coverage and brightness to them. My favorite change would have to be the taillights. The illuminated part is a solid red shape that has a three-dimensional effect on them, framed by a black outline for a “floating” appearance at night.

Other than minor tweaks to the front grille, (yes, it did get slightly bigger), the rear bumper and the exhaust tips, most of the design is similar to the pre-facelift model. It is still imposing and classy enough to convince bystanders that the motoring journalist inside is a person of authority.

Being the Luxury trim, it is treated with chrome brightwork and 18-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels. Unfortunately, this is the only trim offered this year. If you want something sportier, there is always the aforementioned M5 Competition.

Would you rather have a lightbar or 3D-effect taillights? PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

It is the attention to detail that sets this 5-Series apart from a regular midsize sedan. There is nothing abrupt at all with this car, as it wants to give you a very smooth and serene experience from the moment you step into the vehicle.

The soft-close doors shut with a sturdy, vault-like thump. You are greeted by a black-on-black interior, accented by ambient lighting (which BMW does particularly well). While it is on the conservative side of the interior spectrum, every part you interact with offers a unique tactile experience that is expected of cars in this price range.

You might need to pay special attention to the open-pore wood trim within the cabin. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

What do I mean, exactly? Well, the Dakota leather upholstery has a rough texture like luxury handbags and wallets, yet is soft enough to sink into. The ashwood and satin silver trim is great at repelling fingerprints (and running your fingers over it feels amazing). The switchgear is all satisfying to use, with solid clicks and firm actuation points. Sadly, there are some remnants of piano-black plastic which it could do without.

Regardless of where you sit in the cabin, you are treated to supportive, comfortable seats with excellent visibility. The front seats have a wide range of adjustments, but they lack heating or ventilation. It even comes with the smoker’s pack, because BMW knows their clientele.

Rear passengers have B-pillar-mounted air vents for the rear climate control (the car has quad-zone climate control), and sunshades (manual for the doors, powered for the rear window), which the discerning executive will enjoy. It is a shame we do not get a sunroof for our local models. And when it is time to load up your golf bags, the cavernous 530L trunk (which now has a kick sensor) can easily swallow them up.

Your golf bags will appreciate the cozy, spacious trunk. It just gets really hot, though. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The biggest technology update to the interior comes in the form of BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional. It brings iDrive 7, a large 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and infotainment screen, and gesture and voice controls.

It also finally introduces Android Auto to the BMW lineup locally (with Apple CarPlay, of course), and it is also wireless. The 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is the cherry on top, offering a well-tuned audio experience that can satisfy even the snobbiest of audiophiles. Connectivity-wise, there are three USB-C ports (one in the center console, two at the rear), one USB-A port, and two 12V sockets.

Despite trying different devices, the author has never gotten the wireless Android Auto to work. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

But the experience is not perfect. For one, the phone tray will not fit anything larger than an iPhone 12 Pro Max (even without a case), so your phone will just awkwardly jut out of the receptacle. It is not a wireless charger, so you would have to plug it in to charge. Also, there is no way to force a wired connection. As convenient wireless phone integration is, the experience is not as bug-free.

And for the price, the vehicle does not offer anything above standard cruise control and a reverse camera. BMW’s parking sensors are excellent, but other competitors offer more comprehensive driver-assistance and safety suites for the same price (or even less).

Leave it to the Germans to build an excellent engine. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Having driven the pre-facelift model, I can say it still rides and drives just as well. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill—B48B20A if you want to be exact—is unusually quiet and unlabored for a vehicle of this size. It is not lethargic in any way: 184hp may seem like a small number, but thanks to the 290Nm of available torque accessible at rev ranges normally seen within the city, the propulsion is more than adequate.

The fuel economy is also great for a vehicle of this class. Highway driving at 80km/h saw average figures of 13-14.2km/L, with city driving at 5.6-8.2km/L (from payday rush hour to Sunday traffic) and mixed conditions at 8.5km/L. If you want to make the most of the 68L fuel tank, there is always the excellent Eco Pro drive mode.

The cabin insulates you extremely well from the outside world. Even with run-flat tires, road noise is almost completely eliminated. Those rough little patches of road on the Skyway sound like muffled rips. While the suspension is tuned to soak up bumps and imperfections, it is still a capable car on the back roads for when you want to pilot it yourself. Just do not expect it to be as nimble as a 3-Series.

The 5-Series has always struck the right balance between business and fun. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

If you need something to get you and your family from point A to point B, you are looking at the wrong vehicle. This is for the up-and-coming executive that is looking to make a statement on the weekdays and have a good time on the weekends.

The facelift does well to make it stand out from the rest of the executive sedan crowd. For P4,290,000, it is the same price as last year’s 520i Sport, but with way more features. Throw BMW’s five-year (or 200,000km) warranty in, and it is an attractive package for an executive to consider spending his hard-earned money on.

BMW 520i Luxury (G30 LCI)

Engine2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power184hp @ 5,000-6,500rpm
Torque290Nm @ 1,350-4,250rpm
Dimensions4,963mm x 1,868mm x 1,479mm
Drive layoutRWD
UpsideAn enhanced feature set, improved looks, and the same excellent drivetrain for the same price as the previous model.
DownsideThe competition is starting to offer more features at the same price (or even less).

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.