Well, I know it’s a strange comparo that I am doing here today but then being a motoring scribe is all about doing some really strange things and I mean really strange. Every BMW car is different from the others not just in interior trim but also in the engines that they sport. A lots of readers have requested us to have a segregation of the various cars within the same class. Well to start off with, the best one that I could think of was the BMW 520D in India and also the BMW 530D. Just a change in some monikers you think, then you are absolutely wrong. They have a change of heart as well and a massive one at that. So without further ado, here is a comparison of the BMW 520D and the BMW 530D, a first of its kind on Indiandrives.com. Strap on your seat belts for this drive.
As far as looks are concerned, both the cars look the same. There isn’t anything separating them from each other except for the moniker at the rear. I would go as far as to say that remove the monikers and you wouldn’t come to know which BMW is which. The sleek athletic look that was somewhat missing from the previous generation 5 series is the new “in” factor. But the very fact that almost all the BMWs look the same make it a bit more boring. However since we are comparing a BMW with a BMW, there isn’t any beauty pageant award here. Both the cars run on 17 inch runflats with 225/55 section. The rear gets twin huddled tail pipes whereas the tail lamps are more of the intersected variety, which are present in almost all the BMWs in India. Look wise, go for either and you no one would tease you as to why you got yourself a 520D or a 530D.
This is where some of the difference crops in and a keen passenger would be able to make out pretty soon if he is in a lower trim Bavarian car or a higher one. Around the dashboard and front seats, everything remains the same. The central console however boasts of a bigger 10.2 inch monitor with two 8 inch displays at the back of the front seat head rests. It also gets a 6 CD changer system with aux input, USB connectivity and also Bluetooth pairing. In contrast, the BMW 520D has got the 10.2 inch monitor but no back seat entertainment package. Of course, you can specifically get it done but then what is the use of buying a BMW 520D in India with options where one can go for the fully loaded BMW 530D. The 520D gets a single CD player but with all sorts of links like Bluetooth and AUX input attached to it. For the ultra rich, the more pampered toy would definitely be the 530D but in no way would the 520D make him look any poorer. It has a well built cabin and one which will definitely stand the test of time. Front seat comfort in both is exemplary and after all one usually buys a BMW to drive it and not to be driven. Unless, you are more interested in the blue and white propeller badge. In that case, go buy yourself a BMW 330i or even the BMW X1. A 3rd gen Idrive system is also present to handle various duties however the one in the 520D has got lesser functions.
In the interests of front seat passengers, the rear seat ones aren’t left far behind. But then squeeze in a person standing north of 6 feet in the front seat and another with the same dimensions behind him and there you would notice some lack of space. Its not a serious issue though and the chauffer driven would enjoy the back seat space and the angling of the seats. The boot space is usable at 480 liters and that is standard for both. Well check out the boot and you would be shocked to know that BMW don’t offer a spare tyre for the run flats and only a puncture kit is given.
Out of both, my bet is on the BMW 530D in India for having better equipment levels.
Handling and ride quality
Usually in a car, the underpinnings don’t undergo a sea change within variants. However both the 520D and the 530D have their goals clearly set. The 520D is for the more pampered rear seat passengers whereas the 530D is more for the enthusiast who likes to take the wheel and also occasionally lounge in the rear seats with his clients. The earlier generation 5 series was criticized for its ride quality. BMW’s penchant for continuing with run flats for the Indian roads is something which no one has been able to understand. Come on BMW, its high time you offered tubeless tyres. The BMW 520D in India has been tuned to offer better ride quality. As such, it absorbs all the bumps thrown in its way. Though not a E class beater, this one promises to handle bumps the Bimmer way. The BMW 530D in India however is tuned to be a bit more on the stiffer side. It does handle the road abberations well however some sharp jolts do catch this big car off its track. NVH levels are certainly better in the 530D. The 520D with its 2 cylinders less configuration is a bit more noisier at idle and elevated speeds than the 530D.
The handling is also far tauter in the 530D whereas the 520D will have some apprehensions with a pronounced body roll when pushed hard along. Once again, this shows where the priorities lie. Some tail wagging antics are possible in the 520D but to throw the 530D into similar situation, a lot more hard work is required. The steering wheel is unlike a BMW. Its light at parking speeds now. But then the bidding part is done properly but somewhere down the line, you do get an impression of its projecting some artificial slackness.
The BMW 520D for sure on this one.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The major change is under the hood with the BMW 520D receiving the BMW 3 series 2 liter engine. The 4 cylinder 1995 cc engine makes 184 Bhp of peak power whereas the 38.7 kgm of torque is generated at 1750 rpm. Transmission is standard for both the engines and it is an 8 speed auto. Well how exactly does is feel to drive the BMW 520D? At city speeds, one doesn’t feel the need to build up too much revs and the 8 speed auto works its magic to eliminate any turbo lag. However on the highways, the 4 cylinder engine has to work hard for some spirited driving. The BMW 530D in the meanwhile has got a full 1000cc more as also two cylinders extra. It makes 245 Bhp of peak power and a very useful 55 kgm of torque at 1750 rpm. Due to all this torque being made lower down the rev range, the 530D is a rocket even at city speeds. Most of the chauffers would use only the minimum pressure on the accelerator pedal or would fear being reprimanded by their snooty businessman boss. Out on the highway, the 530D is on a element of its own, devouring miles without breaking into a sweat.
As far as safety and braking go, both are identical in their specifications. Both have progressive stopping power and the safety dragnet is wrapped equally in good measures around both. Fuel efficiency like their engine capacities is very different. The overall mileage that the smaller 520D returned was 11.7 kmpl whereas the 530D stood at 10.2 kmpl. So those looking to save some moolah wouldn’t have a tough time deciding which car to pick.
It would be the BMW 520D eating up the pie in this test.
Time for the final verdict. If its bragging rights that you want, then take up the BMW 530D. It has got a bit more pampering features inside the cabin plus a stonker of a diesel engine. The engine is rev happy as also extremely tractable. Its got good handling characteristics as also a silent drive atmosphere. Where it loses out is the ride quality, fuel efficiency and the price. The BMW 530D price in India is Rs 45.80 lakhs (ex-show room, Mumbai). The BMW 520D on the other hand is what a somewhat rich poor man would prefer to buy. Though a bit lacking in features, it would still satisfy most of its buyers. It has got a pampering ride quality plus when the times call for it, good performance and fuel efficiency. It is however noisier of the two BMWs as also calls to be pushed hard. The typical BMW handling is somewhat diluted with its ride comfort focus. However one would be inclined to buy this car due to its significantly lower pricing. The BMW 520D price in India is Rs 36.70 lakhs (ex-show room, Mumbai). Personally, I would settle for the lower priced one. Which one would you go for?