Good: high level of specification, very competent all-rounder
Not so good: slightly underpowered, lacks fuel economy of other BMWs
Back in 2008 the Irish car market was dealt a blow in the form of an ill-timed change in taxation for cars to become emission-based. It arrived just as the global economy decided to fall off the cliff. Naturally car buyers became hyper-sensitive to what everything cost to purchase and run, but also how it appeared socially. Sales of petrol cars virtually ceased overnight and as a nation we became near-instant converts to diesel power.
When it came to emissions BMW was already ahead of the curve thanks to its EfficientDynamics programme that allowed the 520d to build on its already strong-selling base. Naturally, those in charge in the EU continue to tighten the reins when it comes to emissions and BMW has remained amongst the best in terms of lowering emissions. Now it has a new option that will most likely appeal to business buyers - the 518d.
The name-plate may sound small considering the five prefix, but underneath the (restyled for 2014) bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine producing 143hp. In its most basic form - a manual 518d SE - it falls into tax band A4, meaning an annual cost of €200. In reality this car will probably only be bought by fleet companies and those who are potentially at a stretch to get into a 5 Series. This particular test car resides at the other end of the 518d spectrum in Luxury trim level and complemented with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It may command a seven-thousand Euro premium, but the result is a large saloon that delivers an interior quality that rivals its big brother, the 7 Series. Rear passenger leg- and headroom are generous while the 520-litre boot capacity is also worthy of a mention.
In terms of driving qualities the ride in the 518d is as smooth as many would desire, even on the larger optional 18-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels. The car bears all the typical BMW driving traits too - it is just as composed slowly traversing city traffic as it is being hustled along a good back road. The steering is close to perfectly weighted and when driven in a more spirited manor returns a good degree of feedback to the driver. Noise suppression in the cabin is noticeably good, impressively given the lower-powered diesel engine’s need to work that bit harder, especially at higher motorway speeds. In town and city driving many drivers probably won’t notice the decrease in power compared to the popular 520d, helped in part by the highly competent and refined automatic gearbox.
As much as the automatic gearbox tried, it still struggled to help the car achieve close to the official 57mpg figure, even with the majority of driving done using the Eco Pro mode that minimises fuel consumption even further. A 518d in Luxury trim is more about interior luxuries than fuel economy per se. Its lower price point gives those not overly concerned with fuel economy or outright performance a chance to get into a generously equipped car for what is, relatively speaking, a modest price. The 518d’s €2,500 undercutting of the 520d will naturally enable the buyer to add a substantial amount of equipment for the price of the slightly more powerful engine. That said, we still believe the wise money would of course forego the Luxury trim-line and instead spend a slight premium on going for a 520d.