BMW 520D SE review: ‘One of the most complete cars’ | Martin Love | Technology

Price: £36,025
Top speed: 146mph
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
MPG: 68.8
CO2: 108g/km

It’s unnerving being in the presence of an intellectual superior – especially when it’s a car. It’s something we are going to have to get used to. This latest 5-Series is the smartest and most technological BMW yet. Its neuro-robotic mind, or central computer, relentlessly anticipates, responds and adapts to everything you’ll ever encounter on the road… well, almost everything. We drivers haven’t quite yet been reduced to mere spectators in our own cars.

This car, for instance, features “intelligent parking” – a sophisticated update of the auto-park package which first appeared on the revolutionary i8. The idea is you arrive at your destination, step out of the car, flash a smile at your neighbours, and then casually ask it to park itself. Using the key fob, you stand on the pavement and watch nonchalantly as it drives on its own into your garage. What a trick, eh! But as with so much of this sort of futuristic gadgetry, it doesn’t really work. I stood on the pavement and watched in horror as the car crept slowly forward before suddenly lunging to the right and coming to a standstill halfway across the road. I tried it several more times, before a tiny screen flashed up the helpful message: “Park the car yourself.”

Ground control: the luxurious and driver-centred cockpit of the new 5-Series. Photograph: Daniel Kraus

The car boasts a host of other technologies which create one of the most advanced “autonomous driving” set-ups yet. This 5-Series can, apparently, accelerate, brake and steer itself at speeds of up to 130mph. Well, we can all do that. I ask my wife if we should give it a go, but she doesn’t fancy it. “What if it swerves across the road again?” she asks not unreasonably. “Then it’ll tell you to ‘Drive the car yourself!’”

Ignoring these tech temptations (I’ve yet to meet a driver who actually uses self-park on their car), this is an astonishingly brilliant vehicle. It rides incredibly, intoxicatingly well. With more than 40 years’ development behind it, each new iteration gets better and more accomplished.

From the outside it’s subtly softened compared to the outgoing model. The corners have been smoothed to create a smoother and less aggressive profile. It now looks less formal; more smart casual.

Inside, it’s classy and a pleasure to sit in. Controls and handling are so intuitive and entertaining that when you drive to the shops you have an overwhelming desire to just keep on going. Faster, lighter and more efficient than before, the 5-Series is now one of the most complete all-round cars you can buy. Just don’t ask it to park itself.

Motorway madness: watch out for jams

Ready for summer: a family get packed up. But take care to avoid the worst of the traffic.

Ready for summer: a family get packed up. But take care to avoid the worst of the traffic. Photograph: Getty Images

With the start of the school holidays, parents brace themselves for traffic jams and endless queues as we set off for a great British staycation and, sadly, the last week of July is predicted to be the busiest of the year, while 1 August is set to be the single busiest day on the road.

Surveying parents across the nation, car part supplier Euro Car Parts found that as many as 30% will be leaving home and hitting the roads between 24 and 31 July.

Martin Gray from Euro Car Parts said: “Family holidays are something to cherish, but getting stuck in traffic is a surefire way of spoiling the trip from the off. It looks like families are planning on leaving early in the morning to avoid traffic, which ironically causes traffic. Our research shows that late at night, or mid afternoon, are the best times to set off.

Euro Car Parts has also compiled some tips on how to avoid traffic, no matter what day you drive.

  • Download a GPS tracking map, such as Mapon or Waze, which identifies traffic volume and lets you avoid routes with high levels of traffic
  • Set off with plenty of time around rush hours; late at night or in the very early hours (before 6am) tend to be quietest
  • Avoid urban areas and main roads when possible. While choosing back roads and driving through villages may take you out of the way slightly, reduced congestion can speed up your journey and makes for a much less frustrating drive.
  • And don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Remember you are going on holiday!

Email Martin at or follow him on Twitter @MartinLove166

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