Oil refinery



0000h,” cooed the receptionist as she took the keys and caught sight of the logo on the leather tag, “a BMW.” Note one: signs of a favourable initial response to the marque.

Then, she turned up her nose in a way that suggested disappointment. “Oh, it’s only a diesel.

Note two: no matter how good you make them, and irrespective of a manufacturer’s perceived image, diesel engines are going to be plagued by stigma and prejudice for some time to come.

Sitting behind any diesel, it’s hard to imagine that you are inhaling the fumes of the future as the driver plants his right foot and a noxious black cloud briefly obscures your vision.

True, the BMW 525 tds will billow the occasional vapour trail under hard acceleration, but despite appearances diesel technology is becoming ever more refined, leastways from the driver’s seat. With the 525 tds, you are audibly aware of the power source for only a fleeting moment

on any Oven day. From a cold start, allow five seconds warm-up time, turn the key and you’ll briefly hear the type of clatter that one associates with an Austin FX4. But it is only a brief intrusion. At tickover, the turbocharged six-cylinder is quiet, and free of vibration. The cabin is a paragon of tranquility. And the situation is unchanged in motion. Naturally, it doesn’t have the silky rumble of a traditional BMW six. It does, however, sound more like a petrol-driven six than it does a diesel . . .

Over 42,000 miles, BMW reckons that the cost of servicing a 525 tds will be around 22 per cent cheaper than it would a 5251. The potential savings do not, however, demand huge performance sacrifices. The petrolengined 525i-24v, with the same SE equipment as our test car, is capable of almost 140 mph. The diesel runs out of puff at just under 130, which is fast enough for the difference to be irrelevant in modem Britain.

You will be able to measure the most impressive aspect of the BMW’s performance by the reduced number of Tiger Tokens in your collection. The manufacturer reckons that typical customers will return in excess of 40 mpg; our experience suggests that may be a trifle optimistic. Over the course of eight days which included plenty of urban usage and much hard motorway work, the figure was closer to 35. That’s still impressive for a car of this size, however, and it allowed the best part of 500 miles between refuelling stops. That’s about twice the range you might get out of a 525i in similar circumstances.

Anyone who thinks of diesels as a slower means of getting from A to B should bear in mind the amount of time you don’t spend in service stations . .

Quite simply, the BMW 525 tds is as well balanced, refined and nimble as many petrolengined cars of the same size. It also has sufficient mid-range torque (192 lb ft at just 2200 rpm) to make it an extremely relaxing travelling companion. Its awesome capabilities don’t come cheap the basic tds is £22,430, and the SE package adds another £2115 to the bill but it is, without question, one of the most impressive cars 1 have driven for a long time. S A