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By Jim Flammang
November 28, 2001
Vehicle Overview Its been said that designers are at work on the next generation of BMWs midlevel sedan and wagon, but the launch of those models is a couple years down the line. For 2002, the Sport Premium and Convenience option packages are gone, and an in-dash CD player is newly standard. The 5 Series fits between BMWs smaller 3 Series and its flagship 7 Series sedan.
The 5 Series appearance was freshened for 2001. Base models equipped with a 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine are called 525i, while those fitted with a larger 3.0-liter inline-six are designated 530i. The 4.4-liter V-8 that powers the 540i sedan and wagon was given a boost this year to 290 horsepower. All 5 Series models are rear-drive, have side-impact airbags for the front seats and come with a curtain-type Head Protection System. Side-impact airbags for the rear seats are optional.
The high-performance M5 sedan, which is fitted with a 394-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 engine and a six-speed-manual gearbox, also is available. Other 5 Series models may be equipped with either a manual or automatic transmission.
Exterior With a 111.4-inch wheelbase, the 5 Series fits into the full-size category by cars.com standards, though some observers consider it a midsize model. At 188 inches long overall, the 5 Series is slightly shorter than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan and nearly 9 inches shorter than the Lexus LS 430. In appearance, the 5 Series closely resembles its smaller and larger mates, all of which sport BMWs familiar twin-kidney grille.
Interior Seating is provided for five occupants. Front bucket seats have 10-way power adjustment for the driver. Standard equipment on all models includes remote keyless entry, a 10-speaker audio system, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, heated power mirrors and an alarm. The 540i sedan adds such extras as a moonroof, dual-mode automatic air conditioning and xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights.
Leather upholstery is standard in the 540i and optional in the 525i and 530i, which otherwise come with standard imitation-leather seating. All models can be equipped with an optional split, folding rear seatback and BMWs navigation system.
Under the Hood The 525i uses a 184-hp, 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine, while a 225-hp, 3.0-liter inline-six goes into the 530i. Topping the regular lineup, the 540i gets a 4.4-liter V-8 that now produces 290 hp 8 hp more than last years engine. Six-cylinder models are available with either a five-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. The 540i comes with a five-speed-automatic or six-speed-manual transmission.
The 540i actually costs more when fitted with a manual shift than with the automatic, but stick-shift versions come with a Sport Package that includes 17-inch tires and a tauter suspension. All 5 Series models are rear-drive only, unlike the smaller 3 Series, which offers all-wheel drive as an option.
Safety Dual-stage front airbags deploy according to crash severity and whether occupants are buckled up. Side-impact airbags for the front seats and BMWs Head Protection System which consists of curtain-type airbags that deploy to protect front-seat occupants are standard. Side-impact airbags and head-protection curtains are optional for the rear seats. Standard safety features include antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system that BMW calls Dynamic Stability Control. The optional Park Distance Control detects obstacles to the front and rear of the car while parking it.
Driving Impressions BMW manages to mix big doses of both sport and luxury in the 5 Series models. Drivers can expect the precise maneuverability and control of a 3 Series, coupled with quite a few luxuries near the level of the big 7 Series. Although suspensions are undeniably firm, especially if the sedan is fitted with a Sport Package, ride comfort remains pleasant over most pavement surfaces.
Performance is reasonably energetic even with the smallest six-cylinder engine, but the V-8 unleashes a veritable torrent of strength for supremely confident highway operation. BMW appears to strive for symmetry in each of its models, so the dashboard and its easy-to-read gauges look about the same, regardless of the size of the sedan.