A slightly larger fifth-generation 5 Series midsize sedan from BMW arrived for 2004. A new all-aluminum front-end structure helped reduce weight.
Three 5 Series models are available. The 530 gets a 225-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder; the 525 holds a 2.5-liter inline-six; and the 545 uses a 4.4-liter V-8. Three six-speed transmissions are offered: manual, Steptronic automatic and a Sequential Manual Gearbox.
For 2005, Active Steering is available either as a stand-alone option or comes with the Sport Package. Wood trim and four-way power lumbar support are now standard. Options include Active Roll Stabilization, adaptive xenon headlights, run-flat tires, a head-up display and Active Cruise Control.
At the 2005 North American International Auto Show, BMW introduced an all-wheel-drive version called the 530xi. In addition to a sedan, the 530xi will be available in new sport wagon form.
Styling of the 530 and its companions emulates the company's controversial 7 Series, but is subtler. Short overhangs and what BMW calls "lean-forward dynamics" highlight the design.
A prominent twin-kidney grille carries on the BMW tradition. Bodies incorporate BMW's traditional reverse kink at the rear door windows. The contemporary rear end features a high trunk lid.
Up to five occupants fit inside the 530 sedan. Leatherette upholstery and Dark Poplar or Maple Anthracite wood trim are standard, but leather is available. Both front occupants get a 10-way power seat adjustment with driver memory.
The tachometer incorporates a variable warning segment that activates at lower rpm when the engine is cold. Rain-sensing wipers and a 10-speaker CD stereo are standard.
A simplified version of the iDrive control system introduced in the 7 Series uses a 6.5-inch color display screen.
Under the Hood
The 530i's 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder develops 225 hp and 214 pounds-feet of torque. The six-speed Steptronic automatic incorporates Manual and Sport modes.
A six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox with an automatic clutch is available. Gear changes may be selected using a console-mounted lever or twin steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual is also available.
Integrated Advanced Head Protection is standard. BMW's Dynamic Stability Control stability system can improve control in difficult conditions. Active Roll Stabilization is part of the Sport Package. Active head restraints are available.
Finesse is the operative word for BMW's 5 Series, which blends refined ability with enthusiasm for the road. Despite the suspension's sporty tautness, you can expect a smooth, totally controlled ride even on rougher pavement.
Acceleration is energetic but not quite startling. Performance fans may prefer the V-8-powered 545. The well-subdued engine is heard only slightly when shifting with the manual gearbox, which works masterfully. The automatic transmission also operates smoothly.
The seat bottoms are surprisingly short, and the firm seats practically force you upright against a hard back that provides emphatic support. Rear occupants get ample headroom and legroom, but riders sink down and the center spot has a terribly hard seatback. The gauges are superior and iDrive is easier to use than the original, but it's still unnecessary and unwieldy. Once you get used to Active Steering, it produces confidence.