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By Jim Flammang
September 24, 2003
Vehicle Overview A new fifth generation of BMWs midsize 5 Series sedan arrives for the 2004 model year. It has grown a bit in size and presents a fresh but familiar new look. Mounted on a wheelbase thats 2.3 inches longer than its predecessor, the rear-wheel-drive 545i is 2.6 inches longer overall, 1.8 inches wider and 1.3 inches taller. Space in the rear has been increased, and the automaker says entry into the backseat is easier. Trunk capacity has grown by 26 percent. With keeping weight down in mind, a new all-aluminum front-end structure is used.
Rather than the 4.0-liter V-8 that powered the previous 540i sedan, the new 545i four-door gets a 4.4-liter V-8 engine that develops 325 horsepower, which is 35 hp more than before. Equipped with a Valvetronic system, the V-8 engine first appeared in BMWs larger 7 Series. The automakers 5 Series is also available in two other forms: the 525i, which is equipped with a 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine, and the 3.0-liter six-cylinder-powered 530i.
The 545i sedan comes with either a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission and luxury-oriented equipment or a six-speed-manual gearbox and Sport equipment. A Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) is offered on the latter version.
BMW offers quite an array of either standard or optional equipment, which includes Active Roll Stabilization, Xenon Adaptive Headlights, Adaptive brake lights, run-flat tires, an evolved iDrive control system, a head-up display, Active Cruise Control and Active Steering.
The styling of the 545i and its six-cylinder companions follows on the heels of the controversial 7 Series but appears to be more subtle and, therefore, perhaps less subject to criticism from an aesthetic perspective. Short overhangs and what BMW calls lean-forward dynamics highlight the design.
A prominent twin kidney grille provides a connection to BMW tradition. Surrounded by painted surfaces, the grille is flanked by quad headlights inside luminous rings and beneath clear covers. Deeply wrapped lighting units are present in the front and rear. The turn signals have clear lenses. Amber LED front parking lights are thin and wedge shaped. The bodies incorporate BMWs traditional reverse kink at the rear door windows. The contemporary rear end features a high trunk lid.
Adaptive brake lights are standard. A full aluminum suspension is installed, and all models have rack-and-pinion steering. Active Steering is included in the Sport Package. The brakes on each 5 Series model have been upsized, and ventilated discs are installed all around. Standard tires measure 17 inches in diameter, and 18-inch run-flat performance tires are included in the Sport Package and with sedans equipped with the six-speed-manual gearbox. The performance tires are larger at the rear.
Five people fit inside the 545i sedan. Backseat passengers have 1.3 inches more shoulder room and 1.8 inches of additional legroom than that of the previous model. Leather upholstery and Dark Poplar wood trim are standard. Gray Maple Anthracite interior trim is available. Front occupants get 10-way power seat adjustment with a memory feature.
A double wave theme is used for the dashboard. The tachometer now incorporates a variable warning segment that activates at lower rpm when the engine is cold. A three-spoke steering wheel holds multifunction controls. Rain-sensing wipers and a 10-speaker stereo with a CD player and twin subwoofers are standard.
A simplified version of BMWs iDrive control system, which was introduced in the 7 Series, uses a 6.5-inch color display screen. When a navigation system is installed, additional iDrive functions are provided. One years service for the BMW Assist Program is provided with all 5 Series models. Radar-based Active Cruise Control and front and rear Park Distance Control are optional.
Under the Hood
The 545is 4.4-liter V-8 engine features Valvetronic operation and drive-by-wire throttle; it develops 325 hp and 330 pounds-feet of torque. A 545i equipped with a six-speed-manual gearbox can accelerates from zero to 60 mph in a claimed 5.7 seconds, while the sedan with a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission requires only a tenth of a second more. The automatic unit incorporates Manual and Sport modes.
A six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) will also be available in combination with a Sport Package. Shifted electrohydraulically, the SMG unit incorporates an automatic clutch. Gear changes may be specified using a console-mounted lever or twin paddles on the steering wheel.
Integrated Advanced Head Protection is standard. All models have a flat-tire monitor. Dynamic Stability Control, which is activated with a console switch, can improve traction under difficult conditions. Active Roll Stabilization is offered as an option as part of the Sport Package, and this technology yields flatter cornering. Active Head Restraints are also available.