Vehicle Overview
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. For 2006, the 530 uses a high-output 255-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder, and the 525 gets a 215-hp, 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder. BMW's V-8-powered 5 Series is now known as the 550 and has a new 360-hp, 4.8-liter V-8 under its hood.

The 530 can now have all-wheel drive in place of the traditional rear-wheel-drive setup, and a wagon body style is newly available. All 5 Series models now have an engine start/stop button, and the standard Dynamic Stability Control system gains brake-fade compensation, brake standby, brake drying and a start-off assist feature.

Standard 530 equipment includes xenon adaptive headlights and power front-seat lumbar support. Options include Active Roll Stabilization and Active Steering for rear-drive 530s, run-flat tires, a head-up display and Active Cruise Control.

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, and the 530 incorporates BMW's traditional reverse kink at the rear door windows. The contemporary rear end features a high trunk lid.

Up to five people fit inside the 530. Dark Poplar or Maple Anthracite wood trim is installed, and leatherette upholstery is standard. Leather is optional. Both front occupants get 10-way power seat adjustment with driver memory. Heated front seats are optional.

The tachometer incorporates a warning segment that activates at a 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 that debuted in the 7 Series uses a 6.5-inch display screen.

Under the Hood
The 530's new high-output 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder develops 255 hp and 220 pounds-feet of torque. Three six-speed transmissions are offered: manual, Steptronic automatic and sequential manual (in rear-drive 530s only). With the sequential manual transmission, gears can be selected using a console-mounted lever or steering-wheel paddles.

Antilock brakes, Dynamic Stability Control, side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain-type airbags are standard. Rear-seat side-impact airbags and active front head restraints are optional.

Driving Impressions
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 get a smooth, totally controlled ride even on rougher pavement.

The firm seat bottoms are surprisingly short and 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 system, but it's still unnecessary and unwieldy.