The BMW 5-Series delivers just about everything you could ask for in a luxury sedan. It offers the features, comfort and convenience of full-size luxury sedans, the sporting character of smaller ones, and a better compromise between interior space and physical bulk. The 5-Series has long been a big seller in the most popular, most competitive class of luxury cars. It's the benchmark for critics and auto industry engineers alike.
BMW completely redesigned the 5-Series for the 2004 model year, and the all-new models offer more room, more equipment and more sophisticated technology than the previous generation. It's moved a bit upscale, so that means more money, too.
BMW's smaller 3-Series may be the bigger seller, but the 5-Series is the company's original sports sedan and the oldest nameplate in its line-up. Since the BMW 5-Series nomenclature was introduced in 1975, BMW has completely overhauled its mid-line sedan five times. The redo for 2004 was as extensive as any the company has undertaken, so few changes have been made for 2005. Because this sedan generates a quarter of BMW's profits worldwide, the engineers in Munich spared no expense in the redesign.
In a sense, the most important characteristics didn't change with the make-over. BMW's 5-Series remains a true sports sedan in any of its three variations, the 525i, 530i, and 545i. All three boast precise handling, impressive power and outstanding brakes. Its appeal to luxury car buyers may ultimately come down to that new look. That said, this latest generation is a much better 5-Series.
Luxury carmakers typically offer one or two variants in this class, but BMW has had at least three 5-Series sedans for more than a decade. That tradition continues for 2005.
The least expensive is the 525i ($41,300), powered by BMW's 184-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine. Next up is the 530i ($45,400), with a larger, 225-horsepower six-cylinder engine. At the top is the 545i ($55,800) with a 325-horsepower V8.
All BMW 5-Series models come loaded with luxury features, starting with the 525i. Among them: automatic climate control with active micro-filtration; AM/FM/CD with 10 speakers, two sub-woofers; power tilt-and-telescope leather steering wheel; keyless entry with a multi-function remote and Vehicle & Key memory, which sets seat and climate controls for the driver whose key opens the car; automatic head lights; fog lights; 16-inch wheels. There are three 12-volt power outlets in the cabin and one in the trunk. There's also a rechargeable flashlight in the glovebox. All 5-Series models come with BMW Assist, which provides telematic collision notification, an SOS button, roadside assistance, locator and concierge services.
The BMW 530i adds the bigger six-cylinder engine, slightly larger brake discs and 17-inch alloy wheels. The 525i and 530i come standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed automatic transmission is optional ($1,275). The 525i and 530i come standard with leatherette upholstery. Leather upholstery comes as part of a Premium Package on the 525i ($2,000) and 530i ($1,800), which includes a universal garage door opener and the swanky interior lighting package with ambient light, auto-dimming and outside lighting.
The BMW 545i comes with the six-speed automatic, leather upholstery, a power glass sunroof, a three-function garage door opener in the overhead console and more elaborate auto-dimming interior lighting. It gets still bigger brakes to complement the powerful V8. BMW's racy Sequential Manual Gearbox is available on the 530i ($1,500) and 545i (no charge).
Options: A Cold Weather Package ($750) with heated seats, heated steering wheel and headlight washers; on-board navigation system ($1,800); active cruise control ($2,200); SIRIUS Satellite Radio ($595); head-up display ($1,000).
The BMW M5 version, the screaming high-performance four-door worshiped by enthusiast drivers, was introduced in September 2004, featuring a V10 engine and seven-speed sequential manual gearbox. BMW says it has no plans to sell a 5-Series wagon in the U.S.