2004 BMW 5-Series Page 1

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July will see the European introduction of the fifth generation of BMW’s mid-range 5-Series sedan, featuring the more rounded lines first shown on the latest 7-Series and more advanced technology, including a new electronically controlled power-steering system.

Engines are unchanged from the current car, but BMW promises better gas mileage thanks to new lightweight construction that uses aluminum in the suspension and major body components at the front of the car. This means the new cars will be 143 pounds lighter than their predecessors, with a resultant improvement in maximum speed, acceleration and fuel economy over the current 5-Series and, BMW claim, all other cars in the class. Making a contribution to the improved figures is a six-speed manual gearbox for the 3.0-liter six-cylinder versions.

The 5-Series will come first as the 225-hp, 3.0-liter in-line-six-powered 530i; later the 184-hp, 2.5-liter 525i and the 325-hp, 4.4-liter V-8 545i will make their entrances. All engines can be had with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed Steptronic automatic.

Dynamic electronics

The new steering system, called AFS in BMW-speak, will be offered as an option. It varies the steering transmission ratio electronically in direct relation to the style and speed of driving and road conditions. Under normal conditions at low and medium speeds, the steering becomes more direct, requiring less steering effort from the driver (i.e. turns of the wheel), increasing the car’s agility in city driving or while parking. At high speeds the steering becomes less direct, offering improved directional stability. When cornering at high speeds, or when undertaking sudden movements, the steering stiffens up by monitoring increases in the yaw (change of direction) rate. The system is networked to the Dynamic Stability Control electronic driver aid, and BMW say it reduces DSC interventions, thus offering more control to the driver and increased comfort for the passengers.

2004 BMW 5-Series

2004 BMW 5-Series

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Dynamic Drive, the electronic system that smoothes out body roll that was introduced on the new 7-Series in 2001, will be available as an option on the new 5er as well. The other major feature introduced on the 7-Series, the iDrive control system used to operate the majority of the in-car functions, crosses over to the 5-Series in a new second-generation form. The system has not received good notices from users of the top of the range BMW sedan, and the new version is said to be simpler than the first. Another 7-Series innovation, which saw the gearshift move from its traditional place in the center console to a place on the steering column, has not been transferred — the 5er driver will shift with a normal lever.

Novelty acts

Other electronic novelties will be introduced not too long after the new models go on sale. There will be a head-up display, a first on a European car, and reactive brake-lights that shine more brightly in response to extra pressure on the brake pedal, warning following drivers of a panic braking maneuver. This latter feature needs to be approved by the authorities in Europe before it can be added to the car. One feature that will be available from launch will be headlamps that turn with the steering to give better illumination in bends.

The styling of the car reflects the current trends in BMW design, with sculpted side panels and a ‘humped’ trunklid as featured on the 7-Series. This feature was not universally well received on the 7er, but it is better integrated into the look of the 5er and has the added advantage of adding greatly to the available trunk space. The most noticeable design feature of the new cars is the headlamp treatment, which sweeps round the front corners of the car and features an unusual ‘eyebrow’ over the main headlamps that houses the parking lamps.