What's New for 2001
The former base 2.8-liter engine gets bumped up to 3.0 liters, with an expected horsepower and torque increase to go along with the larger displacement. A new 2.5-liter engine premieres this year, as do rear seat head airbags and a slightly freshened exterior. BMW also improved some of the optional equipment, including Park Distance Control for both the front and rear of the vehicle, a bigger LCD screen for the navigation system, and an optional single-disc in-dash CD player.
The 5 Series follows BMW's fine tradition of embodying a "true driver's car" and is offered in four flavors for 2001 - the base 525i, the mid-level 530i, the top-level 540i and the high-performance M5. In addition to the sedan body style, a wagon (or estate, as they say in Deutschland) is also available in 525i and 540i versions.
A new 2.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower moves the 525i models. This base model comes with a standard five-speed manual transmission, or it can be optioned with a five-speed Steptronic automanual transmission.
Step up to the 530i and you get a new 3.0-liter inline six that makes a healthy 225 horsepower at 5,900 rpm and 214 foot-pounds of torque at 3,500 rpm. This engine creates a broad torque band and offers commendable acceleration while meeting low-emission vehicle standards.
Under the hood of the 540i sits a 4.4-liter, 32-valve V8 that manages zero-to-60 times in the low sixes. With 282 horsepower at its command, these Bavarian barnstormers are a blast on the open road. This powerplant comes mated to either a six-speed manual or a five-speed Steptronic automanual (the 540i Sport Wagon comes only with the auto) for those who find the BMW stick shifts a bit too demanding in stop-and-go traffic. The suspension is pleasantly firm on this lively model, making even the most docile of drivers feel like Michael Schumacher.
Of course, if you really want to experience the pinnacle of BMW performance in a luxury sedan, skip the 540i and step up to the wonderful (and wonderfully expensive) M5 sedan. Its 5.0-liter V8 is good for 394 horsepower. Even with the M5's 3,800-pound curb weight, zero-to-60 acceleration happens in a lightning-quick 5 seconds! But don't expect those times to happen with both hands on the wheel; the M5's only transmission is a six-speed manual. Along with Corvette-like acceleration, the M5 features a lower ride height than you'll see on a standard 540i, aluminum suspension pieces, stiffer spring and shock rates, and 18-inch wheels with Z-rated tires.
As one would expect in a top-end, luxury/sport vehicle, equipment levels are first rate. Standard fare includes a 10-speaker premium sound system, car and key programmable memory, dual-zone air conditioning, eight-way power adjustments with memory settings, and cruise control with steering wheel controls. All-Season Traction (AST), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Dynamic Brake Control are standard on all 5 Series cars.
Standard safety equipment includes dual-stage front airbags, door-mounted front side airbags, and head-protection airbags for front passengers. The optional rear side-airbag package also includes head-protection airbags. Three-point seatbelts at all seating positions, impact sensors that unlock the doors and activate the hazard lights in the event of a serious accident, remote keyless entry, two-step unlocking, coded drive-away protection, and a vehicle security system are also standard. To list all of the 5 Series' luxury options would take more space than we have. A few of the more noticeable ones include a cold- weather package with heated front seats, Park Distance Control, a navigation system and 17-inch wheels with performance tires.
Yes indeed, the 5 Series is a wonderful car. If you can afford to buy one, we recommend that you do. Sure, there are other great cars out there in this price range; we just think this is one of the best.