What's New for 2006
The 525 and 530 models receive an all-new 3.0-liter inline-six engine this year, and BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system is now available to serve those who need a little more bad-weather bite. BMW is also offering a versatile 5 Series wagon to U.S. customers once more, though only in 530xi trim. The 545i has been replaced by the 550i, which features a 360-horsepower, 4.8-liter V8.
Originally introduced in 1972, the BMW 5 Series has spent the last three decades catering to those who desire a sedan that functions equally well as a prestigious luxury car and a thoroughbred performance sedan. The 5 Series has long been the benchmark by which other sport sedans are measured. This elevated position presents challenges when such a stellar car is due for an update.
BMW accomplished its mission with a redesign in 1997 that gave it a look and feel that remained popular right up until the latest redesign last year. Although the 2004 BMW 5 Series was considered a complete redesign, the changes to the car's basic character seemed more like subtle refinements. It was already a comfortable, capable and highly dynamic machine. The latest version is still all of these things, just a bit more so.
In terms of overall philosophy, the largest shift from the previous model came in the form of technology. Several items were pulled directly from the current-generation 7 Series, including iDrive, Active Roll Stabilization (ARS), Active Cruise Control (ACC) and a Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system. While much of the 7's technology has migrated down to the 5, several advanced technologies made their debut on BMW's midsize sport sedan. The most exciting of these is dubbed Active Front Steering (AFS), a system that is able to adjust both the steering ratio and the amount of power assist for optimum feel and control under varying driving conditions.
Along with all the technology came an aggressive new body that most people either love or hate. For 2006, BMW has fitted the 525 and 530 models with an all-new 3.0-liter inline six, and replaced the 4.4-liter V8 with a 4.8-liter unit. For 2006, BMW has fitted the 525 and 530 models with an all-new 3.0-liter inline six. The versatile wagon body style is also back in the lineup this year, as is an all-wheel-drive system dubbed xDrive. The system is electronically controlled and uses a multiplate clutch for infinite variation in the front/rear power ratio. It works with BMW's Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), using data taken from the yaw rate and steering angle sensors to adjust the distribution of power. Further, when DSC takes corrective braking action on a single wheel, xDrive automatically redirects torque to the wheel opposite it. This means the car can keep moving even if only one wheel has traction.
With excellent power and sharp handling, the 2006 BMW 5 Series further builds on its reputation as a luxury sedan of unequaled athleticism. An endless array of technology and polarizing sheet metal may distinguish the current generation in the minds of consumers, but in the end, it's the 5's continued status as a true driver's car that will make the sale.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The BMW 5 Series sedan comes in several flavors: 525i, 525xi, 530i, 530xi and 550i. The wagon is available in 530xi trim only. Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, a CD player, one-touch power windows, rain-sensing windshield wipers and heated mirrors. Ten-way power front seats are also standard, with 12-way power front sport seats and 20-way power multifunction comfort front seats available as options. The iDrive vehicle management system is integrated into all 5 Series models, while a DVD-based navigation system with voice command and adaptive cruise control are optional. On the audio side, buyers can get a glovebox-mounted CD/DVD changer, as well as a premium-grade Harman Kardon Logic 7 sound system. Other options to consider include adaptive bi-xenon headlights, and a sport package with various wheel/run-flat tire upgrades (up to 18 inches in diameter), firmer suspension tuning and Active Front Steering (AFS).
Powertrains and Performance
BMW's new 3.0-liter six-cylinder generates 215 horsepower in 525 models, and 255 hp in 530 versions thanks to an upgraded intake manifold and software. The top-of-the-line 550i sedan features a 4.8-liter V8 rated at 360 hp. All models get a six-speed manual standard with a six-speed Steptronic automatic an available option. The rear-drive 530i and 545i can also be had with BMW's sequential manual gearbox (SMG), a sophisticated transmission that combines the control of a manual gearbox with the ease of an automatic. BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system is available on 525 and 530 sedans, and standard on the wagon.
Standard safety equipment includes a head protection system and side-impact airbags for both the front and rear seats. Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and four-wheel disc brakes with electronic brake proportioning, cornering and stability enhancements are standard across the model line. Active front head restraints and Advanced Safety Electronics (ASE) that govern the deployment of safety systems are optional. Both Hill-Start Assist and Hill Descent Control are standard with xDrive, in case your extra-steep driveway ever gets slippery. The BMW 5 Series was named a "Best Pick" in IIHS frontal offset crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The driver-oriented 5 Series cockpit greets passengers with a dignified show of luxury. As in the 7 Series, the multifunction iDrive interface integrates the audio, climate and navigation systems, but basic functions can be accomplished without going through iDrive. Build and materials quality is outstanding. Supportive seating is provided in both the front and rear, and even adults won't mind sitting in the backseat.
The 2006 BMW 5 Series is an extremely balanced machine that can handle aggressive driving maneuvers as well as it does dilapidated highways. The active steering system hasn't dulled BMW's trademark steering feel, and even vehicles equipped with the optional run-flat tires maintain a livable ride quality. The base inline six offers adequate power, while the 255-hp version offers the best balance of performance and economy. Equipped with the V8, this is a true enthusiast's sedan that will outpace many sports cars.