Used 1998 BMW 5 Series Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1998

Side-impact airbags are now available for rear-seat passengers, as is break-resistant glass for the windows and moonroof.

Vehicle overview

BMW redesigned their 5-Series line of sedans in 1996 and introduced them as a 1997 model. No significant changes have occurred for the 1998 model year, but side-impact airbags are now available for rear-seat passengers, as is break-resistant glass for the windows and moonroof.

BMWs are famous for the suppleness of their ride and the responsiveness of their steering; firmness without harshness is the phrase most often bandied about our offices when discussing these cars' uncanny ability to stay connected to the road while communicating almost telepathically with the driver. The 5-Series is no exception. Breakthrough, all-aluminum suspensions on six- and eight-cylinder models reduce the vehicles' unsprung weight by 46 pounds; better allowing these cars to respond to irregularities in the road. Variable-ratio, variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering, borrowed from the M3, finds its way into the 528i. The variable-ratio steering results in a ratio that increases exponentially as the wheel is moved towards the locks; thus allowing safe, effortless high-speed correction and easy low-speed maneuvering. The 540i makes do with recirculating ball variable-assist power steering, a similar to the setup found on the 7-Series sedans.

The biggest news for the 5-series, of course, is found under the hood. The entry-level 5-Series has an inline six-cylinder engine that provides excellent midrange torque. The 540i gets a more powerful 4.4-liter V8 that offers zero to 60 times in the low-sixes. The 528i comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission and is also available with a sophisticated four-speed automatic. Equipped with BMW's Adaptive Transmission Control, the four-speed tracks the driver's driving style and road conditions; allowing the shift timing to adjust accordingly. The 540i models continue to be available with a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. Opt for the six-speed manual and prepare yourself for an invigorating ride; the suspension is firmed up noticeably on this lively model.

As one would expect in a top-end, luxury-sport sedan, equipment levels are first-rate. Safety equipment includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control, nine-mph bumpers, dual airbags, side-impact airbags, optional rear passenger side-impact 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 driveaway protection and a vehicle security system. To list all of the 5-Series' luxury features would take more space than we have; a few of the more noticeable ones are automatic climate controls, power moonroof (540i) or sunroof (528i), 200-watt stereo, 10-way power front seats with power headrests, heated outside mirrors, heated steering wheel and a right-hand outside mirror that tilts down when the car is in reverse to help drivers see curbs when parallel parking.

Yes indeed, the new 5-Series is a wonderful car. Given all of the inquiries we receive about it, you apparently think so too. 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 that this one's the best. Good luck, safe driving, have fun; we're sure you'll love it.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.