Rovaniemi, Finland, is a frozen city at the Arctic Circle where only the steel-hearted survive. Well, and Santa Claus, according to the local tourism bureau. Although we never ran into ol' Saint Nick, Rovaniemi was the perfect location to sample the new all-wheel-drive 2006 BMW 5 Series, which will go on sale this spring.
The all-wheel-drive 5 Series is the latest in a gaggle of new all-wheel-drive premium sedans. For decades, well-to-do car buyers in snowy climates have had only two choices, an Audi with quattro and a Mercedes-Benz with 4Matic. But now other premium brands are on to the all-wheel-drive trend. Cadillac made sure the new STS had it for 2005. And the Infiniti M35 and Lexus GS 300 are onboard for 2006.
And now BMW will make its xDrive all-wheel-drive system a $2,000 option on both the 525 and 530 sedans, and standard on the late-arriving 5 Series wagon, which will be sold only in the 530 flavor.
No V8, but More Power Although there are no current plans to install xDrive on the V8-powered 545i sedan, there's little reason to worry about the six-cylinder AWD models feeling underpowered, as both the 525 and 530 feature the new 3.0-liter magnesium/aluminum engines first seen in the 2006 BMW 3 Series. For the 525xi, that means 215 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. On the 530xi, there's 255 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque.
The rear-drive 525i and 530i also get the new engines. Either way, you'll have your choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic with Steptronic. The xDrive system adds about 170 pounds to the cars' curb weight and a couple tenths of a second to their 0-60 times — BMW estimates a manual-gearbox 530i can sprint to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, while a 530xi can do it in 6.6. The difference is greater on the 525 models — 7.3 seconds on the 525i versus 7.9 on the 525xi. Fuel economy is affected as well, with 21 city/29 highway estimates for rear-drivers and 20/27 for AWD models.
A few of the main roads in Rovaniemi had been plowed and sanded, which gave us an opportunity to sample the new engine in the 530xi. Although the jump in horsepower is what you'll read about, we were more impressed by the extra low-end torque, which made the manual-shift testers easy to launch.
A sport package will be available, and you can even get 18-inch wheels if you want them.
What Makes It Winterproof The 5 Series borrows xDrive from the X3 and X5 sport-utilities. The system is electronically controlled and uses a multiplate clutch for infinite variation in the front/rear power ratio. The system works hand-in-hand with BMW's Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system, 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, torque is automatically redirected to the wheel opposite it. This means the BMW 530xi can keep moving even if only one wheel has traction.
The Ultimate Ice Driving Machine All of the 530s we drove wore non-factory winter performance tires (no studs). On public roads covered with packed snow and ice, the combination of xDrive, DSC and snow tires made the car basically unstoppable.
But it wasn't until we took a few dozen laps around an ice track that we understood why the 530xi would make a fantastic winter car for an enthusiast.
To accommodate drivers of varying skill and guts, DSC now has three modes. In between "completely on" and "completely off," there's a "Dynamic Traction Control" setting that scales back the intervention without taking away the safety net. This mode worked best on snow-dusted ice: It lets the 530xi's wheels spin enough to let you have your fun while gently stepping in to realign the tail. Skidding is still a possibility if you go into turns too hot, but the car's electronics keep you out of most other trouble in a manner that builds you up rather than beats you down.
Switch off the stability control altogether, and the advanced driver is left with a responsive and predictable ice-driving machine. If there's any traction to be had, the xDrive system sniffs it out.
Unexpected Features With a self-satisfied wink in Audi's direction, BMW threw a few unexpected extras into the all-wheel-drive 5 Series. Both Hill-Start Assist and Hill Descent Control are standard in case you need to conquer the Grim Reaper's driveway. There's even a Trailer Stability Control feature that uses the brakes to keep trailers hitched to the 530xi from swaying out of control in the event that an owner takes advantage of the car's 4,410-pound tow rating.
We doubt many buyers will ever need these curiosities, but we know plenty who will be delighted by the prospect of driving a BMW 5 Series that smirks at Old Man Winter.
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Price comparisons for used 2006 BMW 5 Series trim styles:
The used 2006 BMW 5 Series 525i is priced around $7738 with average odometer reading of 127535 miles.
The used 2006 BMW 5 Series 530i is priced around $6975 with average odometer reading of 130349 miles.
The used 2006 BMW 5 Series 530xi is priced around $7415 with average odometer reading of 117988 miles.
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What options are available on the 2006 BMW 5 Series?
Available BMW 5 Series 2006 Submodel Types: Hybrid, Diesel, M550i xDrive, Sedan, Wagon
Exterior Colors: Dark Graphite Metallic, Imperial Blue Metallic, Glacier Silver Metallic, Space Gray Metallic, Carbon Black Metallic, Mineral White Metallic, Bluestone Metallic, Deep Sea Blue Metallic, Cashmere Silver Metallic, Mediterranean Blue Metallic, Titanium Gray Metallic, Callisto Grey Metallic, Orient Blue Metallic, Dark Graphite Metallic II, Jatoba Brown Metallic, Monaco Blue Metallic, Aspen Silver Metallic, Platinum Gray Metallic, Tasman Green Metallic, Titanium Silver Metallic, Alpine White, Amethyst Gray Metallic, Atlas Cedar Metallic, Milano Beige Metallic, Mineral Grey Metallic, Mojave Metallic, Mystic Blue Metallic, Platinum Bronze Metallic (Late Availability), Sterling Gray Metallic, Almandine Brown Metallic, Alpine White III, Azurite Black Metallic, Barbera Red Metallic, Black Sapphire Metallic, Champagne Quartz Metallic, Citrin Black Metallic, Deep Green Metallic, Electric Red, Jet Black, Olivin Green Metallic, Oxford Green Metallic, Platinum Bronze Metallic, Silver Gray Metallic, Steel Blue Metallic, Topaz Blue Metallic
Interior Colors: Black Dakota leather, Black Dakota w/Contrast Stitching/Piping leather, Black Nappa premium leather, Cinnamon Brown Dakota leather, Black SensaTec leatherette, Cognac Dakota w/Contrast Stitching/Piping leather, Venetian Beige Dakota leather, Black Nappa w/Contrast Stitching/Piping premium leather, Black leatherette, Canberra Beige/Black Dakota w/Contrast Stitching/Piping leather, Cinnamon Brown leather, Gray, Black, Ivory White Nappa w/Black premium leather, Mocha Nappa w/Black premium leather, Amaro Brown Extended Merino premium leather, Black Dakota w/Blue Contrast Stitching/Piping leather, Natural Brown premium leather, Black Dakota w/Exclusive Stitching leather, Night Blue Dakota w/Contrast Stitching/Piping leather, Venetian Beige leather, Canberra Beige/Black SensaTec leatherette, Ivory White Nappa w/Contrast Stitching/Piping premium leather, Mocha Nappa w/Contrast Stitching/Piping premium leather, Black leather, Everest Gray Dakota leather, Oyster/Black leather, Veneto Beige leatherette, Beige, Beige leatherette, Beige premium leather, Black premium leather, Cream Beige premium leather, Everest Gray leather, Gray premium leather, Ivory White Dakota w/Contrast Stitching/Piping leather, Ivory White/Black Nappa premium leather, Mocha w/Black Nappa premium leather, Oyster and Black Nappa premium leather, Oyster and Black Dakota leather, Venetian Beige/Black SensaTec leatherette, Auburn premium leather, Ivory White Dakota w/Contrast Stitching/Piping and Dark Coffee Dashboard leather, Ivory White w/Oyster Nappa premium leather, Silk Gray/Black Extended Merino premium leather, Smoke White/Black Full Merino premium leather, Venetian Beige Dakota w/Exclusive Stitching leather, Venetian Beige SensaTec leatherette, Venetian Beige/Black Dakota leather, Venetian Beige/Black Dakota w/Exclusive Stitching leather
Popular Features: Post-collision safety system, Automatic Emergency Braking, Aux Audio Inputs, USB Inputs, Navigation, Leather Seats, Back-up camera, Parking sensors, Heated seats, Electronic Folding Mirrors, Power Liftgate/Trunk, Pre-collision safety system, Heads up display, Keyless Entry/Start, Upgraded Stereo, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, 360-degree camera, Mobile Internet, Adaptive Cruise Control, Alarm, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Auto Climate Control, Bluetooth, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Power Driver Seat, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Sunroof/Moonroof, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, Cooled Seats, Upgraded Headlights, AWD/4WD, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Rear Entertainment System
The used 2006 BMW 5 Series is offered in the following submodels: Wagon, Sedan. Available styles include 525i 4dr Sedan (3.0L 6cyl 6M), 530i 4dr Sedan (3.0L 6cyl 6M), and 530xi 4dr Sedan AWD (3.0L 6cyl 6M). Pre-owned 5 Series models are available with a 0-liter gas engine, with output up to 0 hp, depending on engine type. The used 2006 5 Series comes with rear wheel drive or all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed manual.