- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2001

MODEL: BMW 530i
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $39,400
MILEAGE: 18 city, 26 highway

This report on the BMW 530i sedan is written in two ways. The first is brief. The other is more detailed, but both come to the same conclusion.
Short Version: If you have access to roads allowing you to take full advantage of a wonderful driving machine, you'll never regret spending the $45,820 for the 2001 BMW 530i. End of report.
Long Version: Something about the BMW 530i sets it apart from the rest of the automotive world. Not just another upscale luxury sedan, this car has an exciting engine built to perform, even though it is not a high-performance car. The 530i has elegance of the highest order and offers most of the features one expects of a car in its price category.
My emphasis in this report is on the handling, acceleration, stability and comfort. But first, let me explain the BMW 5-Series, which is available in three versions: 540i, 530i and 525i. The 540i, with a V-8 engine, produces 282 horsepower and the choice of a six-speed sport Getrag manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. The 530i has a 225-horsepower six-cylinder engine that combines luxury and performance, including alloy wheels with performance tires. The 525i produces 184 horsepower and leans toward the luxury side, although a sport package is available.
My tester weighs in at $39,800 but comes with an optional sport package, plus a Steptronic transmission (combination of automatic and manual) allowing me to control the gear shifting almost instantly. This is far superior to any manual transmission as there is no clutch involved. I had the optional in-dash CD player. The sound system is excellent and easy to manage, but is devoid of the ability to play cassettes. Options increased the price by $6,000.
The comfort of the 530i became noticeable as soon as I sat in the contoured leather bucket seats. The driver's seat has the usual up, down, back, forth and tilt controls making it possible to find perfect posture. In addition, the steering column moves both in and out, as well as up and down, so that one's arms are resting in the proper driving position. Incidentally, this steering column moves upward when getting into the car thoughtfulness that is appreciated. For multiple users, the seats can be programmed three ways.
These aren't ordinary leather-covered seats; like the entire interior, quality abounds. Instrumentation is simple and easy to understand. Best of all, there is nothing ostentatious about the interior. Everything is straightforward, yet top shelf all the way.
Powered with a 3-liter in-line six-cylinder engine that produces 225 horsepower, the 530i has a very smooth engine with excellent acceleration. That's where the real thrill of this car is obvious. The suspension, built for tracking wiggly open roads, includes such features as All Season Traction and Dynamic Stability Control. If a quick zigzag movement is required, the car will remain under control.
But there is a downside to all this. In bumper-to-bumper traffic, it is frustrating to sit in a marvelous car and crawl at a snail's pace. Worse, trying to negotiate the 530i on snow-covered streets is very difficult, especially with rear-wheel drive. Even though I was moving as slowly as possible by using the Steptronic shifter in low gear, traction control had little effect. Many times, I was going sideways rather than forward.
That's why I mentioned to fully enjoy the 530i, you must have access to roads that allow you to take full advantage of this car. If you do, you'll never regret the investment.
MOTOR MATTERS



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