- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The popularity and reputation that has surrounded BMW’s 5 Series are without reproach. The car has, since its inception, been a sedan that automotive enthusiasts have revered and coveted. This attraction is sure to continue as BMW introduces the fifth generation of the 5 Series.

While I have found fault with a few features on some new BMWs, the 7 Series iDrive for one, overall I have found these Bavarian motorcars to be full of excitement and driving fun. There are only a few auto companies where I can say I enjoy all of their models with as much pleasure as I do the BMW line up. The new 5 Series joins the list with its balance of ride comfort, superior handling and outstanding performance.

With three engine choices, there is sure to be a 5 Series to meet nearly anyone’s wants and desires. Starting with the six-cylinder, which produces 184 horsepower the 5 Series pricing begins at $39,995. The midrange, and perhaps the car that will be the most popular model, is the 3.0-liter six-cylinder that produces 225 horsepower. This is the same engine that has injected much interest and enthusiasm into the 3 Series.

Then there is the “Big Daddy” 4.4-liter V-8 with its 325 horsepower. This is the car that makes the 5 Series a high-performance sports sedan. It must be pointed out that there is a whole lot more to all of these models than horsepower and torque.

The exterior design, like that of the recently introduced 7 Series, is certain to create controversy. Many of my fellow media types could not get over the high line of the trunk lid. You would have thought it was a violation of some sacred law.

Design is one of those aspects of an automobile that must be stretched to its outer limits. And to some auto designers, there are no limits. Throughout history we’ve seen some hugely successful design concepts. On the other hand we’ve also seen some real failures.

Though BMW design chief Cris Bangle has created designs that have brought about heated discussions, he has also pushed the envelope in automotive design. But with that said, the new 5 is every inch a BMW and the look that has driven BMW sales in the past still tugs at buyers’ hearts and their wallets.

The stately design is one that brings people into the BMW tent, but it is the combination of performance and comfort that keeps them there. In typical BMW fashion, the interior of the new 5 Series is nearly perfect. Every button, switch and control is in its proper place.

The iDrive information system is included on the new 5 Series. First found on the 7 Series, here it has received a bit of refinement. Found to be complicated to use in the original version, the iDrive system in the 5 Series is much easier to learn and comprehend. I can’t say it is truly intuitive, but it certainly is a system that is easier to grasp. Once grasped, the iDrive allows the driver quick access to controlling sound, heating and air-conditioning systems, as well as the navigation system.

Innovations are the name of the game these days. Some manufacturers, however, seem to think that adding features just for the sake of adding an additional gadget is the thing to do. BMW adds features or technology when is deemed necessary for safety or improvement of the driving experience. The new 5 has an adaptive head-light system that follows the path of the vehicle. As you turn the corner at an intersection or make a tight turn on a dark country road, the headlights rotate slightly to illuminate your path.

The 5 Series’ combination of performance, comfort and innovation raises the bar on how a sports sedan is judged. This sedan offers an exhilarating driving experience while coddling you in comfort. Simultaneously, the 5 Series wraps you and your passengers in active and passive safety systems that make owning a BMW much more rewarding.

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