Thursday, March 1, 2007

LISBON, Portugal — Next week, BMW will present its refreshed 5 Series at the Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland. The current 5 Series combines style with sporty performance, but it was time for a face lift, especially since Mercedes-Benz has just rejuvenated its E-Class.

The BMW 5 Series Saloon and Touring have not undergone any huge changes, so you will have to look twice to see what design tricks are applied to have the models look more dynamic.

The surrounds of the double BMW kidney grill are flush with the surfaces on the front air dam, while the air intake sweeps up at the side along the same line as the headlight contours. Accentuating a broader look is the horizontal trim bar in the middle. The well-known headlights have new clear glass and transparent glass panels cover the indicators, while chrome rings surround the round head lights.

A light contour along the side sills provide a somewhat stretched look at the side, and in the rear there is a new license-plate surround, while the lights also come with new clear glass plus LED direction indicators.

In the interior you will immediately notice the two-tone design of the new door panels, a new electrical gear selector lever for the automatic transmission, new door panels and a new steering wheel. A rubber finish improves the feel of the controls and additional storage space add to better practicality. The I-Drive system has eight programmable buttons for easier use of the driver’s favorite functions. Moreover, the new 5 Series is the first in its class to offer a head-up display.

The biggest changes come from the technical department with increased horsepower for all engines and the debut of the 3.5-liter power plant from the 3 Series that will debut as the 535i.

All other engines — there will be nine — have been thoroughly updated compared to the former versions and they will offer a considerable improvement in fuel economy.

Depending on the specific engines, there will be a range of technologies to accomplish this. The three straight-six versions are equipped with BMW’s second-generation direct fuel injection (HPI, High Precision Injection), allowing a fuel-efficient lean burn operation.

The 530i has 272 horsepower, accelerates in six seconds to 60 mph and has a fuel consumption rate in the European test cycle that is comparable to 36.7 miles per gallon. That is 12 percent better than the outgoing model. On the 530i with automatic transmission the improvement is even bigger, to 37.7 mpg.

The 3.0-liter six-cylinder in-line in the 525i gets 218 horsepower and accelerates in 6.9 seconds to 60 mph, while the fuel consumption decreased to 38.2 miles per gallon.

The third power plant with HPC is the 2.5-liter in the 523i, which gets 14 horsepower and 3.7 foot-pounds more than its predecessor. With this engine the Saloon accelerates to 60 mph in 8 seconds and has an average fuel consumption of 38.7 mpg. Also the Touring models benefit from the improved performance and fuel efficiency of the engines.

Apart from the six-speed manual gearbox, the 5 Series is available with a six-speed automatic transmission (standard on the 535 diesel).

The transmission has upgraded software and hydraulics, plus a new torque converter. This results in about 40 percent faster reaction time compared to the current automatic models.

The dynamic stability control has new functions to help make the braking system more effective. The main function of the system is to apply the brakes on individual wheels or intervene in the engine management in order to counteract over- or understeer in turns.

Additional features are ABS, automatic stability control, brake assist and cornering brake control. There is also fading compensation and a new start-off assistance incorporated in the DSC system.

Dry braking helps to optimize stopping power in the wet and preloading of the brake pads makes the brake stand by for very short stopping distances.

More technology is available with cruise control with brake function, active cruise control with Stop & Go function and a lane change warning system.

During our first test drives with the new BMW 5 Series, we could taste the difference between the current 530i and the new model. The differences are all marginal, but they are there.

The interior looks more sophisticated indeed, the pickup of the engine is faster and therefore the car feels more dynamic.

Steering is not any different than before, but overall the car feels more agile. The IDrive system is easier to use with the eight functions set to the driver’s preference.

The new 5 Series Saloon and Touring go into production in May and we expect pricing to be released just after its debut in Geneva.

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