Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 BMW 5 Series Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 BMW 5 Series Overview

There is a philosophical change happening within BMW. It began with the new 7 Series and continues to show strength in such cars as the Z4 roadster and the upcoming 6 Series coupe. It's a brave new world for BMW and some die-hard enthusiasts are showing a visible reluctance at going along peacefully. You really can't blame them, not when the product that so captivates them is as good as the current crop of cars from BMW. If you think you may be of a similar mindset and have been eyeing the 5 sedan for some time, now may be your last chance to get a 5 Series the way you like it, because there is a very strong possibility that the 2004 model will be completely overhauled in the new BMW esthetic.

Of all the BMWs, the 5 Series is probably the most adaptable model. Unlike the 3 Series, it has a useable back seat fit for two adults and yet still maintains a light, athletic size and feel that is somewhat lost in the lengthy new 7 Series; the current 5 Series also retains the traditional BMW cockpit that makes driving this car such a blast. The 5 Series lineup is composed of a single sedan and wagon differentiated by three engine and suspension choices. The engine size determines the car's numeric designation, so for example, the 525 has a 2.5-liter inline six engine, where the 530 has a 3.0-liter inline six and the 540 a 4.0-liter V8. Perhaps the best thing about the 5 Series is that it comes in wagon form, yet still offers all the performance found on the sedan. Let's be honest, when you're driving a 540i Sport Wagon, the phrase "fun for the whole family" takes on an entirely new meaning.

Sitting behind the wheel of the entry-level 525 is much the same as in the 530 and 540. You'll experience the same snug seating, enjoy the same driver-oriented cockpit and experience the same general sense of joy every time you turn the key. The 525i is equipped with a precise shifting 5-speed manual transmission that makes the most of the 2.5-liter's 184-horsepower. Rolling along on 16-inch cast alloy wheels (17-inch if you opt for the sport package) you feel very little of the road's imperfections, yet you are amazingly in tune with the car's suspension. Every turn of the wheel, every stab at the accelerator, all produce the expected response to which you immediately signal your gratitude by flashing a big wide grin. The sensation when driving the 530i is almost the same, only with 225-horsepower under the hood, it all happens a bit quicker and your heart beats a little faster. For those of you who still want to be in on the fun but are not keen on the manual transmission, BMW offers its Steptronic 5-speed automatic. The Steptronic will select gears for you like an automatic or let you decide when to shift without the need for a clutch pedal.

"So what about the 540," you ask? Ah, that is a special animal, one that must be treated with a greater sense of respect and awe. If the 525 and 530 put little butterflies in your stomach after each turn and hill, the 540 will leave you with the feeling an entire Monarch migration has invaded your insides! With 290-horsepower, the 4.0-liter certainly has bragging rights among the world's great V8s, but it's the engine's 324 lb-ft of torque that makes this middleweight dance. Choose the first of six gears, pop the clutch and feel your head and body snap back as the car rockets forward. Shift to second and the acceleration only gets faster; the same with third and fourth and even fifth gear. The massive 18-inch wheels and tires that come on the 540's sport package ensure that the car stays planted on the road like a lead weight in water.

What awaits you inside the 5 Series is just as alluring and twice as addictive. Order the sport package and a marvelous contoured leather seat capable of adapting to almost any size driver rewards you with hours of comfort. The instrument cluster is tightly grouped directly in front of you and includes speedometer, tachometer, temperature and fuel gauges and a fuel economy meter. A thickly-padded, three-spoke heated steering wheel with controls for cruise control, audio and cell phone presents itself to you via a set of electric motors that regulate the tilt and telescoping functions. Music blares from a standard audio system that sounds better than most other company's high-end offerings, though you can opt for an even better model by checking off the Harman-Kardon option.

Of course, there is a luxury side to the BMW equation, and here again, the 5 Series shines brightly. The 525 comes standard with such nice touches as automatic dual-zone climate control, power windows with one touch up/down features, fog lights, ABS, illuminated entry, 10-way power driver's seat with memory feature, dual-heated outside mirrors with tilt-down feature, power glass moonroof, AM/FM stereo with CD, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with touch controls, cruise control, traction control, front side-impact airbags and a front and rear head-airbag curtain. 530 models have all these features plus the larger engine and upgraded wheels. The 540 includes leather seating, 17-inch alloy wheels, Dynamic Stability Control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic day/night mirror and real burl walnut trim. Options include a DVD-based navigation system, Harman-Kardon audio upgrade, rear side-impact airbags, power lumbar support, a power rear sunshade and a heated leather steering wheel.

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