|Grand Prix - BMW
Now that we've become accustomed to, or at
least tolerant of, the new trends in BMW exterior
design, we can turn back to the matter at hand: Is it
still the ultimate driving machine? This new one follows
up an almost perfect car. Was Munich up to it?
Always a favorite, BMW's middle
child is all grown up, but it seems to have lost some of
the exuberance that marked its youth. It's still one of
the world's most accomplished sports sedans, and it
impressed our judges in virtually every aspect of its
However, both the 5er's exterior styling
and interior environment came under fire, one for
something that's there--the bustle tail--and the other
for something that's missing--the feeling of an upscale
Chris Bangle's new direction for
BMW design is no longer jarring to the eye, but neither
has it been granted our full aesthetic acceptance. We
considered the previous 5 Series to be the almost
perfect car, so it's natural we might have felt a bit
cold toward this new version, and we're willing to wait
a while before making a final judgment on the
The car's interior, however, was an
immediate disappointment. Cold, indifferent and plain
were just a few of the words our judges used to describe
the cabin, which did not match up to the car's high
price. "Is this all there is?" asked one judge about the
interior, though others found its understated elegance
very handsome. No one expressed joy over iDrive, though
it has been improved over the original.
Our test vehicle came with a $55,000 base
MSRP, augmented by a $3,300 sport package and a few
other extras to bring the total to just under $63,000!
Curse that dollar/Euro exchange rate. Judged on its
claim as an ultimate driving machine, the 545i is
extremely adept at covering great distances of road
without breaking a sweat. The 4.4-liter V8 is a work of
art, delivering its 325 bhp through a six-speed manual
(the SMG gearbox found in our 645i test vehicle is also
available, as is a six-speed Steptronic automatic), a
rare commodity in this segment. However, also rare, for
us, is our mixed reactions to the new 5 Series. Will
"like" ever turn to "love"?
"The V8 revs like a
machine without limits...what a gem of an
"Not much of a fan of the manual
transmission/clutch interaction. It doesn't feel as
refined as it could be."
"Cold, indifferent interior; all
the warmth of a bank vault, and the exterior styling is
more Tokyo than Munich."
"Active steering is really pretty
good, but the old way of doing it didn't seem broken.
Why was it 'fixed'?"
"The suspension is sporty without
being harsh, and the traction control didn't intrude on
"Much-improved interior over the
previous generation. Seats are typical BMW--supportive,
"Even though it's improved, I
still hate iDrive--though it did do the laundry I left
in the trunk."
"Not the improved 5er I