Features

2004 BMW 5-series Photo Gallery

[cars name="BMW"] fans are already splitting into two camps: Those who hate the styling of the new 5-series, and those who agree with styling chief Chris Bangle that the mid-line sport sedan reflects an appropriate and welcome new corporate design theme. In any case, one of the benefits of the “eyebrow” headlamps is that, in extending back onto the leading upper edge of the front fenders, they eliminate a small, pointed bit of sheetmetal that often is difficult to stamp properly in the factory.

Whatever you might say about the new 5-series, it has undeniable presence on the road. The trunk lid is not as coffin-like as the one on the 7-series.

The straight-on side view shows that, although the 5-series is not as radical as the 7-series or the Z4 roadster, there are still plenty of complex, crisply creased surfaces meeting in unexpected ways.

The current 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine returns, but it is as sweet as ever. Expect an all-new, significantly more powerful six-in-line in less than two years. Speaking of six-in-lines, here are the years in which BMW has introduced new or significantly modified versions of its signature engine: 1933, 1952, 1968, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2000, and 2002.

Cutaway drawing of the 5-series front axle, which is derived largely from the 7-series and made primarily of aluminum. The U-shaped front subframe accommodates the steering transmission, the anti-roll bar, the track control arms, adn the tie-bars. Front track has increased 1.8 inches, to 61.3 inches. Optional Active Roll Stabilization splits the anti-roll bars into two halves that operate independently of each other in reaction to road surfaces.

Cutaway drawing of the 5-series rear axle, which also is constructed largely of aluminum. Note the stout, rectangle-shaped subframe, which connects to the body via four extra-large rubber bushings. Rear track has increased 2.2 inches to 62.3 inches. The big, broad, lower control arm and two upper unequal-length links are similar to the setup of the outgoing car.

This body-in-white illustration clearly shows the aluminum front-end structure, which is in blue. This aluminum front end is not only stronger than steel, it saves more than 100 pounds of weight. The aluminum pieces are held together with industrial-strength glue and aluminum rivets.

We have few complaints about the control layout in the 5-series cabin, although some people are put off by the intersecting planes of the twin-hooded instrument canopy.

BMW ventures for the first time into the world of the heads-up display, more than a decade after we were introduced to this in the Corvette, the {{{Pontiac Bonneville}}}, and other American products. It’s good to see that General Motors can beat BMW at something.

The infamous iDrive is now split into four quadrants rather than eight sectors: communication, navigation, entertainment, and climate control. The iDrive hand-control itself is a splendidly designed mechanism that demonstrates its design, engineering, and production quality every time you touch it. Still, we wonder if iDrive would work better if this hand-control acted more like a computer mouse, allowing you to scroll a cursor over the display screen, rather than trying to snag the right quadrant and sub-menu.

There will be four different seating options available for U.S.-spec 5-series sedans: standard ten-way power, with power head restraints; twelve-way power seats with adjustable thigh support, as part of the optional sport package; four-way power lumbar, as part of the premium package on the 525i and 530i and as a stand-alone option on the 545i; and, the big kahuna, twenty-way power multi-function Comfort front seats, including articulated upper backrests (these are amazing!) and backrest width, four-way lumbar support, passenger’s-side memory, and active head restraints with adjustable side support (little wings, like in business class on some airplanes). The last-generation 5-series featured these so-called “comfort” which set new standards for, well, comfort.

The rear seats of the 5-series offer appreciably more head, leg, shoulder, and hip room than before, such that a six-foot, two-inch man can sit quite comfortably.

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