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BMW takes 5 Series to tech school

Higher-tech: 5 Series gets a new entry-level variant and extra equipment.

BMW adds a raft of new hi-tech features to its 5 Series in a bid to revive sales

14 Jun 2007

IT MAY not be a mid-life crisis, but a slowdown in sales means that a mid-life upgrade for the BMW 5 Series could not have come a minute too soon.

BMW Australia claims that owners waiting for the arrival of the facelifted model launched last week caused the 31.6 per cent sales slip in the first five months of 2007 compared with the same period last year. It now expects sales to pick up again.

Getting into a 5 Series is now almost $10,000 cheaper with the introduction of a new 523i entry-level model that the company no doubt expects will boost volumes considerably.

Prices for the remainder of the range have increased only marginally (about 0.4 per cent, or between $400 and $1000), despite significant equipment upgrades.

The company also claims a number of "first-in-segment" features for its vital mid-size luxury car in a battle with the Mercedes-Benz E-class that it is currently losing.

Among the technical innovations being offered as options for the first time on 5 Series are a lane-change warning device, night vision system, heads-up display, high-beam assist and active cruise control with a stop-and-go feature.

Onto the standard equipment list comes the variable-ratio active steering system that BMW claims gives it a competitive advantage with sporty response at low speeds combined with extra high-speed stability.

There are also some significant mechanical changes, slightly revised interior and exterior, as well as the addition of the new 523i.

Priced from $84,900, the 523i has essentially the same specifications as the $94,700 525i, losing metallic paint and having 16-inch rather than 17-inch alloy wheels.

It is even powered by the same 2.5-litre straight-six engine as its considerably more expensive sibling – though in slightly detuned form, with 140kW of power and 230Nm of torque compared with 160kW/250Nm for the 525i.

14 center imageThat costs the 523i in terms of performance, even though it weighs about the same and uses the same transmission and gearing, dropping 1.2 seconds in the sprint to 100km/h (7.9 seconds versus 9.1).

BMW claims the standard six-speed Steptronic auto (with new X5-style selector) has been updated with a new torque converter and changes an incredible 40 per cent faster than before, resulting in better performance and slightly improved fuel economy.

Performance of the top-of-the-line 550i, with no change to its 270kW/490Nm 4.8-litre V8, has been reduced by 0.3 seconds to 5.3 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint.

The 3.0-litre engine for the volume-selling 530i sedan and wagon models gains an extra 10kW of power (to 200kW) and 15Nm of torque (to 315Nm).

Exterior changes to the 5 Series include clear-glass bi-Xenon headlights with LED daylight running lights, revised lower air intake with built-in foglights, rear tail-lights with LED indicators and a revised rear number-plate panel.

Each model is distinguished by individual new alloy wheels.

New door lining panels (including power window and mirror adjustment controls) are the main interior change, but there are also more luxurious trim materials (both hard and soft) and a new palette of interior colours.

More importantly, the controversial iDrive system has been improved with new graphics and the adoption of the eight "favourites" buttons (first seen in the X5 and 3 Series convertible).

An audio upgrade includes MP3 compatibility, along with availability of a new high-end system using up to 16 speakers that is priced from $3000 to $4000.

The standard Dynamic Stability Control has been upgraded with extra functions, including a new wet-weather braking program and pre-loading of the brake pads to enhance the brake stand-by function.

The standard cruise control system now includes a brake function that helps maintain vehicle speed on long downhill gradients.

Optional active cruise control with stop-and-go function enables the car to maintain a set distance to the vehicle ahead, even coming to a complete stop (for a maximum of three seconds) and returning to the predetermined speed.

It is the first time this system has been made available for the 5 Series and is priced at $4500.

The $1200 lane-change warning system uses a camera mounted near the interior mirror to alert the driver (vibrating the steering wheel) when the car has inadvertently started to veer out of its lane.

This system is speed-related, so it has a lower tolerance level at higher speeds. It can be activated from 70km/h.

Night vision is a $4000 option that uses thermal imaging technology to identify people or animals (anything that can be identified by heat) at up to 300 metres. These are then illustrated on the central control panel.

High-beam assist automatically switches the lights between high and low beam according to the illumination level of the road ahead and on-coming traffic.

2007 BMW 5 Series range pricing:
523i (a) $84,900
525i (a) $94,700
530i (a) $113,500
530d (a) $115,000
530i Touring (a) $119,500
540i (a) $136,700
550i (a) $163,900
M5 (SMG) $230,500

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