The BMW 5 Series range has been dramatically beefed up with the addition of a 545i flagship and an entry-level 525i model, but has the fitment of run-flat tyres made the range’s ride too sporty?

The BMW 5 Series range has been dramatically beefed up with the addition of a 545i flagship and an entry-level 525i model, but has the fitment of run-flat tyres made the range’s ride too sporty?

Launched in Cape Town on Monday, the 545i is identified by the chrome-plated slats in the BMW kidney grille and the dual exhaust pipes, which are oval-shaped instead of round.

The 4,4-litre V8 bi-Vanos unit features valvetronic, a fully-variable intake manifold and delivers 245 kW, 35 kW more than its predecessor, the 540i.

Maximum torque is up to 450 N.m, 80 per cent of which is available between 1 500 and 6 400 r/min; and the model is offered on the South African market with a choice of six-speed manual gearbox, SMG with sequential gearshift, and a six-speed automatic transmission with adaptive control and Steptronic.

A combination of the 545i’s lightweight steel and aluminium body and powerful engine will result in a zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 5,8 (5,9 for the automatic) seconds and acceleration from 80-120 km/h in fourth gear in 5,8 seconds, BMW claims. Top speed is electronically limited at 250 km/h.

The BMW 545i is equipped with 8 J x 17 alloys and 245/45 run-flat tyres as standard (larger 18-inch alloys are available as an option). The tyres are complemented by a high-performance braking system equipped with aluminium floating callipers and internally-ventilated lightweight discs. Of concern, however, is that the ride of the 545i is quite hard, as CAR reported in December 2003: “the Five’s suspension is firm, possibly slightly too firm, and the standard-fitment RunFlat tyres with their sidewall supports perhaps contribute to a ride that can be too harsh.”

Having said that, the 5 Series – particularly the flagship – is an involving driver’s car and the sporty handling will be appreciated by those who care little about ultimate ride comfort. It remains to be seen how many well-heeled, sophisticated motorists would be able to live with the firm ride on an everyday basis.

The 545i comes standard with BMW’s acclaimed active front steering. The system varies the steering transmission ratio under normal driving conditions at low and medium road speeds. At high speeds, in turn, the steering becomes more indirect and thus provides superior directional stability and a very good, docile steering response. Networked to DSC Dynamic Stability Control, Active Front Steering is able to intervene as soon as the car starts to become unstable by monitoring the yaw rate and changing the steering angle accordingly. In real world conditions, it takes time to get used to, though.

Inside, the 545i is adorned with swathes of leather upholstery and wood trim. Both driver and front passenger are ventilated, heated and electrically-adjustable (driver’s seat has a memory function). Standard equipment includes adaptive xenon headlights, extended lights package and a hi-fi loudspeaker system. Options include dynamic drive (roll stabilisation), head-up display and satellite navigation systems among others.

Meanwhile, the familiar aluminium 2,5-litre straight-six engine with bi-Vanos and a resonance intake manifold displaces does duty in the entry-level 525i. The unit develops 141 kW and 245 N.m of torque at 3 500 r/min. As is the case with other new 5 Series models, it is equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, but a six-speed automatic gearbox featuring Steptronic is also offered.

According to BMW SA, the BMW 525i (525i Automatic) sprints from zero to 100 km/h in 7,9 (8,7) seconds, accelerating in fourth gear from 80 to120 km/h in 8,4 seconds. A top speed of 235 (230) km/h is claimed, as is an average fuel consumption figure of 9,4 (9,9) litres per 100 km in the EU combined cycle.

Standard equipment of the 525i is virtually on a par with the 530i and 530d, the two exceptions being the omission of the 6-disc CD shuttle (the front-loading single CD player remains standard) and servotronic (variable steering assistance depending on speed), which are available as optional extras.

Automatic climate control, semi-electrically adjustable seats (fully adjustable on the 530i & 545i), a multifunction steering wheel, a rain sensor with headlight control and rear-seat head airbags are standard. Moreover, the 525i also features as standard a 6.5-inch colour screen control display, via which, for example, the radio with CD player system can be controlled.

The only visual indicator of the 525i’s “entry-level” status are the standard 16-inch alloys shod with 225/55 R16 tyres (non-run flat, 17-inch alloys available as an option). However, despite its narrower, standard (high profile) tyres, road noise seemed more noticeable in the 525i than CAR had expected.

As with other models in the range, significant options include active steering, the active body roll stabilisation system dynamic drive, run-flat tyres, adaptive headlights, head-up display, a mobile phone preparation with Bluetooth interface and a six-speed SMG gearbox (not available on the 530d).

New model prices:

525i R375 000 (6spd) 389 000 (6spd auto) 388 000 (6spd SMG)

545i R566 000 (6spd) 580 000 (6spd auto) 579 000 (6spd SMG)

Original article from Car