The benchmark by which executive saloon car makers are judged now has a new level. BMW has officially revealed details of a revitalising package for its all-conquering 5-Series. Due to hit UK showrooms in October, the German heavyweight boasts a subtle facelift, new engine line-up and improved safety standards to help strengthen its long-time stranglehold on the executive sector.
However insignificant they may appear, the revisions are aimed at gradually introducing BMW's customers to the next phase of the firm's corporate styling makeover, and in turn preparing them for the next generation 7-Series.
The 'nose job' is of particular significance. BMW's design staff – headed by American Chris Bangle – have accentuated the kidney grille arrangement with a wider chrome surround, and highlighted the headlamp clusters with new round lights and indicators. In addition, round foglamps sit behind clear glass as a feature of the restyled air-dam.
Also subject to a spruce-up are the tail-lamp clusters, which boast new LED bulbs to give a more even and brighter spread of light, and the back bumper. The interior, though, remains much the same, with the current dashboard and overall environment regarded as more than up to scratch in terms of clarity, comfort and ergonomics.
What is new is the introduction of rear head-protection airbags to complement an already impressive tally of front, side and head airbags for front-seat passengers, and side-impact bags in the back.
A trio of new engines heads the technical changes. These offer more power and torque, which adds further credibility to BMW's Ultimate Driving Machine advertising slogan. The first is the entry-level unit in the 520i. Engineers have increased its capacity from 2.0 to 2.2 litres, and power and torque rise to 170bhp and 210Nm respectively as a result. Next in line for tweaks was the 2.5, which now produces 192bhp and 245Nm, followed by the new 3.0-litre that heads the straight six-cylinder range by delivering 231bhp and 300Nm. Essential to the revisions made to both these engines is an enhanced torque curve, with at least 85 per cent of the maximum figure available from only 1,500rpm greatly improving the mid-range flexibility. Despite the power gains, BMW says that fuel economy will not suffer, and that a new electronic drive-by-wire throttle system ensures response is improved. Tech- nicians have also worked on the acoustics, and say they are suited to the character of each model.
The upgraded engines should ensure that the 5-Series stays at the top of the class for some time. The V8 petrol units remain unchanged, while the 525d oil-burner returns to the range and joins the acclaimed 530d. Larger diameter brakes have been fitted to the 530i and 530d to improve stopping distances, while extra equipment – including front parking distance sensors and front seats that prevent back pain – has been included on the options list.
This first picture and details of the changes come at the same time as a host of revisions to the 3-Series and Z3 ranges. Both the saloon and sports car will use the revised straight six-cylinder units, and boast other improvements. The 320i also returns to the line-up. Prices for the 2000 5-Series start from £26,550 for the 520i saloon. Z3 and 3-Series prices do not change.