1997 BMW 528I Review

By Matt/Bob Hagin

bmw

SEE ALSO: BMW Specs, Reviews, Comparisons and Prices - BMW Buyer's Guide 1997-Current Models

SEE ALSO: Twenty Years Of BMW Reviews (2014-1994)

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 38,900
     Price As Tested                                    $ 47,520
     Engine Type                             2.8 Liter I6 w/SFI*
     Engine Size                                 170 cid/2793 cc
     Horsepower                                   190 @ 5300 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               206 @ 3950 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                    111.4"/70.9"/188"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3525 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      225/60R15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                  5 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.30

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/26/22
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17 seconds @ 88.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           125 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

(The first BMW full-sized car to show up in the U.S. in numbers was the mid-sized 1800 sedan in 1965, when Bob Hagin was servicing them at a local BMW dealership. The newest mid-sized BMW, the 528i, is a joy to drive, according to his son Matt, but he wonders why only two of the six available 5-series cars are sold here in North America.)

MATT - The new 5-series BMWs sold here are the 528i and the 540i. Both are four-door sedans. The 528i packs a straight-six under the hood and as the designation indicates, it displaces 2.8 liters. Its output is 190 horsepower. It would have been interesting to try the 540i V8 version as well as this little one. With 282 horses and an available six-speed manual transmission, the 540i must be a dynamite performer.

BOB - Matt, the 528i is no slouch itself. The engine is the same one used in the new BMW Z3 2.8 roadster and even with the four-speed automatic transmission, it will do 0-to-60 in a little over eight seconds. And it really comes alive when the tach hits 2500 RPM. I think that's about the RPM range where its variable camshaft timing kicks in. The car has an advertised top speed of 125 MPH, but I wouldn't know if that's true because I never went much more than half that fast during our test week. I was more impressed with how it handled. As it is with all BMWs, the power goes to the rear wheels, and I like that. The suspension system is all-new and most of the pieces are forged steel or cast in aluminum, including the alloy brake calipers. The car's overall dimensions are larger than its 5-Series predecessor of '95 but its weight has been trimmed by almost 150 pounds. Most of that reduction is due to its extensive use of aluminum.

MATT - In Europe this same car comes with an aluminum engine block, which saves another 66 pounds. Although there are only these two 5-Series BMWs offered here, there are another four versions sold overseas, and one of them is a diesel. The 5-Series is really the most versatile member of the BMW lineup and there's one made for almost every need. It's available with lots of driver aids, too. Our car had anti-skid brakes, traction control and uses discs on all four corners, but it was also equipped with a system that modifies the braking power when the brakes are applied lightly in a medium-fast turn. This keeps the nose from washing out and the car stays on a predictable track. In road racing, this technique is called "trailing brake" and it's something the racer has to learn. On the BMW it's so smooth that the average driver won't even know it's in operation.

BOB - The interior is typically German, Matt. The upholstery is plush leather, and the seating is firm, without being hard. It's definitely a driver's car, but I would have wished for a bit more leg room in the rear seat. It's a bit cramped back there. The console in front is pretty wide, as is the transmission tunnel in back, so the car is more suitable for four. Our car had a luxurious Premium Package, which boosted the price by $3500, as well as a glass moonroof, heated front seats and a powerful sound system that costs more than half again as much as the optional automatic transmission. The fold-down rear seat is an extra, too, but most 528i owners aren't going to be carrying fence boards in the trunk, so I think it's an expensive gizmo at almost $600.

MATT - That's true, but the option adds a special lockable ski bag, so skiers will find it really handy since it would keep our ski gear from prying eyes. Safety is a big thing to the BMW people and their cars have air bags at the sides of the seats as well as in the dashboard. Air bags have been getting a lot of bad press lately, and to help all owners of air bag-equipped BMWs, the company has sent them a packet of information to explain what precautions are necessary to stay out of trouble.

BOB - Your mother and I owned a couple of BMWs ourselves, Matt, and to tell the truth, I found them to be very cramped. We had to get rid of them when you kids began to come along.

Matt - Dad, I don't think we can really count those '50s BMW Isetta "bubble cars" in the same league as these new high-tech BMWs.

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