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New Car Review

1998 BMW 528i

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: BMW Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:            2.8-liter DOHC 24-valve inline six
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 190 hp @ 5,300 rpm/206 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm
TRANSMISSION:      Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:      18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, 23.0 mpg test
WHEELBASE:         111.4 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:    188.0 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:    56.5 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:     70.9 in.
CURB WEIGHT:       3,505 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:     18.5 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  11.1 cu. ft.
TIRES:             225/60R15
INSTRUMENTS:       Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                   water temperature, information center, 
                   digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:         Power windows, power door locks, 
                   power mirrors, cruise control, air conditioner, 
                   AM-FM stereo radio with cassette, 
                   anti-lock braking, dual front and side air bags.
STICKER PRICE:     $42,500 (est.)

The BMW 5-series is really a remarkable line of automobiles. The size is just right for four people and you can squeeze an extra person in the back seat without incurring too much pain. Performance is excellent and it has nice luxury.

The knock against the 5-series, of course, is that the cars aren't cheap. But when you tote up what you get after you plunk down your dollars, to many people the car is worth it.

Our test 528i was powered by a 2.8-liter inline six-cylinder engine that drives the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The six is not what one would expect in a luxury car, even a low-end luxury car. But that's what Mercedes puts in its luxury cars and that appears to be the norm in Europe.

In the United States, the Lincoln Continental has a V-6 and the Town Car a V-8. Even the biggest Chryslers only have V-6s, while Cadillacs have been soldiering along with one of the best V-8 engines for quite a while now.

For the BMW the six is probably adequate. The V-8 in the 540i gives you more power, it's true, but all that power isn't really necessary in the car. The six is rated at 190 horsepower and the car weighs around 3,500 pounds, which is a good combination. That horsepower does everything you'd want it to do. Acceleration is excellent, both from a standing stop and from 30 to 60. You can jump onto Interstates or any kind of highway without fear of being run down by the other vehicles on the highway. That kind of comfort is worth the price.

By virtue of its performance, the 528i is a nice car. By virtue of its comfort, it's pretty good, too. Front seats are individual buckets with good side support. And since the 528i handles well, you need the extra side support to hold you in the seat.

There's safety as well, with dual front air bags as well as side air bags for the front passengers.

The rear seats even offer good side support and a fold-down armrest that helps along. when the arm rest is folded down there is a ski bag that extends the trunk capacity.

Among the instruments was an information readout that I sometimes refer to as a fuel management computer. It told us we averaged 23.0 mpg for our week's run, but it also gave such useful information as miles to empty (very important!) and external temperature. This last piece of data is important during the winter months when you want to know the condition of the road in front of you. Yes, it has ABS, but it's always nice not to be surprised.

There is an excellent sound system with a Bose AM-FM stereo radio and cassette player. The cassette player is hidden behind a black wood flip-up panel that is used throughout the interior of the car. Unusual, since most manufacturers use brown wood, it complemented the dark green upholstery of the BMW. And in a world where you normally get walnut trim, the black was unique.

In addition, there was a digital HVAC system and two simple pop-up cupholders that do the job for normal cups, but not square boxes or Slurpee cups.

The BMW 528i offers 300cc more than the 525i, but the two cars are a world apart. The extra engine capacity gives much better performance that makes the ride down the highway that much more pleasant.