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New Car/Review

BMW 525i

SEE ALSO: BMW Buyer's Guide

by Annabelle Frankl

A very good friend of mine has sworn by the Bimmer wagon for a long time. Safe yet sexy, fast yet functional, beautiful yet practical. And I would now have to agree. It really proved to be a great ride and counts among the ones I really didn't want to give back when my week of testing was up.

The Wagon boasts BMW's distinctive lines, with a sleek, understated yet powerful exterior, and a luxurious and hi-tech interior. Just about everything is an electric, one-touch, smooth-opening part, fixture, button or switch. Indeed, the very operating of this machine seems to have been kept as simple as possible, so that one can concentrate on what's really important: enjoying the driving.

With a 2.5 liter DOHC 24-valve in-line 6 engine, with variable valve timing, purring quietly under the hood, the Bimmer is certainly armed for action. Despite a slight, initial lag in acceleration (and that stupid mpg dial shooting off the scale if one so much as taps the accelerator pedal - BMW, please remove) the Wagon's 184 horses gallop into action, aided and abetted by 175 lbs-ft of torque. Moving up through the (five) gears is smooth and can either be hands-free automatic or sport automatic, or clutchless manual, using the Steptronic system, which makes for far more interesting driving, especially given the responsiveness of the vehicle. BMW's Adaptive Transmission Control (ATC) actually learns to recognize a driver's way of driving, in order to be even more responsive.

As one would expect, the Bimmer holds the road beautifully, and firmly. The aluminum double-pivot strut-type front suspension, with coil springs, and 4-link interval, self-leveling rear suspension mean for excellent ride quality, and accompanied by all-season traction control with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and low profile, all season SBR tires, it proved pretty much an impossible job to get the Wagon out of shape on the corners. The engine-speed-sensitive power rack & pinion steering felt great, and the telescopic wheel, with automatic tilt, adjusted to just about any position required.

From driving other BMW's, I have come to expect the high level of thought given to every aspect of the car, both inside and out, but it is most evident when one is ensconced in the vehicle, shielded from outside distractions by superior insulation. 3-setting memory for driver seat, belt height, steering wheel and mirrors, 4-function onboard computer including outside temperature, av. fuel/speed economy, range on fuel and so on. I, personally, could have done without the 'gold' plastic trim, but all other interior designs were tasteful and I've always liked the orange dials/illumination utilized by BMW.

The Wagon offers plenty of room for 5, plus luggage, although legroom could be a little tight in the back for those of stature. Storage possibilities are good, both in seat backs, doors and compartments. And, as ever, safety is of premium importance. The list is long but features include: automatic fuel-cut off with airbag deployment, 4-wheel ABS, driver/front passenger airbag system with dual-threshold/stage deployment, front door-mounted side-impact airbags and front seat side impact tube-deployed head protection system (HPS).

Fuel economy is average, with 19/27 city/highway (although the mpg dial would have you believe that you're only getting 8 miles to the gallon at any time!). In fact, economy is not a word ideally associated with this car - base price is $37,200, and fully-loaded it comes in at $41,220. Ouch!

This is evidently a luxury car, not the sort of 'station wagon' that one visualizes when those words are uttered. For me, think station wagon and I think back to 'National Lampoon's Vacation' - big, ugly, most definitely un-cool. But this little number offers bags of room accompanied by oodles of power, ridiculously good grip, superbly firm handling and pop-out cup holders to boot!

Facts & Figures

Base Price:     $37,200
As Tested:      $41,220

Engine:         2.5 liter, DOHC 24-valve 6-cylinder
                engine w/ double VANOS, variable valve
                timing, direct ignition & adaptive
                knock control
HP:             184 @ 6000
Torque:         175 @ 3500
Transmission:   5-speed automatic/sport automatic/clutchless
                manual w/ Steptronic system & ATC
Brakes:         4-wheel disc ABS
Suspension:     Aluminum double-pivot stru-type
                   w/ coil springs (front)
                4-link integral w/ coils springs (rear)

Sport Package:  $1,975 - incl: 17 x 8.0 alloy wheels,
                         235/45R-17 performance tires,
                         sport suspension w/ self-leveling
Steptronic:     $1,275
In-dash CD:     $200
Destination:    $570

Fuel economy:   19/27 city/highway

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