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New 5 Series BMWs driven

2005-07-20 08:20

The new 523i with the M Sports Package

John Oxley

The secret is out, with three brand-new six-cylinder BMW 5 Series models which give space, economy and pace in packages that can be customised to match your wallet.

Both new Fives, plus an old favourite with a new engine, the 530i, come with brand-new power plants which weigh less than former BMW sixes, produce 12% more power, and on some models use 12% less fuel.

BMW calls them New Generation (NG6), and they offer a new engineering direction for the Bavarian manufacturer, enabling super power outputs from even the entry-level version without resorting to forced induction in the form of supercharging or turbos.

The all-new 523i expands the appeal of the 5 Series, slotting below the new NG6-equipped 525i and 530i in the range.

Style package

At the same time the cars are now available with an M Sports interior and exterior package designed by the BMW M styling studio.

What's more, this new package makes it very difficult for observers to guess you're driving a 523i, not an M5 - the only tell-tales are that the mighty M5 V10 has four exhaust pipes and mock air intakes in the front wheel arches.

Apart from a deeper front spoiler, side skirts, and under-bumper treatment, the M Sports package includes 18 inch M Double spoke 135M alloy wheels (similar in design to the 19 inch units on the BMW M5) and M Sports suspension with vehicle lowering.

Inside there's an anthracite roof lining and newly developed aluminium interior trim strips, while an M Sports steering wheel and sports seats add to the performance bias.

The M Sport package can be further enhanced by adding wood trim on the dash and doors instead of aluminium.

The engines

The new 530i engine now produces 190 kW (at 6 600 r/min) versus the 170 kW of the previous model, while offering the same torque, 300 Nm, but over a much wider rev range - from as low as 2 500 up to 4 000 r/min.

All three NG6 engines now rev to 7 000 r/min thanks to lighter valve gear, the application of new technology, including the use of magnesium alloys in the engine, as well as the first-time use of an electric water pump. And there's second generation VALVETRONIC valve operation.

Had BMW engineers evolved the previous M54 engine to meet their goals, it would have weighed 14kg more than its base weight. On the other hand, the NG6 engines are 10 kg lighter than their M54 predecessors.

They are also more compact - because there is just one external drive belt vs. the previous two, overall engine length is about 2.5 cm less.

While the 530i has a 3-litre straight six engine, the two smaller-engined siblings both use a 2.5-litre unit.

The 523i is new to the range and produces 130 kW at 5 800 r/min with 230 Nm of torque between 3 500 r/min and 5 000 r/min.

The 525i is tuned to offer more power, and gives out 160 kW at 6 500 r/min and 250 Nm of torque at 2 750 r/min, with more than 90% of the maximum torque available between 1 750 and 6 700 r/min.

Key performance and fuel consumption figures



max. speed

avg. fuel consumption


8.5 sec

235 km/h

8.5 litres/100 km


7.5 sec

245 km/h

8.7 litres/100 km


6.5 sec

250 km/h

8.8 litres/100 km

On the road

There's a definite and immediately apparent difference between these new engines and the old versions.

Right from first start all feel extremely lively and free revving, with lots of torque from low down giving a great driving experience.

What's more, it's difficult at sea level to tell the difference between the 523i and the 525i - in slow corners where you want instant power, perhaps, and on hills, where you may feel a gear change is in order in the less powerful model.

But there's not a lot in it - and the irony is that insiders tell me the only difference between the two engines is in the engine management system - the so-called "chip", with the different power outputs really just to satisfy different taxation and company car criteria around the world.

The cars look alike from the outside, too, and it's only in a few detail points of trim and equipment that they differ, allowing BMW SA to bring the 523i in under the SA fiscal cut-off of R360 000.

One area that did give a big surprise - and put lashings of smiles on our faces - was the M Sport kit.

Apart from making the cars look absolutely stunning, the lowered and slightly stiffened suspension also makes the cars a lot crisper.

We were able to test their capabilities in a variety of mountain passes in the eastern Cape, and came away impressed.

Whatever you may think about the infamous Bangle styling, you have to admit that BMW takes chassis - and engine - dynamics to new levels each time it introduces a new car.

The new 530i, of course, is awesome.

The latest 5 Series chassis revel in power - the more the merrier - and with 190 kW on tap the 530i becomes a sports saloon of note.

Again, though, the accent is on high torque from low revs, and across a wide rev range, and this all translates into easy and safe overtaking where the quick take-up of the engine limits your exposure on the "wrong" side of the road.

As usual you can tailor the car to suit your pocket, with, for the first time, a head-up display is now available across the 5 Series range.


  • BMW 523i NG6 6-speed manual R341 000
  • BMW 525i NG6 6-speed manual R379 000
  • BMW 530i NG6 6-speed manual R440 000
  • BMW 523i NG6 6-speed Steptronic auto R355 000
  • BMW 525i NG6 6-speed Steptronic auto R393 000
  • BMW 530i NG6 6-speed Steptronic auto R454 000
  • BMW 530i NG6 6-speed SMG transmission R453 000.

    The M Sports package with aluminium trim costs R25 000 on the 523i and 525i, and R18 000 on 530i and 530d versions.

    The leather and wood trim option costs a further R9 000.

    A boot lid spoiler is available across the range for R2 000

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