BMWs midlevel rear-wheel-drive (RWD) 525 sedan and wagon, which fit between the smaller 3 Series models and the flagship 7 Series cars, get several modifications for the 2003 model year. A moonroof is now standard on the base-model 525i, which holds a 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine. BMWs Head Protection System for rear passengers has been added, and the available navigation system switches to DVD-based operation.
A rain sensor is now included with the optional Premium Package. The German automaker also offers a 530i sedan with a larger six-cylinder engine, as well as a 540i sedan with V-8 power and a high-performance M5 sedan.
BMWs midlevel six-cylinder 525 sport wagon competes primarily against other European-brand luxury wagons from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Saab and Volvo. The German automaker also offers a 540 wagon with V-8 power but no equivalent to the 530i sedan. Unlike BMWs 325xi wagon, which has the option of all-wheel drive, the 5 Series is rear-wheel drive only.
A moonroof is now standard on the base-model 525i wagon, which holds a 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine. BMWs Head Protection System for the rear passengers has been added, and the available navigation system switches to DVD-based operation. Rain-sensing wipers are now included with the optional Premium Package.
Riding a 111.4-inch wheelbase, the 525i falls into the compact category according to interior-volume standards by the Environmental Protection Agency, but cars.com considers it a midsize model. At 188 inches long overall, the 525i is a little shorter than the Lexus GS 300. In appearance, the 5 Series sedans closely resemble their smaller and larger counterparts, all of which sport BMWs familiar twin-kidney grille.
From the front doors forward, the wagons styling is identical to BMWs 5 Series sedans. Its overall appearance also resembles the smaller 3 Series and larger 7 Series, including the familiar twin-kidney grille. Even though the 525i is often considered a midsize model, it falls into the compact category according to interior-volume standards by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fog lights and cross-spoke 16-inch wheels are standard. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are optional. A Sport Package for the 525i wagon includes a sport suspension, sport-style seats and 17-inch tires on star-spoke wheels.
Seating for five occupants is standard on all 5 series models. The front bucket seats have 10-way power adjustment for the driver. Standard equipment on all models includes remote keyless entry, a 10-speaker audio system with a CD player, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, heated power mirrors and an alarm. Leather upholstery is optional. Sedans can be equipped with an optional split, folding rear seatback.
The wagons include a split, folding rear seat and a retractable rear cargo cover. The powered front bucket seats have a 10-way adjustment, and they feature standard leatherette upholstery; leather is offered as an option. The 525 wagon also includes dual-zone automatic air conditioning, heated power mirrors with a memory feature, a CD stereo, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, an alarm, and a central locking system that can lock the doors and close the windows via remote control.
Cargo volume behind the rear seat totals 32.7 cubic feet, but folding the backseat increases space to 65.2 cubic feet. BMWs navigation system is optional, and Sport and Premium option groups are offered.
Under the Hood
The 525i uses a 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine, which teams with either a five-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. All 5 Series models are RWD only, unlike the smaller 3 Series, which offers all-wheel drive as an option.
The automatic gearbox in the 525i wagon incorporates a Steptronic mode that permits manually selected gear changes by tipping the shift lever fore and aft.
Dual-stage front airbags deploy according to crash severity and whether occupants are buckled up. Side-impact airbags for the front seats and BMWs Head Protection System which consists of curtain-type airbags that deploy to protect front-seat occupants are standard on all series models. Side-impact airbags are optional for the rear seats. Safety features include antilock brakes, traction control and BMWs electronic stability system, called Dynamic Stability Control. The optional Park Distance Control detects obstacles to the front and rear of the car while parking.
BMW mixes big doses of both sport and luxury in all 5 Series models, starting with the 525i. Drivers can expect the precise maneuverability and control of a smaller 3 Series sedan, coupled with quite a few luxuries. The suspensions are undeniably firm, but ride comfort remains pleasant over most pavement surfaces.
Performance is reasonably energetic even with the 2.5-liter inline-six. BMW appears to strive for symmetry in each of its models, so the dashboard and its easy-to-read gauges look about the same, regardless of the size of the sedan. The ride and handling qualities differ little between the 5 Series sedans and wagons. Even with its inline-six-cylinder engine, the 525i wagons performance is reasonably energetic.