At the risk of this coming across as a complete shock to absolutely no one, I would say that the E39 BMW 5-series is my favourite sedan and the best all around car on this site. A bold claim, granted, and not the kind of shoes that anyone would be clamouring to fill; but this was not a car that I wanted to see replaced. In fact, the final photos of the E60 were a tad unsettling: this wasn't going to be the Adriana Lima of luxury sports sedans, to be sure, but the total weirdness was unexpected. What you see here won't look too bad because in general I try to post only the most flattering photos I can find. Still, my advice: order yours in black and only go near the rear if absolutely necessary - it's not pretty back there. Viewed from the side, the vast slabs of sheet metal dwarf the relatively small wheels, especially towards the rear, giving a decidedly Kia-rific look. The Touring is only slightly less silly. On the other hand, the E60's Cleopatra eyes are quite attractive, as is the top-quality interior, with its neat symmetry and silver-ringed gauges.
The 525i has gauges and headlights as well - the reason you're splurging the extra 20 grand on the 545i is the engine, and here the Bimmer delivers. The 545i's V8 is one of the smoothest and most free-revving engines in production, happily lunging for the 6500rpm redline while providing handy 5.5-second 60-mph bursts with little vibration and implacable thrust. This is due in part to fancy wizardry like Valvetronic - granted, not nearly as cool a name as Vanos as far as valve-management devices go - which uses an electric motor for infinite variations of valve timing and lift. Also pitching in is the slick, short-throw (not M3 short but short) gearshift and the light and predictable clutch, perfect for bursting off a few downshifts for a nipping pass, or for around town motoring. The driveline is equally pleasant, smoothing over the driver's hiccups and occasional lapses of talent without too many electronic gremlins cutting the fun. Hardly less impressive, the 545i's brakes bring the big BMW down to a stop from 70 mph in 156 feet, which falls in somewhere between a Caterham Seven and a Lotus Elise. Don't tailgate this puppy!
While you're at it, don't opt for the 6-speed ZF automatic 'box which is aggressively and single-mindedly calibrated for grabbing pole position at the Nuerburgring. Don't opt for active steering either: it's handy in parking lots but aloof elsewhere and in the twisties you'll want as few gears and motors between your wheel and the car's as possible. Ditto for active roll stabilization, a technologically brilliant system that ultimately manages only to mask the car's true limits from inexperienced drivers. Finally, well-intentioned but maligned iDrive comes standard, which is a shame because it, too, should be opted out of, along with every other electronic gizmo, doo-dad and whiz-bang which attempts to answer a question that has already been answered, often to perfection, mechanically.
If you want a serious driver's sedan, this one is still be the best, but
gooky styling and BMW's determined efforts to find uses for Intel's entire
stockpile of chips mean that despite the 545i's efficacy and eagerness to
please, the E60 will never be as warm and inviting as its predecessor. - by Traian Popescu
Specifications 545i / 550i
|Base Price, USD||55,695 / 57,400||Engine Type||dohc 32-valve V8|
|Powertrain Layout||Front engine, RWD||Displacement, cc||4398 / 4799|
|Horsepower@rpm||325@6100 / 360@6300||Torque, lb-ft@rpm||330@3600 / 360@3400|
|Curb Weight, lb||4075||0-60 mph, sec||5.5 / 5.4|
|1/4 mile, sec@mph||14.1@103 / -||600 ft slalom, mph||66.0|
|60-0 mph, ft||121||Top speed, mph||155|