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BMW 525i 2004 Review

It's a tag that would have worked for BMW had it styled its present range of cars a few years earlier.

For there's little doubt that the unusual panel shapes attract attention. Once a clean and crisp, sweetly styled car range, BMWs are now quite convoluted in design.

But don't let the truncated boot line, concave side panels and sharp crease lines fool you – under the skin the engineering is satin smooth.

This is the more sedate model in the 5-series line-up. Sedate because it comes with a rather effete 2.5-litre engine.

Wealthier 5-series buyers can churn up the bitumen in a V8 model and, from next year, the V10-engined earth-trembler known as the M5.

But even with the smallest engine in the range, the 525i shows a clean pair of heels through open country roads.

It also works well in the city, boasting a drivetrain that is virtually inaudible and free of vibration and, more importantly, surprisingly fuel efficient.

Forgetting the exterior, the cabin is one of the best on the market with an atmosphere seemingly the work of an Italian craftsman paid to redecorate the foyer of a German medical clinic.

It's neat, simple and ergonomically close to perfect, yet uses premium materials which are beautifully matched. This should be the benchmark for car interiors.

The decor is the cocoon for a cabin which boasts excellent head and leg room for four, perhaps five, adults. Even the boot is big, thanks unfortunately to a pronounced boot line that makes the Renault Megane's rear look positively pin-up material.

For the driver, the controls are perfectly placed though the iDrive – the central function control system – is a pain in the neck to operate in a hurry.

The 5-series iDrive is based on the more complex version in the upmarket 7-series models, though less demanding thanks to simplified functions and a bit more conventional switchgear mounted on the dashboard.

BMW remains a wonderful builder of engines. This is a 2.5-litre, in-line six-cylinder engine with strong mid-range torque, fuss-free revving but it's a bit weak under 2500rpm.

It could be weaker if it wasn't for the six-speed automatic gearbox which has a sufficient spread of cogs to help it off the mark. The car weighs 1500kg – a fair bit for a 2.5-litre mill. It's perfect for Europe, of course, where the 8.9 litres/100km fuel consumption average on test is economical, given fuel costs $2.20 a litre.

It also suits Europe's fast freeways where the engine sings at mid to high revs for high-speed touring and rapid overtaking.

But in slower situations – such as Australian cities – the 525i isn't a particularly quick car and will be bought by those seeking a classy family sedan.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

530i Touring Executive 3.0L, PULP, 5 SP $8,030 – 11,330 2004 BMW 5 Series 2004 530i Touring Executive Pricing and Specs
530i Touring Sport 3.0L, PULP, 5 SP $8,250 – 11,660 2004 BMW 5 Series 2004 530i Touring Sport Pricing and Specs
530i Sport 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,770 – 15,730 2004 BMW 5 Series 2004 530i Sport Pricing and Specs
530i 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $8,140 – 11,440 2004 BMW 5 Series 2004 530i Pricing and Specs
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