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  1. #1
    Hal
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    Consumer Reports Article - 530i Best Ever

    The following is the text of the main report and the specific review of the 530i. Enjoy.


    The BMW 530i becomes the best car we've tested.

    This month's test of four European luxury sedans, priced in the mid-$40,000 to low-$50,000 range, is notable for two reasons. In our tests for performance, comfort, and convenience, comprising 14 major categories, all four cars--the BMW 530i, Mercedes-Benz E320, Audi A6, and Jaguar S-Type--were rated either excellent or very good. In addition, the BMW 530i scored high enough overall to become our top-rated car ever. Still, not all is rosy here. We found that the Audi isn't that much better than the excellent Volkswagen Passat, with which the A6 shares a platform. We were also dismayed that the Jaguar S-Type's overall package isn't up to the image projected by its stylish design. We prefer the S-Type's less-sexy, lower-priced cousin, the Lincoln LS.


    THE CARS WE TESTED

    All the cars in this group were equipped with six-cylinder engines that require premium fuel. V8s are available, too, but they're packaged with additional equipment, which typically adds about $10,000 to each vehicle's price. All offer free scheduled maintenance for at least three years.

    The current BMW 5-Series dates back to 1996. Since we last tested one, in August 1999, the 5-Series has had a mild facelift and acquired a five-speed automatic transmission and revised engines. The 528i, which used to be the only six-cylinder model in the line, has now been replaced by the 525i and 530i, both offering inline Sixes. Our 530i is powered by a 225-hp, 3.0-liter engine and starts at $39,400. With options such as an automatic transmission, heated leather seats, headlight washers, sunroof, power passenger seat, Xenon headlights, and a CD player, the price came to $46,320, including destination charges. The CR Wholesale Price, which includes buyer rebates and what the dealer paid after incentives--is $41,725. (All CR Wholesale Prices were effective as of early September 2001.)

    For the past five years the Mercedes-Benz E320 has been our top-rated car. It's still an excellent automobile, but it's now been surpassed in our scoring by the 530i. The current E320 dates back to 1996, though it received a facelift for 2000. With its 221-hp, 3.2-liter V6 our E320 started at $47,850. Heated leather seats, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, and a sound-system upgrade brought the price to $51,350, including destination charges. The CR Wholesale Price is $46,365.

    The Audi A6 took its current form for the 1998 model year. We chose the mid-trim 2.7T, with a 250-hp, 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 and Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Our car started at $39,500. Options such as a sunroof, heated leather seats, steering wheel controls, Xenon headlights, upgraded sound system, and a power rear sunshade boosted the price to $45,600, including destination charges. The CR Wholesale Price is $40,753.

    The Jaguar S-Type was introduced in 1999 as a 2000 model and was the first Jaguar model to be designed and developed under the guidance of Ford, which bought Jaguar in 1989. The S-Type shares its rear-wheel-drive platform and basic engines with the Lincoln LS and new Ford Thunderbird. We chose the 3.0 model, which is powered by a 240-hp, 3.0-liter V6. It started at $43,655. Options including sunroof, seat-position memory, heated seats, and stability control brought the price to $47,450 including destination charges. The CR Wholesale Price is $41,708.


    RECOMMENDATIONS

    The BMW 530i is an excellent car that shines in many often conflicting areas. It rides quietly and comfortably yet handles with sports-car agility. The super-smooth powertrain provides quick acceleration and reasonable fuel consumption for its class. Braking is superb. Safety equipment and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash-test result are impressive. Interior fit and finish are impeccable. The fact that the car is also fun to drive is a bonus. The only notable drawback is its scant, flimsy cupholders, an annoyance for commuters. Reliability has been better than average.

    One concern regarding 2001 5-Series models is that they are part of a 50,000-car safety recall that includes several other of BMW's model lines. The recall is to replace a defective cooling-fan-control unit that can cause the engine to overheat and possibly catch fire. According to a BMW representative, that does not affect 2002 5-Series models or 2001 models built after June 2001. Any 2001 models still on dealership lots will also have had the control unit replaced before delivery to a customer.

    The Mercedes-Benz E320 is almost as complete a package as the 530i, but it has a different character. Where the BMW has a sporty aspect that helps a driver feel connected with the road, the Mercedes is more stately and reserved. The E320 handles with agility and has a comfortable ride, but neither quality is quite up to that of the 530i. The Mercedes has strong brakes, and its powertrain provides strong acceleration and the best fuel economy of the group. Safety equipment is comprehensive and the IIHS crash-test result is impressive. The rear seat is the roomiest here. Some controls, though, are less intuitive than we'd like. Reliability has been average.

    The Audi A6 is a very well-rounded car. The ride is comfortable although not as settled as it might be. Handling is responsive and secure. The 2.7T model accelerates quickly, but the engine and transmission don't always act as a seamless team. The interior is roomy, very quiet, and meticulously finished. All-wheel drive (AWD) endows the A6 with a clear advantage in slippery conditions, but fuel economy is mediocre. Reliability has been below average.

    While competent in many respects, and excellent in some, the Jaguar S-Type doesn't match the overall standards set by the others in this group. The seats are comfortable, but the cockpit feels a little cramped. No head-protection air bags are offered. Overall, it doesn't deliver the ride comfort, quietness, quality feel, or spaciousness that add up to a first-rate driving experience. Its reliability has improved to average, which now allows us to recommend it.


    A CLOSER LOOK November 2001

    BMW 530i

    Highs: Ride, handling, acceleration, braking, quietness, fit and finish.

    Lows: Flimsy cupholders.


    Body style: 4-door; 4-door wagon.

    Trim lines: 525i, 530i, 540i, M5.

    Engine & transmissions: 2.5L 6 (184 hp), 3.0L 6 (225 hp), 4.4L V8 (282 hp), 5.0L V8 (394 hp); 5- & 6-speed man., 5-speed auto.

    Base price range: $35,400 to $69,400.

    Tested: 530i 4-door, 3.0L 6, 5-speed automatic.

    The 530i manages to do almost everything well. It's a fun-to-drive sport sedan with punchy performance and crisp handling, yet it's as quiet, comfortable, and refined as we'd expect a luxury car to be. It's the highest scoring vehicle we've ever tested.


    THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE

    The BMW cushions pavement flaws with aplomb. The ride stays steady, controlled, and serene at all times, even with a full load aboard. The suspension shrugs off bumpy corners and undulations without complaint. The cabin stays commendably quiet.

    Crisp, well-weighted steering that communicates a good feel for the road is a BMW hallmark. The 530i carves through curves with little body roll, which provides a high degree of driver confidence. It hung on well in the tight, fast corners of our track, and the stability-control system intervened promptly when we eventually reached the tire-adhesion limits. The BMW negotiated our double-lane-change avoidance maneuver quickly and neatly.

    With its 225-hp, 3.0-liter inline Six, the 530i accelerates effortlessly and provided the quickest acceleration times of this group. Overall fuel economy in mixed city and highway driving was 19 mpg, 3 mpg less than the E320. As for all the cars in this group, premium fuel is recommended.

    The five-speed automatic transmission, made by General Motors, is about the best we've experienced. Its "sport" mode closely simulates the ideal shift points of a manual transmission. Braking performance was superb in all tests, with the 530i providing the shortest braking distances of the group.


    INSIDE THE CAR

    Almost anyone should be able to find a good driving position. The deeply sculptured bucket front seats are exceptionally comfortable and supportive all around. The rear bench is comfortable and roomy enough for two adults, but three across is a squeeze. As with most cars in this group, the center rear position is uncomfortable for an adult.

    The controls have a high-quality tactile feel and are mostly logical to use. Gauges are clearly legible.

    The automatic dual-zone climate system works very well, but you have to turn the air conditioner on and off manually. On cold days the system can use residual engine heat to keep the cabin warm after you've parked. Cabin storage is adequate. The only cup holders, however, are a small, flimsy pair in front.

    The trunk is fairly small. We could fit just three suitcases and two duffel bags. A folded wheelchair fit with ease. Fold-down rear seatbacks are a $475 option. A full-size spare stores beneath the floor.

    SAFETY AND RELIABILITY

    SEEING CLEARLY Two handy features include headlight washers--especially useful in winter driving conditions--and a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel that moves out of the way to ease getting in and out.


    Besides dual-stage front air bags, side-impact air bags and head-protection bags are standard. Rear side-impact air bags are a $550 option but not recommended if you are transporting children. There are five sets of lap-and-shoulder belts. The front belts have pretensioners and force-limiters as well as automatic-adjusting upper anchors, which didn't suit everyone. All five head restraints are tall enough to help prevent whiplash injuries.
    The 5-Series sedan received the highest rating--Good--in the IIHS's frontal-offset-crash test. The government hasn't crash-tested this car yet. Our bumper-basher, with its series of 3- and 5-mph blows, did $628 in damage in front and $662, rear.

    Driving with kids. Most child seats can be well secured in the rear seats. Three top-tether anchor points are provided, but no lower LATCH anchors.

    Reliability has been better than average. Our car had just one minor sample defect.





  2. #2
    Zebra
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    Thanks for the reprint (retype?)


  3. #3
    Only flaw!
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    Hope the German finally get the cupholder message.


  4. #4
    Jabez
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    Thank you!


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