The BMW 5 Series remains the standard-bearer for the midsize sport luxury segment. The 2004-2010 BMW 5 Series exemplifies this trend, a car that over its seven-year run grew more and more popular with every passing year, even as newer competitors arrived. A large part of the 5 Series’ success is the many trim levels, engines and models available, serving everyone from the casual luxury car buyer to the hard-core driving enthusiast. As there are numerous changes spanning the 2004 to 2010 timeline, its important to pay attention to which years and models have the features you’re looking for. Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, for example, didn’t appear on the 5 Series until late in 2005. After 2006, a wagon model joined the 5 Series sedans, as well as all-wheel drive models designated by the letter "x" in the name. See the BMW 5 Series models for sale near you
Why You Want It
First and foremost, the 5 Series is a driver’s car. Slightly larger than the 3 Series but not as hefty or expensive as a full-size 7 Series, the 5 is BMW’s middle child, in many cases offering the same performance as the 3 Series, but with a more usable rear seat, a larger trunk, and more high-end optional equipment. The 5 Series can be as stark as base model 525 with a manual transmission, or as opulent as a loaded 550 V8 model with all of BMW’s best bells and whistles. Most people will opt for the automatic over the manual, but be aware that some early models came equipped with BMW’s SMG (Sequential Manual Gearbox) that can be somewhat problematic.
Of course, we know the other reasons people seek out a used BMW: status and luxury. The 5 Series will bring you both, but a word of caution: buying a used BMW may be cheaper than buying one new, but it’s still a premium luxury car requiring premium prices for routine maintenance, tires, brakes and fuel. If you’re living on a tight budget, a luxury car like the 5 Series, once out of warranty, could prove quite costly over time.
Notable Features & Options
Although features and options vary by year and model, even the early 2004-2006 5 Series offers such standard amenities as automatic climate control, iDrive controller for audio, climate and optional navigation, 10-way power seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof and leatherette seating. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, but you’ll find most cars are equipped with either the Steptronic or SMG automatic transmissions. V8 powered 545i and 550i models have even more equipment including leather seating, Adaptive Headlights, sport suspension, and Park Distance Control.
As for optional equipment, BMW bundles its most popular items into packages. If you find a car with 20-way multi-contour seats, it most likely has the Sport Package that includes a sport suspension and 18-inch run-flat tires. As most 5 Series left the showroom pretty well loaded, odds are good you’ll be able to find one with the voice-activated navigation system, head-up display (projects vital data such as speed, navigation directions and Check Control data onto the windshield), Active Steering, Night Vision thermal imaging display, Active Cruise Control, lane departure warning system, harman/kardon Logic 7 audio system, Active Roll Stabilization and ventilated front seats.
2005: The 525i receives standard fog lights and new 17-inch wheels, while the 545i receives Adaptive Headlights and Park Distance Control.
2006: 525i and 530i models get a new 3.0-liter 6-clyinder engine. Variable Valve Lift and Timing on the 530i engine gives it more horsepower and torque than in the 525i. The 545i becomes the 550i, thanks to a new 4.8-liter V8 engine. All 5 Series models gain speed sensitive power steering, while the 530i gets xenon Adaptive Headlights, and the 550i a push button starter; a wagon model and available all-wheel drive are also added to the 5 Series line up.
2007: New features include an upgraded tire pressure monitoring system and an auxiliary audio input jack. New to the 5 Series options list are HD radio, 20-way adjustable sport seats (part of the Sport Package), and Night Vision thermal imaging display.
2008: A major overhaul occurs this year, with revised exterior and interior styling, new 6-cylinder engines and new model names. The 525i/xi become the 528i/xi, while the 530i/xi become the 535i/xi, thanks to its new 300-horsepower twin-turbocharged engine.
2009: There are no major changes for this year.
2010: 5 Series cars equipped with navigation receive an updated iDrive system that is supposedly easier and more intuitive to operate. A new M Sport package offers M-specific wheels, gearshift lever and steering wheel, as well as an anthracite headliner and an exterior aerodynamic package.
Engines and Performance
If you’re looking for us to tell you about some dent in the 5 Series performance armor, you’ve come to the wrong place. From its excellent handling aided by the available Active Steering to its flat cornering response provided by the Active Roll Stabilization, the 5 Series is the very embodiment of BMW’s well-known tagline, "The Ultimate Driving Machine." We prefer the 6-speed manual to all other transmissions, but if an automatic is required, go with the traditional 6-speed Steptronic and avoid the more jarring SMG.
Early 6-cylinder models are not very powerful by today’s standards, with the 2004-2005 525i powered by a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter 6-cylinder engine, and the 530i by a 225 hp 3.0-liter 6-cylinder. The V8-powered 545 develops 325 hp. All three engines feature a standard 6-speed manual transmission but can be mated with a 6-speed automatic or the SMG automated manual. After 2006, the 5 Series’ engines get a bit more powerful, with the 525i’s 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine producing 215 hp, and the 330i’s turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder producing 255 hp. The 550i’s 4.8-liter V8 delivers up an impressive 360 hp.
Fuel economy for the 528i and 530i models remains in the range of of about 18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, with the all-wheel drive 525xi and 530xi models giving up about 2 mpg to their rear-drive counterparts. The 550i is rated around 15 mpg city, 23 mpg highway. In 2008, the 528i’s new 6-cylinder engine bumps output to 230 horsepower, while the new 535i develops a healthy 300 horsepower. Fuel economy remains on par with the previous models, although the turbocharged 535i earns a few miles per gallon less on the highway than its predecessor. A new, faster shifting 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission was offered that year, with the SMG being dropped from the 5 Series.
Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2004-2010 BMW 5 Series:
2004: Recalls were issued for a possible loose fuel line on the 545i, a defective engine control module that could lead to engine stalling, and possible damage to the front seat heating element caused by excessive body contact with the side bolster.
2004-2006: A recall was issued for a possible defect that may occur to the front passenger seat. Excessive wear to the seat can cause cracks to develop in the airbag mat sensor causing it to become inoperative, thus preventing the front airbag from deploying.
2004-2010: A recall was issued for possible defective check valve in the brake vacuum pump. Over time, small amounts of lubricating fluid could leak into the booster and contaminate the system. Another recall was issued for a possible loose positive battery cable connection that could lead to overheating and fire.
2005-2006: A recall was issued for a possible defective parking pawl guide plate. This defect could cause the transmission parking lock system to not engage, leading to a possible situation where the vehicle could roll away.
2006: Recalls were issued for a possible situation where the nuts holding the front axle control arm may not have been tightened to specs, resulting in compromised vehicle handling, and for a defective lower rubber mount on the rear shock absorber.
2006-2008: A recall was issued for the 550i regarding a possible situation when temperatures drop bellowing freezing and humidity is low. An electrostatic shock can build around the fuel rails, causing failure of the engine’s electronic control module and possible stalling.
2010: A recall was issued for a possible defect in the fuel level sensor that could give a false reading suggesting there is more fuel than is actually in the tank.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
As for safety, the 2004-2010 BMW 5 Series earns good marks from the government, with 5 out 5 stars in all but the driver’s frontal crash test, which earned only 3 out of 5 stars (2009 model tested). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 5 Series its highest ‘Good’ rating in its off-set front crash test, but only a ‘Marginal’ rating for 2008-2010 cars without the additional optional rear side airbags.
BMW offers a 4-year/50,000 mile comprehensive warranty on the 5 Series, fully transferable from the original owner. BMW also offers a Certified Pre-Owned program for late model vehicles with less than 60,000 miles. The program adds a 6-year/100,000-mile warranty from the date the car entered service.
Word on the Web
While enthusiast sites are generally filled with praise for the 5 Series performance, consumer sites such as Consumer Reports and J.D. Power don’t sing the same tune. Under long-term scrutiny, the 5 Series comes up with more negatives than positives, especially early 2004-2008 models. Resale value, however, doesn’t seem to be effected too badly by the 5 Series reputation, with used pricing remaining very competitive with other vehicles in this class.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class: The E-Class provides a more mature, more conservative approach to luxury and performance, with less emphasis on a firm ride and more attention to pleasing all the occupants, not just the driver.
Audi A6: If you’re looking for better fuel economy and an interior second to none, check out the Audi A6. Its opulent interior stands in bold contrast to the austere 5 Series, and its ride is more refined. Putting aside the AWD models, the A6’s front-wheel drive is better in the snow than the 5 Series’ rear-drive setup.
Lexus GS: The GS may not deliver the same cutting edge performance as the 5 Series, but it is a driver’s car none the less, one with a better repair and reliability history and a enviable resale record.
With so many variations to chose from its hard to pick just one. We prefer late model cars still under warranty, and would probably look for a 535i with the Steptronic automatic and BMW’s Certified Pre-Owned warranty coverage. If snow and ice are common to your region, the 528ix or 535ix are a better choice.