I leased the 525i in late Sept 2001- as the new years models were coming in to the lot. I was initially planning to test drive the 5 Series, the A6, Jag and possibly Acura & Lexus, but found no need to once I got behind the wheel of this car.
Some reviews may be skeptical of the 525i on the basis of engine size. While the 5 series is a heavy car, the 187Hp provided with the 525 is ample for my requirements. My version has a manual transmission and allows me the luxury of downshifting if necessary. I have heard that the automatic has a bit more lag than people want.
As for the overall car- it is amazing. Truly one of the finest driving cars made. Holds the road incredibly well, quiet as can be, no incidental issues or costs, and wonderful service.
As I write this review, I am nearing the end of my lease and am strongly considering next steps. I would like to look at the 2004/05 models, but have such respect for the car I currently drive - a difficult decision.
My recommendation for anyone looking at BMW 5 series (new or used) is to get behind the wheel (of a manual if possible) and put it through its paces. ENJOY.
I must agree. I recently bought a pre-owned 2001 530i with the Sport Package and it is by far the best car I have ever owned. I did previously own a 1994 530i (at that time with the small V8) and even though my new 530 is only a six cylinder, it feels just like my old V8. I will never by anything else other than a 5 series again.
After driving this car for a month I am convinced that my efforts to find a 525i with a manual transmission were worthwhile. The car was purchased with 100k on the odometer and runs like new with no unusual behavior. At just over 100k the original plugs were removed and they were cleaner than most plugs I have seen on other cars at 30k. New set of Michelins and a good four wheel alignment helped the handling. With the "smaller" engine, the car must be driven somewhat aggressively to get the ultimate performance. When driven gently, the car quietly goes about its business. Fuel economy has been 27mpg overall in mixed driving.
BMWs have very special engines and even the lower power ones like the 525i are great fun.
My 1984 325e had 121 horsepower and that engine was a blast. So was my 325i, 328i, and 528i. All manuals, of course, which are increasingly becoming an extinct species.
VW's DSG holds out some hope that autos will duplicate the manual experience (face it, manuals are going the way of the dinosaurs as much as I hate to admit it), so if they can all be like that I'll cringe less at not being able to find a stick.