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2004 new car guide, model guide, new car reviews, by brand


BMWGerman automaker Bayerische Motoren Werke - recognized throughout the automotive world by the initials of BMW - charges into 2004 with an extensive collection of sedans and coupes, station wagons and sport-utility vehicles, plus several ragtops and a two-seat roadster.

The BMW fleet for 2004 culminates with elegant flagship 7 Series full-size sedans. Badged as the 745i (standard wheelbase) and 745Li (stretched edition) plus 12-cylinder 760Li, these big BMWs pack powerful engines, high-tech electronics governing power production and vehicle stability, and dazzling interactive voice commands for operating navigation, climate and communication equipment.

Midsize 5 Series sedans begin a new cycle of generational change with designs that incorporate styling points of 7 Series sedans and upgrade hardware with optional electronically-controlled power steering. For the American market, the 5 Series will consist of three models based on engine size - 525i, 530i and 545i.

Anchoring BMW's line, the extensive 3 Series string of compact cars includes coupes and sedans plus sport wagons and convertibles. This year's crop shows a six-speed sequential manual gearbox (SMG) transmission optional for all rear-wheel-drive (RWD) models in conjunction with a Sport Package. In addition, xenon high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps can be combined with BMW's new adaptive headlamp control (AHC) system. It keys to the angle of the steering wheel and directs lamps laterally to light the path on a curvy road.

BMW's two-seat sports car - Z4 - returns to the line following a remake in 2003. The upgraded second-generation design for Z4 features racy exterior styling cast over an enlarged chassis with more power available from two engine options and more sophisticated vehicle controls on-board.

Powertrains are realigned for BMW's X5 Series of sport-activity wagons. The high-performance X5 4.6is fades away but the X5 3.0i and X5 4.4i return with enhanced styling inside and out plus a new all-wheel-drive (AWD) system dubbed xDrive. Also, the X5 4.4i earns a new 4.4-liter V8 engine rigged with Valvetronic variable valve control.

Later in the year more products should appear, such as a new sport-utility vehicle titled the X3. Sized for the compact class, the X3 is expected to become a scaled-down version of the X5. It will bring several powertrain options plus a unique loading system for the rear bay that automatically moves cargo, such as a pair of trail bikes, out on the tailgate for easy access.

BMW 7 Series
2004 BMW 7 Series

The full-size luxury/performance sedans of BMW for 2004 include three issues - 745i, 745Li and 760Li.

The 745i is the V8-power volume model with a standard-length wheelbase, while the 745Li is a stretched version with more rear-seat room and the 760Li caps this series with the extended wheelbase and a 12-cylinder engine. The 6.0-liter aluminum V12 develops 408 hp and features BMW's Valvetronic system plus fully variable bi-VANOS camshaft controls. The 745i edition and stretched 745Li draw from BMW's 4.4-liter V8 rated at 333 hp. Both engines mate with a sophisticated six-speed automatic transmission that brings shift-by-wire technology through selector controls mounted behind the steering wheel.

A spacious cabin, lined with fine leather and trimmed in rich hardwoods, has a simplified dash design oriented around a center-mounted terminal display and a round joystick-style controller mounted at the front end of the center console's padded armrest. The rotary joystick in a system called iDrive accesses various car controls as well as climate, navigation, audio and communication equipment.

Platform for the 7 Series cradles an aluminum suspension with computerized active roll stabilization.

Extensive safety measures also apply, like BMW's inflatable Head Protection System (HPS) for front and rear passengers, active head restraints, even inflatable air bags for knees of front-seat riders. This year, new multi-spoke alloy wheels replace last year's double-spoke design as the standard set and the AHC adaptive headlamp control system become a new option along with Sirius satellite radio service.


BMW 5 Series
2004 BMW 5 Series

The 5 Series of sport sedans shows up in BMW's 2004 line with new designs set on a new platform that represents the fifth generation for mid-size models. The look is tipped decidedly toward styling for 7 Series sedans with curvy corners and a higher trunk deck in order to carve out more cargo room within the trunk.

Up front, multi-lens headlamp clusters wrap around front corners with unique brows studded by parking lights as shelters for primary lamps. Beneath this sculptural skin, 5 Series cars carry new lightweight aluminum components in suspension and structure that pares overall mass and enhances acceleration and fuel economy figures.

A new adaptive steering system will be available on 5 Series sedans with an electronically-controlled device that can vary the steering ratio to match a driver's style and the pavement conditions. The AHC adaptive headlamp controller also appears on the 5 Series list of options.

Cabins have been restyled with luxurious appointments and BMW adds computerized gear with the iDrive system off the 7-Series but in a simplified and easy-to-master format.

Engines for 5 Series sedans essentially repeat, although transmissions change. In-line six-cylinder powertrains from the 3-Series drop into two of the 5 Series models - the 2.5-liter six for 525i and 3.0-liter version for 530i. Top-model totes a 4.4-liter V8 that romps to 325 hp. All come with either a six-speed manual transmission or five-speed Steptronic automatic mode for clutch-less shifts.

All 5 Series cars also provide the entire spectrum of BMW mechanical systems for performance and safety, including HPS air bags and BMW's computerized Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) mechanism that can correct potentially dangerous car movements when wheels slip laterally.

Read our Review: BMW 5 Series X3

BMW 3 Series
2004 BMW 3 Series

The majority of all cars sold with a BMW badge come from the 3 Series class of compacts. These vehicles - in designs of a four-door sedan, five-door station wagon and two-door coupe or convertible - set a high standard for performance, handling and agility.

Model nomenclature amounts to alphanumeric designations to describe the body style and displacement of an engine. Two in-line-six aluminum-block engines - measuring to 2.5 liters and 3.0 liters - power the class, earning 170 hp and 225 hp, respectively. Sedans and wagons with the 2.5-liter engine are labeled 325i for RWD and 325xi for AWD; for the 3.0-liter plant, the two sedans are the 330i (RWD) and 330xi (AWD).

Coupes and convertibles carry similar designations as 325Ci and 330Ci, each with rear-wheel driveline. The coupes and convertibles have a revamped front-end design for 2004 and standard automatic headlight control system, with xenon HID headlamps optional for the adaptive headlamp control system. The 330i and 330xi sedans and wagons show new front grilles and headlight surrounds trimmed in black.


BMW Z Series
2004 BMW Z4

BMW's two-seat roadster, produced at a BMW plant in South Carolina, bears contorted sheetmetal shaped into an intricate series of twists and curves in crisscrossed lines that amount to separate character marks scored across the flanks. A bulging trunk deck is defined by an angular ridge ringing sides and rear, with unusual shapes for taillamps inset into the thick slab bumper.

Compared to the roly-poly roundness of Z3 first-generation issues, the angular styling for Z4 looks edgy and quick. It can be quick to act too, due to two different engine options that enthuse the roadster. Z4 2.5i gets the BMW 2.5-liter in-line-six tuned to 184 hp. Z4 3.0i packs a larger straight-six at 3.0 liters with dual overhead cams and BMW's infinitely variable valve timing system. Output reaches 225 hp.

A Getrag Type B+ five-speed manual transmission comes with the 2.5-liter plant, while the heavy-duty ZF Type H six-speed manual links to the 3.0-liter version. Both offer optionally a ZF automatic articulated through five forward gears with BMW's Steptronic mode. Further, BMW's six-speed SMG is available with either engine and it's rigged with one automatic and two manual shift programs. In manual mode, you can shift the SMG by tapping finger paddles on the steering wheel or the shifter lever.

Passive standard safety systems reach from frontal and side-impact air bags to BMW's knee protection system (KPS). The cockpit for two stocks bolstered bucket seats, a three-spoke steering wheel and twin binnacles on the dash housing an analog speedometer and tachometer.

Z4's soft top contains a glass rear window and heat element. It folds back quickly by manual means, with the forward panel of the lid covering pleated parts and fitting flush against the body to eliminate the need for a tonneau. Power motivation to fold the top automatically is optional and works in 13 seconds flat. For 2004, rain-sensing windshield wipers become a standard feature.

2004 BMW X5

The X5 is what happens when BMW's performance-geared designers turn their attention to a SUV. It looks remarkably like one of BMW's big sports sedans, only jacked up with a wagon's cargo compartment at the tail. Consider the X5 as a broad and long four-door wagon that stands in the mid-size class of SUVs.

An engine fits in front of the four-door cabin that holds two rows of seats for up to five riders plus a rear cargo bay accessed through a clever clamshell tailgate. What makes BMW's SUV different from convention concerns its unitized structure and the application of performance-oriented mechanical paraphernalia. All components fit aboard in such a manner that weight is distributed ideally, with half loading on the front wheels and the other half on the rear ones. This perfect balance makes X5 extremely controllable through predictable patterns.

And the use of lightweight aluminum for independent suspension links pares the unsprung mass of this vehicle, which ultimately makes it stick better on pavement and glide more uniformly over road bumps.

For 2004 issues, X5 units display updated exteriors with reshaped sheetmetal fitting the patterns of BMW's sedans. The prow projects larger grille ports plus halo-style headlamps mounted on front corners.

Internally, BMW's new 'intelligent' AWD system called xDrive has been added with locked front-to-rear traction distribution but counteractive intervention from a stability control system when the treads begin to slip. X5 divides into two different models for 2004 based on powertrain. The X5 4.4i stocks a new version of the 4.4-liter V8 with variable valve timing and output of 320 hp through the six-speed automatic shifter out of 7-Series sedans. X5 3.0i carries a 3.0-liter in-line-six worth 225 hp with Steptronic automatic or standard six-speed manual.

A Bluetooth wireless (hands-free) cellular phone system will be offered as an accessory on all X5 models.

2004 BMW X3

Just as BMW's midsize 5 Series and compact-class 3 Series sedans compare in step-down size, so too does the size vary from midsize to compact with X5 and X3 sport-activity vehicles.

But X3 is the new model, arriving late in BMW's 2004 season and looking somewhat like a high-hiked 3 Series sports wagon after six months of pumping iron at the gym. Expect lively traction action due to the use of BMW's new xDrive AWD system. Adjustable and totally variable, the xDrive device can send engine power to whichever axle, front or rear, has the best traction bite. It works in conjunction with BMW's DSC stability controller to keep on tracking on pavement.

Off pavement, X3 adds another sophisticated device called Hill Descent Control (HDC) to keep wheels firmly planted on a steep slope. The first engine in X3 is predicted to come from 3 Series sedans with a 3.0-liter straight-six.

Read our Review: BMW 5 Series X3