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Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

BMW Sport Wagon Provides Classy Cargo Room

There’s a new breed of station wagons that offers a luxurious alternative to the ubiquitous sport-utility vehicle.

I’m referring to a raft of wagons from all of the usual European luxury manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Saab and Volvo. The luxury wagon is a safer, saner , but expensive , alternative to an SUV.

A good case in point is our test vehicle, the BMW 528i Sport Wagon, which offers about as much utility and more sportiness than any SUV, save for BMW’s new X5 model. The BMW 5-Series wagons are available in both eight- and six-cylinder versions. Neither, however, offers all-wheel drive.

On the other hand, all-wheel-drive is not the only technology that can keep a car on the road under adverse conditions. For the 2000 model year, all 5-Series BMWs will come equipped with the company’s advanced computer-controlled system that integrates the functions of the vehicle’s antilock brakes and traction control to help eliminate skids during extreme handling situations.

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Although most drivers probably haven’t a clue about how these vehicle stability systems work, they maintain vehicle control in some pretty nasty situations. In fact, these new systems make it very hard to spin a car under wet and slippery conditions. I know because I have tried to do so under controlled conditions, including emergency lane changes on wet pavement.

The BMW 540i Sport Wagon is the fastest wagon on the road, but it is also very pricey. With a base price of $54,000 and a gas-guzzler tax of $1,300, it doesn’t take much ingenuity to run the sticker price north of $60,000. And many people would feel that’s a lot of money for the weekly trip to Price Club.

On the other hand, with a base price of $41,270 that includes the standard destination charge, our test 528i Sport Wagon seems like the BMW bargain of the century. And it’s no slouch in the performance department. Equipped with a manual transmission , as on our test wagon , the six-cylinder Sport Wagon will see 60 miles per hour on its speedometer in less than eight seconds from a standing start.

What was so special about our test car Sport Wagon is that it had absolutely no optional equipment , I have a copy of the window sticker in hand. Now this is an unusual situation in the world of automotive journalism. Most of the time, manufacturers load up press cars with optional goodies.

In the case of the black 528i that sits in my driveway, it appears that BMW wanted to prove that one of its vehicles in basic trim could represent not only a good value, but also a thoroughly satisfactory driving experience. And much to my amazement, the BMW 528i Sport Wagon without a moonroof, without special sport seats, without sporty 17-inch wheels and tires, without any of the optional packages was a highly functional, fast and elegant package.

If there is one word that is most appropriate for the Sport Wagon, that word is “elegant.” BMW has done an exceptional job of extending the basic lines of the sedan to develop its wagon. And the beige leather interior looks rich and inviting. The downside to the refinement of the Sport Wagon package is that the vehicle seems more at home at an elegant tailgate party than packed with runny-nosed kids or hauling bags of peat moss from the local nursery.

True to its brand, the BMW 528i wagon is all about sporty driving. It displays the quick handling reflexes that has come to characterize the BMW 5-Series. In fact, I’d say it handles almost as well as the regular BMW 5-Series sedan, and that’s high praise for anything on four wheels.

BMW is one of the manufacturers that has been very active in addressing occupant safety. For the 2000 model year, BMW offers smart air bags as standard equipment on the Sport Wagon. This technology employs sensors and computer technology to access the conditions of a vehicle impact. Depending on the situation, the airbag will be deployed in a softer mode for less severe collisions. Another BMW safety innovation provides a switch that shuts off the fuel pump in an accident to prevent a vehicle fire.

BMW 528i Sport Wagon

Price as tested: $41,270


Type: 2.8L in-line six

Horsepower: 193 @ 5,500 rpm

Torque: 206 ft. lbs. @ 3,600 rpm


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