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Old 10-22-2003, 09:03 AM   #1 (permalink)
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German cars are notorious for skimping on standard equipment. So it's worth knowing that if you want to perk up the package of your new BMW 530d SE, it's possible to tick all the boxes and boost the price from 30,950 to a huge 54,839.

But the options aren't limited to bigger alloys and softer leather. Some are much more intriguing. Alongside ACC (radar-guided Active Cruise Control at 1,380) and the 1,550 Dynamic Drive anti-roll system sits Active Steering. It will add 810 to your final bill, but what does it do, and is it worth the outlay?

The idea is a good one: remove as much steering effort as possible by varying not only the amount of assistance, but also how much wheel-twirling is required. This means that at low speeds a little input equals a lot of steering, with the ratio decreasing as you go faster. With only 1.5 turns lock-to-lock for parking, the system makes sense in tight spots, although you still have to shuffle the wheel through your hands. BMW's renowned steering feel has also suffered, and as the set-up lacks feedback at higher speeds, we'd stick to the standard system.

FRIST OPINION
We already know the 5-Series is a superb executive car, but what's on trial here is the radical Active Steering system. An 810 option, it alters the steering ratio. But although it reduces parking effort, it fails to deliver enough driver involvement on the move. More development is needed.
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