(Country Life, 18th
April 1974. By John Taylor. UK.)
With the recent relaxation of the
50mph speed limit on motorways to the previous 70mph (though at the time of
writing other roads are kept to 50mph), one can begin to enjoy motoring in cars
built to cruise safely and comfortably at speeds far in excess of that figure.
In Germany, the speed limit has been removed entirely on their autobahns with a
recommendation to keep to about 80mph maximum, and those of us travelling
through that country this summer will really be able to give our cars a good
work out. Undoubtedly the Germans will be cruising at nearer the 100mph mark,
and those drivers in BMW cars will be among the pace-setters.
German car sales in Britain have taken a step backwards in recent months
simply because of the exchange rate making their prices uncompetitive against
the domestic product. BMW have certainly had their share of the setback, but I
imagine that with the upswing of trading looked for in the spring, their
fortunes may take a turn for the better. I have recently been renewing
acquaintance with their large six-cylinder saloons by testing the 2500 and, if
one can afford it, this car provides excellent transportation for five adults in
high comfort and with all the driver enjoyment that one has come to expect of
the cars from Munich. The only bugbear is the price, which now stands at £4,349
inclusive, compared with the price on its introduction to Britain some five
years ago of under £3,000, including purchase tax.
This is not to infer that the only changes in the intervening period
concern the price. The rear suspension has been modified to improve the ride,
and the fuel-tank capacity has been increased from 16.5 to 17.2 gallons. Inside
the car, driver comfort has been further improved by the use of an
adjustable-length steering column and a seat height that can be varied. In
addition, the rear seats have been redesigned and the instrumentation further
improved. Limited-slip differential is now standard instead of optional
equipment, but power-assisted steering as fitted to the test car, is still an
extra (£151 inclusive) while automatic transmission is also available.
It will be recalled that the large BMW saloons were originally introduced
in 2.5 and 2.8-litre forms of which the latter has subsequently been up-rated to
3-litres. More recently, a further permutation has appeared in the shape of the
525, being the smaller 520 body with the engine from the 2500.
The power unit is a 6-cylinder overhead-camshaft design with seven main
bearings, light-alloy cylinder head and twin Zenith carburettors. The design of
the combustion chambers has received careful attention, which has resulted in
high efficiency and undoubtedly contributed to the smoothness of the unit. This
efficiency is also borne out by the net power output of 150bhp, which for a
2.5-litre car is quite remarkable and compares favourably with many 3-litre
No concessions are made by the body of the big BMW to passing fads and
fancies. Instead, it is a solidly styled three-box shape which is completely
practical. A low waistline materially assists the good all-round visibility and
also accentuates the wide, solid appearance. It was styled by Michelotti, and
BMW have wisely refrained from trying to gild the lily over the years; there are
too many examples one can cite of cars that started nicely and finished up
looking an absolute mess in an attempt to meet the whims of the sales experts.
The body exterior has a four-headlamp system with halogen lights, solid
front and rear bumpers with rubber inserts and overriders, a waistline rubbing
strake, recessed door handles, black windscreen-wiper arms and stainless-steel
trim for contrast.
Wide doors make for easy entry and exit to the front and rear
compartments, the rear doors having only minimal intrusion from the wheelarch.
The interior layout and styling is interesting in that it is restrained yet very
comfortable. BMW proved with this series that interior comforts have no need for
visible ostentation. The same goes for the instruments and controls; nothing
immediately eye catching or outstanding, yet everything singularly well planned
and placed for maximum efficiency and minimum effort. Few cars manage to combine
comfort for the passengers with sheer driving pleasure so effectively.
Seats are broad and firm with adjustable backrests, detachable headrests
and a very comfortable velvet-cloth finish toning in with the carpet. The rear
seats have a folding armrest and are well endowed for head and legroom, the
seats themselves bringing praise from the occupants on a long run. Instrument
layout is notable for its clarity, with large speedometer with trip and a
matching rev counter. Smaller gauges for fuel level and water temperature are
equally clear, and a batch of warning lights is easily read.
The gear lever is comfortably placed in a centre console which
incorporates a very deep cubby hole which was capable of holding my reflex
camera in safety. Steering-wheel diameter seems a mite smaller than originally
and now has a padded centre. Stalks cover the two-speed and intermittent
windscreen washer with wiper, and flasher, dip and direction indicators. The
actual light control is on the fascia, but easy to reach. Heating and
ventilation is well taken care of with a three-speed blower and central
In keeping with the passenger capacity, the luggage boot is both vast and
well shaped, as well as being carpeted and lit. The toolkit neatly housed in the
lid is notably comprehensive, while the spare wheel is beneath the floor. The
engine compartment is well filled with a large air filter hiding the twin
carburettors; even so, accessibility for routine attention is quite good.
Automatic choke starts the car without trouble from cold and the engine
warms without a trace of initial clatter. In fact, the silence of the power unit
is as remarkable as its output, and while one feels the surge of foot-down
acceleration, the actual speed is deceptively high. Pedals are comfortably
placed for heel and toe changes and the car responds equally well to urban
crawling or open road high-speed cruising. The ride is well damped and rough
roads are treated almost with disdain, while the suspension and big Michelin
tyres hold the car in place superbly for a fairly bulky saloon. The power
steering, as fitted on the test car, is one of the best of its kind and while
light for parking is accurate on the move.