BMW stylist Chris Bangle whipped up a heated controversy with the 7-Series.
So much so that dealers on some countries have blamed lower than expected sales on the way the car looks, and have reportedly demanded the car's lines be revised.
There's been much speculation about the reception the new 5-Series - which uses styling themes pioneered on the 7 - would receive.
Some photographs suggested the car would look like a small version of the 7-Series, with some of the same awkward mix of angles and curves.
The cars debuted in New Zealand last week and in the metal are far more striking and impressive than photographs have suggested.
In the same way the 7-Series' iDrive control system has been simplified for the 5, so too have the lines been cleaned up, the styling touches made less extreme.
The new version of the mid-sized four-door that is widely regarded as one of the world's finest cars to drive looks very good indeed.
At last week's media launch near Taupo, BMW New Zealand inserted a current 5-Series among the newcomers.
The new cars looked evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and though the existing 5 is still a handsome car, the new models made it look a tad old-fashioned.
Six-speeds are the only gearboxes BMW is offeri ng in the new 5 Series.
Both the manual and automatic versions have six speeds, the auto also coming with a sequential manual gearshift.
The new 5 Series uses a refined and simpler version of the iDrive control introduced by BMW on the 7 Series in 2002.
The main screen displays four compass points instead of the original system's eight.
The transmission console is curved toward the driver to make using the iDrive controller an intuitive action.
The 5 Series is the first use of iDrive with a traditional gearshift. The manual or automatic shift lever is mounted - as it always has been in the 5 Series - on the transmission tunnel, with the iDrive controller behind it.
A multifunction steering wheel is standard across the range and includes volume controls for the sound system.
Cabin headroom is up 10mm over the outgoing model at 993mm front, 967mm rear.
The new car's longer wheelbase gives 46mm more legroom in the rear cabin, and the wider body also gives increased shoulder room for front and rear occupants - 1485mm front and 1496mm rear.
Though the new 5s have run-flat tyres, NZ models also have a space-saver spare wheel.
The run-flat tyres have sidewall stiffeners that let them be driven even if all the air is lost from the tyre.
The new 5's mainstay engine is the petrol Bi-Vanos six cylinder in two capacity sizes, 2.5-litre or 3.0-litre.
Both engines' deliver 90 percent of available torque between 1500 and 6000rpm.
The bi-turbo, common-rail diesel six develops 160kW at 4000rpm and 500Nm of peak torque at 2000rpm.
BMW says the diesel 5 will accelerate to 100km/h in 7.1 seconds. It completes the 80 to 120km/h time exposed to danger (TED) test in 5.4 seconds.
BMW says the petrol 530i SE will hit 100km/h in 6.9 seconds and go from 80-120km/h in 7.3.
The 525i figures are 7.9 and 8.4s.
The 525i's top speed is 238km/h. The 530i SE's is electronically-limited to 250km/h.
The new 5-Series has active steering which BMW says offers relaxing motorway driving, excellent feel in twisty going and "perfect levels of power assistance at parking speeds."
It combines a steer-by-wire system with a mechanical system. A planetary gear and electric motor provide additional power assistance when required. They determine the level of assistance by processing feedback from sensors that measure yaw rate, acceleration and steering angle.
The information is also used by the Dynamic Stability Control III system. The two systems work together to minimise understeer or oversteer.
If it develops a problem, Active Steering defaults to allow steering simply by the car's regular Servotronic set-up.
New 5-Series models from the 530 SE upwards have Adaptive Light Control which is designed to provide improved headlight spread at night.
BMW says it improves illumination by up to 90 percent during cornering.
The headlights turn in response to commands from an electronic controller measuring yaw rate, steering wheel angle and road speed, to improve the driver's visibility in corners at all speeds.
The driver activates the adaptive mode by selecting the Automatic setting on the headlight switch.
The new 5 Series has driver's and front passenger's front airbags, Advanced ITS head airbag systems and side (thorax) airbags, along with seat occupancy detectors.
The new 5-Series is also available with the latest version of the semi-active cornering system, Dynamic Drive, which was introduced with the new 7 Series.
The system reduces body roll during cornering by as much as 80 percent without compromising ride quality.
The new 5 Series is taller, wider and longer than the previous model, and has a 62mm longer wheelbase. That helps improve rear cabin legroom, an area where the highly-regarded previous model drew strong criticism.
Boot space is also improved - to 555 litres.
The new 5 Series' body is designed to have maximum strength from minimum weight.
It use a new technique that combines steel and aluminium in one bodyshell.
Extensive use of aluminium in the car's front end is made possible though advanced new bonding technologies. The bonnet and front guards are aluminium, as are many suspension components.
That's helped reduce the new 5 Series' weight by up to 70 kilograms compared model-for-model with the previous 5.
Removing unnecessary weight from the front of the car has helped achieve near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution.
530s here first
The first new 5 Series models on sale in New Zealand are the 530i SE petrol-engined cars 530d SE diesels.
The 525i, 525i SE six cylinder petrol and 545i V8 petrol versions arrive in December.
The 530i and 530d are available only in the high specification SE version.
The 530i costs $120,900 with six-speed manual transmission, and $124,900 with adaptive six-speed automatic.
The 530d is only available with the six speed automatic and is $119,900.
The 525i will cost $94,900 (manual) and $98,900 (automatic).
The 525i SE will be $102,900 (manual) and $106,900 (automatic).
The 545i ASE is only available with the automatic transmission and will be $162,900.
Touring (station wagon) versions will be available to specific customer order from the middle of 2004.
BMW NZ national marketing manager Mack McCutcheon says there's already been strong interest in the new 5 Series.
" We have already sold the greater portion of our 2003 allocation (and) are now taking orders for 2004 delivery."