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PR

BMW 535d M Sport



With my car booked in for the day at my local MINI dealer, I presented myself in the morning expecting to be handed the keys to the usual courtesy car fare of a bog standard Cooper or similar. I felt optimistic when I glanced around the car park and saw mostly Countrymen and Pacemen - maybe I'd get something a bit more interesting, I thought to myself. Just how much more interesting came as a big surprise, though, when the service guy said: "I've put you in the 535d today..."

At first I thought he was having me on, but no. Mine for the day was a 13-plate BMW 535d M Sport saloon. I had a reasonable idea of what I was getting my hands on but it was only subsequent checking of the stats that revealed the full picture. The three-litre, six-cylinder twin-turbo diesel part I knew. The 313hp and 465lb/ft were the bits I had to look up. This certainly was going to be interesting.

Everyone's familiar with how a 5-series looks, and this one was finished in Glacier Silver which, oddly, seems these days to be one of the less popular paintjobs. It rode on optional 19" '351M' alloys and was otherwise distinguished from its lesser brethren, apart from the badge, by the one-either-side exhaust arrangement.



Opening the door revealed a very inviting interior. It was a traditional coal hole, with the big sport seats - electrically adjustable and heated - trimmed in black Dakota leather with what BMW describes as 'Exclusive' stitching. The trim panels were fineline anthracite wood, and I was pleased to find myself sitting behind BMW's very attractive new sport steering wheel. Powered adjustment for both seats and the steering column made finding a satisfying driving position very easy, so within moments I was ready to go. All BMWs these days seem to start keylessly, so the chunky fob had to go either in my pocket or in the cupholder. As I found in a new 1-series recently, it's slightly inconvenient that there is no dock in the dashboard, as that would be the easiest place to put it. Nevertheless, it feels like a suitably luxurious place to sit, with plenty of expensive materials and well-conceived details abounding. Sitting low in the superb seat, ensconsed alongside the tall transmission tunnel, you can't help but feel pleased to be there and it's not hard to imagine looking forward to embarking on very long journeys.





Going through the start-up process brought the 'multi-function instrument panel' to action. A plain black LCD panel interrupted by only a couple of physical semi-circular silver dial cowl arcs when idle, the space promptly comes to life to display a set of exceptionally clear digital dials. The way they look and move is amazingly realistic, and the flexibility afforded by this format enables some gimmickry - more of which later. The cutting edge instruments were complemented by a head-up display, something I'd not used before. It's an amazingly effective innovation, projecting an image onto the glass that you can read crystal clearly without needing to refocus your eyes from the road ahead. In this case the information it supplied was road speed and basic visual instructions for the sat nav.





The big diesel fires up quietly and settles to a thrumming idle. The 535d is auto-only, which in this case was the 'sport automatic' option for the eight-speed gearbox, meaning a 'sporty' gear selector design (according to BMW), a sport shift mode and steering wheel paddles for DIY gearchanges. Clicking into drive and moving off couldn't be easier as the electronic parking brake disengages itself. Slip easily across the car park, out onto the road, squeeze the right-hand pedal and, first impressions... blimey it's quick!



As you'd expect with the sort of headline figures mentioned above, performance is commanding. By good fortune I wasn't working on this day so immediately decided that a trip into the Cotswolds via the Fosse Way was in order - an ideal environment in which to put the car to the test. On the long straights between Bourton-on-the-Water and Cirencester, the 535d was sensational, its vast grunt enabling it to thump past lines of slower moving traffic with little effort. Left to its own devices, the auto box took little time to kick down and catapult the big BMW down the road, accompanied by a distant, muted snarl from under that long bonnet. The only problem was that the car's ability to pile on speed was not matched by any effective engine braking, typically for a diesel, so slotting into a gap was more difficult than I'm used to, and I was very aware that I was having to show the car now behind me a lot of LED brake light.



For more instantaneous acceleration I switched the drive settings to 'Sport', which immediately spices up the throttle's response. It was at this point that the instrument panel's trickery revealed itself, with the previously traditional dial format being replaced by a pair of red discs that have the look of something you'd see on the flight deck of a spaceship about them. With the transmission in sport mode also, the gearbox did a good impression of a DSG-type affair, responding quickly to the paddles with sharp, punchy shifts. This was a tremendously effective way to launch the car from a standing start, when it feels every bit as strong as its quoted 5.5 seconds 0-60 time leads you to anticipate.



While it does a good job of being a very fast big sport saloon if you work it hard, if anything it feels even more muscular when you're just ambling. The whopping torque ensures that you can just tickle it along with barely any throttle, enjoying that feeling of vast untapped reserves that you only get from mega torquey engines. Around town it's happy to glide along barely above tickover, with slight variations in the tone of the rich hum from the motor the only thing giving away gearchanges. It's fabulously easy to drive in traffic thanks to BMW's stop-start system and auto hold, which is something all automatics should have. Basically, you come to a standstill, the engine switches off, you release the brake pedal and the car stays put until you're ready to go again, at which point a brush if the accelerator pedal rouses the engine seamlessly to life again. Also around town or in speed limited built-up sections of main road, one feature that proved very handy was the speed limiter, operated by a single button on the steering wheel. You reach your desired speed and just press to set it, the press again to disengage.

This car was fitted with the adaptive damping that most press reports appear to have deemed an essential option. I don't believe it had the full 'adaptive drive' that brings with it active anti-roll bars and so on, but nevertheless it served up a choice of five different drive settings: Eco pro, comfort plus, comfort, sport and sport plus. Sport plus seemed to disengage the DSC, so I left that alone, and having experienced the lethargic Eco Pro mode in a 1-series I decided to stay away from that end of the spectrum and concentrate on the middle three. The car defaults to comfort at start-up, which I guess is a sort of everyman setting with measured response to the throttle and a pliant edge to the ride. As desribed earlier, Sport really tightens up the response of the loud pedal, making it much more sensitive in the first part of its travel. It also winds back assistance to the steering, which I didn't especially like as it gave it a slightly gummy feel that you often find with artificially weighty racks. The ride is noticeably more brittle in this mode as well, with the result that body movements are kept in greater check over crests but equally that the 535d transmits jiggly surfaces into the cabin. Oddly, the setting I preferred was comfort plus. This offered the most natural steering, with a nice clean feel, and also enabled the 5 to move more gracefully (and I dare say more quickly) along knobbly tarmac. I can't say it's the most involving car I've ever driven - it's big and isn't one of those cars to which the old cliche of shrinking around you applies, although it corners neatly and precisely with no shortage of grip from the 245-section front and 275-section rear Bridgestone Turanza runflats (which, incidentally, produced what struck me as more than their fair share of road noise). What this means in reality is that you can make very brisk progress along a typical A- or B-road, but it's not a car that you 'hustle' or grab by the scruff of the neck. It's too grown-up for that. The brakes are more than equal to the task of slowing a big barge like this, which comes as no surprise when you see the vast discs and calipers nestling behind those handsome five double spoke wheels.



It's fair to say I hugely enjoyed having the 535d for a day. It was a feelgood driving experience whether you were sitting in town centre traffic or charging through the Cotswolds. The main attractions are its sumptuous interior and the absolutely mighty engine - which, incidentally, is the same as you'll find in other models badged '40d'. However, for all its stoking performance, the manner in which it's delivered is in a way slightly underwhelming. It piles on speed so effortlessly and efficiently that the crucial element of excitement is somehow left out of the equation. It occurred to me that, in my car, a large part of the enjoyment is in working it hard to extract the performance, hearing and feeling it being delivered. In the 535d the surge is there on demand and there isn't really a mechanical reward for tapping in to it - just that distant churn of six dieselly cylinders doing their stuff. Of course, as a car for crossing continents it would be exceptional for the same reasons, not to mention the potential economy. My exploits in the Cotswolds saw it return a claimed 34mpg, and I wasn't exactly sparing the torques.



Mind you, you'd need to achieve plenty of savings on your fuel bill to make up for the final surprise that this example had in store for me. I had a vague idea that it would have had a pretty chunky price tag but, even so, I was rather stunned when I had a go at recreating it on the BMW configurator and ended up, having only added the options I knew it had, with a figure of more than £56,000! Even the basic price exceeds £48,000.

Nevertheless, the 535d is a car that objectively was exceedingly impressive - very fast, dynamically capable, good to drive and well resolved with the right chassis setting selected, and imbued with a sense of great quality and sophistication. Subjectively, it doesn't necessarily push all the petrolhead buttons, but then that's probably not the point.

Dr. Hfuhruhurr

Nice write-up, and as you say, a very pleasant surprise when dropping your car off, but that price!
Michael

Well I thought I was doing well when I got a 123d coupe while mine was in for a service yesterday...

Brilliant write up and what a car. Really, really like these.
gonnabuildabuggy

Dr. Hfuhruhurr wrote:
Nice write-up, and as you say, a very pleasant surprise when dropping your car off, but that price!


Wow, just wow!

what a great car.

I'm not at all suprised by the price, in fact I'd say it was cheap. It's got a lot, lot, lot more kit than mine and is 7 yrs newer and mine was just shy of £60K new.

Great write up too.
Martin

Fabulous car, I'd love one and the spec sounds perfect.

Great loan car!

A quick check on broadspeed suggests the real cost would be £45,000 which I don't think is expensive at all.
Chip Butty

Massive discounts are available on the 640d Gran Coupe - apparently you can get into them for a little over £50k with some extra toys.

In that case, it's probably worth pushing for a 640d GC over a 535d (nicer interior with leather wrapped dash and door tops, etc) .
JohnC

Chip Butty wrote:
Massive discounts are available on the 640d Gran Coupe - apparently you can get into them for a little over £50k with some extra toys.

In that case, it's probably worth pushing for a 640d GC over a 535d (nicer interior with leather wrapped dash and door tops, etc) .


Around £16K discount on 6 series at the moment and 0% interest make a 640D either Coupe or GP cheaper to buy on finance than the 435d XDrive!
JohnC

Good write up Piers.
When overtaking I find mine quicker just changing down one or two gears with the paddles rather than using kickdown which tends to take you to a gear lower than it needs. I love surfing on the torque.
Big Blue

I like the new 5. The interior actually looks smashing.

Nice review.
Martin

Geek/spotter alert......If you'd gone into the settings you would have been able to get a more detailed head up display, with proper lane guidance rather than just simple directional arrows.
Andy C

Great review, Piers.

It sounds like a great car, I just can't get on with the looks.  Give me an E60 any day.

Do they do this engine in the 3?  A 335d estate would appeal.
Martin

It isn't in the 3 series estate yet, but it will be along with 4 wheel drive as std.
JohnC

Martin wrote:
It isn't in the 3 series estate yet, but it will be along with 4 wheel drive as std.


It has just been released in the saloon and you can order it in the Touring. They are expected to be available mid to late November. Sytner have a gorgeous looking blue saloon in its used (or not used) section but disappointingly the tail pipes are together at one side instead of being split one each side as in the 335i and the old 335D.
PR

Martin wrote:
Geek/spotter alert......If you'd gone into the settings you would have been able to get a more detailed head up display, with proper lane guidance rather than just simple directional arrows.


I did spend about half an hour just sitting in the car exploring the setting menus but barely scratched the surface. I could have been there all day! On the move the sat nav icons on the HUD were a bit more detailed with the likes of accurate roundabout graphics and possibly road names (but I might have made that last one up).

One thing I didn't mention is the fantastic main sat nav screen, which must be one of the best out there with pin sharp detail and a wide choice of views. I preferred the 3D view seen on the left-hand side of the display in the pic above.
Frank Bullitt

Chip Butty wrote:
Massive discounts are available on the 640d Gran Coupe - apparently you can get into them for a little over £50k with some extra toys.

In that case, it's probably worth pushing for a 640d GC over a 535d (nicer interior with leather wrapped dash and door tops, etc) .


640d is at £53k on broadspeed but they have 535d's at £39k which seems reasonable.

I'd love to have a go in a 535d, the A4 3.0TDI I had use of a few years ago felt slightly other-worldly, I would imagine these are a similar jump again!
Martin

PR wrote:
Martin wrote:
Geek/spotter alert......If you'd gone into the settings you would have been able to get a more detailed head up display, with proper lane guidance rather than just simple directional arrows.


One thing I didn't mention is the fantastic main sat nav screen, which must be one of the best out there with pin sharp detail and a wide choice of views. I preferred the 3D view seen on the left-hand side of the display in the pic above.


The graphics are fractionally better than mine, but most would struggle to notice the difference.  The main difference is the secondary display in the instrument cluster which mine doesn't have.

It is a fantastic system and makes others look dated as well as being an appreciable upgrade from a portable system unlike the  current Mercedes Command system which is no better.

I usually have the 3D version too, but full screen.  I only switch to split screen when I need more detailed junction info and I have the current trip info in the small screen. It switches automatically to lane guidance or detailed junctions.
PG

The seats looks rather good as does the wheel and I admire BMW for sticking to the two big round dials plus a fuel and temp instrumentation. But I'm not sure I could get used to those awful red sports dials. They look rather naff. I hope they can be disabled?

I guess the write up just goes to show that big diesels are the best real world engines to have. But that the drive lacks soul. A big petrol has that "something".
Martin

PG wrote:
The seats looks rather good as does the wheel and I admire BMW for sticking to the two big round dials plus a fuel and temp instrumentation. But I'm not sure I could get used to those awful red sports dials. They look rather naff. I hope they can be disabled?

I guess the write up just goes to show that big diesels are the best real world engines to have. But that the drive lacks soul. A big petrol has that "something".


They're a £500 option, so easy to disable by not ticking the box when ordering!

I'd go for the full black panel display rather than the multifunctional one.
TreVoR

That is a rather splendid loan car!  Out of interest (I really like the new 5) I went on the configurator and specced a 550i Touring and the list came out at nearly 70k!  

I think I will be keeping the Benz for the foreseeable!
PhilD

PG wrote:
The seats looks rather good as does the wheel


PR wrote:

it's not hard to imagine looking forward to embarking on very long journeys.


These are my thoughts. An estate would make a great car for a trip down to the south of France.
Parm

Fab write up Piers.
PG

Martin wrote:
PG wrote:
The seats looks rather good as does the wheel and I admire BMW for sticking to the two big round dials plus a fuel and temp instrumentation. But I'm not sure I could get used to those awful red sports dials. They look rather naff. I hope they can be disabled?

I guess the write up just goes to show that big diesels are the best real world engines to have. But that the drive lacks soul. A big petrol has that "something".


They're a £500 option, so easy to disable by not ticking the box when ordering!

I'd go for the full black panel display rather than the multifunctional one.


You cannot be serious? You have to pay £500 for some bloody awful naff red dials? Who on earth ticks that option box?
Martin

A fan of spaceships?  

£510 or £255 if you've already ticked the head up display box.
Andy C

Just been looking at the 335d:

313bhp
465lb/ft from 1500rpm
52mpg
0.60 - 4.8 seconds

:O
Mark

TreVoR wrote:
That is a rather splendid loan car!  Out of interest (I really like the new 5) I went on the configurator and specced a 550i Touring and the list came out at nearly 70k!  

I think I will be keeping the Benz for the foreseeable!


Believe it or not - the 'new' 5 Series is now over halfway through it's production life.

Excellent write-up Piers. And, a hell of a car!
Stuntman

Good stuff, Piers, I enjoyed reading that.
Roadsterstu

Great write up, Piers.  Not a bad courtesy car at all.

Did you leave the tyre marks on the road surface...?
Racing Teatray

Yes, very professional. Sounds in essence like my 330d Touring. Objectively an excellent, excellent car. Subjectively, a little too uninvolving and exciting.

I suspect all big diesels must share that characteristic.

But overall, I do very much like the current 5, inside and out. An MSport-spec 535i Touring in dark blue with those alloys would go down a treat if I needed a family wagon. Although I'd probably try and make do with a 335i.
PhilD

Racing Teatray wrote:


An MSport-spec 535i Touring in dark blue with those alloys would go down a treat if I needed a family wagon. Although I'd probably try and make do with a 335i.


Me too. (though in reality I'll try and make do with a 3 door punto   ) Back to dream land if i was in the market for a 5 saloon I'd also look at a 7 as it doesn't look that much bigger to my eyes and is a handsome beast.
Martin

The 7 series is cheaper on a like for like basis as well.

There's a carbon black facelift 520d M Sport parked outside my office today (Thrifty Rentacar) with the new 18" M Sport alloys and they look massively better than the old ones.  The 19" upgrade is no longer an essential upgrade, although I'd probably still choose them.
Racing Teatray

I've never liked the styling of the current 7-series.
PhilD

Racing Teatray wrote:
I've never liked the styling of the current 7-series.


In case anyone can't tell the difference  

http://f10.5post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=452689
Martin

Can't you find one that compares the facelifted models?    
Racing Teatray

PhilD wrote:
Racing Teatray wrote:
I've never liked the styling of the current 7-series.


In case anyone can't tell the difference  

http://f10.5post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=452689


Sure they are sisters, but one is the big ugly sister and one is the cute smaller sister. As they say "simples".
PhilD

Racing Teatray wrote:
PhilD wrote:
Racing Teatray wrote:
I've never liked the styling of the current 7-series.


In case anyone can't tell the difference  

http://f10.5post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=452689


Sure they are sisters, but one is the big ugly sister and one is the cute smaller sister. As they say "simples".


More like twins where one is more fond of pies.
PhilD

Like Mo and his twin brother

Roadrunner

A great write up. Looks to be an unbeatable mile muncher, but one which would still leave you wanting a Caterham or Morgan in the garage for weekend hoonery.

I didn't realise that the 5 and 7 were so similar inside. I had to do several clicks backwards and forwards between the pictures on the comparison link and Piers' car to decide which was which. Do slightly prefer the 5, though.

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