2011 BMW 535i Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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BMW's 5 Series sedans have long been a mainstay in the German manufacturer's model offerings, falling in between the ever-popular 3 and 7 Series models. Sales of 5 Series sedans over the first five generations total in excess of 5.5 million making it a leader in the premium midsize sedan class.

In keeping with a predominant trend within BMW production, each Series seems to equal or surpass the Series that formerly preceded it. In the case of this latest iteration 5 Series, which represents the sixth generation of the iconic sedan, the new model is based on a newly developed vehicle architecture, which is also featured in the BMW 7 Series luxury sedans through a joint development and production program between the two Series.

In other words, the redesigned 5 Series features many design cues that are synonymous with those of the 7 Series. The new 5 Series lineup is now longer, wider and a tad lower than before. In essence, it might easily be mistaken for a 7 Series sedan. The frontal appearance features the traditional twin-kidney grille, flanked by bold, wrap-around headlamps with familiar "Corona" rings. A lower air intake curves and flows into the forward wheel wells, continuing into a strong shoulder line, with a repetitive lower rocker character line. The hood sports its own set of lines and angles, with the outer line moving onto the sharply raked windscreen and over the curved cabin roofline. All lines merge into a finishing, similar theme aft. The blacked-out "B" pillar and reverse kink "Sail" panel gives the sedan a racy, coupe-like presence. The deck is short, giving the effect of an integrated spoiler. The staggered 19-inch, "V" spoke alloy wheels and dual exhaust tips add to the sporty flavour of the 5 Series.

The interior displays a precise functionality along with a warmth and ambience that blend together harmoniously in an unmistakable style and clear orientation toward the driver. In addition, BMW's infamous iDrive is now more user friendly.

Three engines are available to power the 5 Series: a 3.0-litre naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder that makes 240 horses drives the 528i; the 535i draws its motive force from a 3.0-litre single-turbo inline six that cranks out 300 horses; and finally at the top of the heap, a 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that generates 400 horsepower moves the 550i down the road. The standard gearbox for the 535i and 550i is a six-speed manual, with an available choice of two eight-speed automatics: a regular or a sport-programmed version for all models. Also available is BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system on the 535i, 550i and 5 Series GT.

My test Bimmer was the 535i with a 6-speed manual transmission, finished in Titanium Silver metallic outside and a rich Cinnamon Brown Dakota leather interior with contrasting Gray accents and satin finished dark wood trim. The base price was set at $62,300 while the final sticker read $77,100 after adding the Dynamic Handling Package, Executive Package, Sport Package, and Technology Package. The inventory of standard features was both lengthy and impressive as well.

The new 535i epitomizes a near perfect blend of modern design elements and dynamic performance capability. Not to be forgotten are the innovative comfort and safety features that make up an executive rapid express sedan that promises to keep it at the top of its class. BMW "EfficientDynamics" technologies are featured in appropriate specific combinations on each model, including assists such as Brake Energy Regeneration, Electric Power Steering and on-demand operation of engine accessory drives. In addition, lightweight materials are used intelligently, ensuring vehicle balance and lowering overall weight. For example, components such as doors, hood, front fenders, and suspension assemblies are constructed of aluminum.

Admittedly, the 535i doesn't feel like a 7 Series luxury sedan for the obvious reason that it's not nearly as large, nor does it weigh as much. It is however sumptuously appointed while still managing to be more affordable than the flagship 7 Series.

The 3.0-litre single turbo inline six adds a pleasing amount of extra oomph over the normally aspirated version, and is the ideal choice unless one just can't live without the additional 100 horses provided by the V8. The manual transmission's short throws are precise enough, but the clutch was on the sensitive side of take-up off the line unless the engine revs were spooled up.

The ride quality served up by the Sport Package is firmer than the standard setup, but was neither harsh nor offensive. Handling characteristics were significantly enhanced by the Dynamic and Sport Packages, delivering a driving experience more akin to that of a sport coupe than of a 5-passenger sedan.

Bottom-line -- the latest 5 Series sedan now surpasses the performance capabilities of early 7 Series sedans. With that in mind, what will the 7 Series become?

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, BMW, 2011, 535i, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: BMW

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