2011 BMW 535d Sedan Review and Road Test

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Driver assistance systems are particularly well-integrated into the car and the more I spend time in cars with these sophisticated systems, the more I become convinced that they are a necessity, not a luxury.  Everyone is subject to a car’s blind spot, so, unless you are driving a convertible, blind-spot detection (a light blinks if there is a car in the blind spot) has universal appeal.  Ditto for the lane-departure warning system that makes the steering wheel vibrate if the car wanders out of the lane.  Far too many accidents take place when drivers momentarily lose their focus (or worse, fall asleep) at the wheel.

Equally useful are an active cruise control system that can bring the car to a complete stop and resume when appropriate and the swiveling adaptive headlights, reminiscent of those of the Citroën DS, which move along with the steering wheel.

While I can’t argue against the fact that night vision with pedestrian detection adds a layer of safety, and I like BMW’s implementation of it in the Central Information Display compared to the way Mercedes-Benz places it in the instrument cluster, it’s still too expensive to have mass appeal or impact.

One fairly inexpensive but useful feature is the High Beam Assistant, which detects light sources (such as taillights or the headlights of oncoming traffic or street lamps) in the vicinity and dips the headlights according to traffic conditions.

Cameras abound in the 535d.  Not only are there two in the front bumper and one adjacent to the rearview mirror, but each exterior mirror gets one as well and one is mounted near the rear number plate.  The Top View system (introduced on the new 7er Series) combines these images into useful displays that give additional guidance (beyond the excellent Parking Distance Control system) when parking in cramped quarters.  Side View displays images from the front to monitor traffic before entering a street.

The turbo-charged diesel starts up with a purposeful growl.  A shift into drive promises massive amounts of torque, so much that it’s easy to forget that the car also uses a mere 6.1l/100 km (38.5 mpg) in highway driving.

On our 528 km (328 mile) drive from Munich to Bratislava to Vienna and back to Munich, the 535d delivered excellent real-world fuel economy, using only 7.1 l/100 km (34 mpg) at an average speed of 111 km/h (68.9 mph).

I’ve always had a soft spot for the BMW 5 Series and I’ve owned two of them, the classic E39 and the controversial E60 (albeit as a 550i M-Sport model in carbon black metallic).  The 535d starts with the classic design language of the fourth generation (E39) 5 Series, reinterpreted for the twenty-first century, integrates and improves on the latest in technology from the current (Fo1) 7er Series, and, just for good measure, adds the blistering torque and fuel economy of BMW’s advanced diesel technology.

The 535d is elegant, luxurious, a blast to drive – and very fuel efficient.  The car’s main competitor in the U.S. (when it eventually gets here, that is) will be the Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec, which is more of a luxo cruiser in comparison although, in our drive to Boston, it used only 6.7 l/100 km (35 mpg) with an average speed of 109 km/h (67.7 mph).  With rising oil prices and levels of greenhouse gases, the addition of the BMW 535d to BMW NA’s lineup should be a top priority.



2011 BMW 535d Sedan
Base price/price-as-tested €56,000/€85,530
Drivetrain Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 3.0 liter turbo charged i-6  diesel
HP/Torque (pound-feet) 300 / 442
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Curb weight (lbs) 5202
Wheelbase (inches) 116.8
Length x width x height (inches) 192.8 x 73.2 x 57.6
0-60 mph (seconds) 5.7
City/highway fuel economy (mpg) 29.7 / 38.5





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