By on October 24, 2009

(courtesy: New York Times)

Stop typing in the comments section about how another BMW won another comparison. If the BMW came second fiddle to the Audi or the Jaguar, you would be typing that the BMW got second only because it got first so many times before, and we were wrong. So first, second or last, the BMW gets this ranking based on merit, as I see it. Drive the top three, decide on your own. However, if I were to spend my hard earned money, I would purchase the “Ultimate Driving, all weather Sedan”, the BMW 535xi.

This car may be magnificent to drive, but unfortunately, the 5-series was the BMW most mangled by Bangle, who festooned it with a boatload of ineffective and downright silly styling details, such as the “flame surfaced” headlight treatment, the slab sides, and the quizzically-upturned taillights. Still, the 535xi, in profile, it evokes the proper BMW proportioning, and as a bonus, the build quality rivals your average Rolex. One highlight: the $3,000 M Sport package, which includes M5-lookalike body panels and wheels, plus wonderful multi-contour sport seats.

BMW-535xiInside, the styling story isn’t much better. The 5-series’ interior was a strange, austere cave when it first came out in 2003, and while it was restyled and given richer materials over the years, it still looks awkward when compared to the beautiful cabins in the Mercedes, Jaguar, Audi…. ok, so BMW crafted the weirdest interior of the test, but that’s like saying “The Bachelor” has no pretty women to choose from. The first thing the driver sees when he climbs in is the unsightly hump on the top of the dashboard, which is there to accommodate the navigation, climate and radio displays. Newer designs, such as the Cadillac CTS, instruct on how to integrate this sort of thing without the hump. Instead of enveloping the driver, the 535xi’s dash seems to curve away at the corners. The effect is odd, to say the least.

Then there’s IDrive. No more to be said about IDrive.

But the news isn’t all bad inside – materials and assembly are impeccable, the instrumentation is brilliantly simple and stylish, the switchgear feels aviation-grade The sport seats (part of the M-Sport package) are dead solid perfect – comfortable, highly adjustable, and supportive in any driving situation without being too constrictive. The 535xi’s rear compartment constricts legrrom but the seats themselves are well-shaped and extremely comfortable.

With the styling demerits out of the way, the driver can focus on what really counts: the drive, and that starts with what may well be the best all-around powerplant in the world. The basic unit is BMW’s classic 3.0 liter straight six, featuring direct fuel injection and BMW’s Double Vanos variable valve timing; the star of the show, though, is the twin-turbo system. Unlike turbo engines of old (or the ones in 2009 Saabs), which were out to lunch until the boost kicked in at 3500 rpm or so, the 535xi’s system delegates power and torque responsibilities to individual turbos; the smaller one handles boosts torque at low speeds, and the larger one handles high-rpm power. bmw335xiint

The results are amazing: instant, pin-you-back-in-your-seat power off the line, a remarkably broad power curve (peak torque is at a Peterbilt-like 1400 rpm), big-time thrust available at any speed, and absolutely no turbo lag. Add in the all-wheel-drive system, and the 535xi simply picks itself up from a standstill and leaves…quickly. Instrumented tests reveal a 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds, but the 535xi feels even quicker than that. As a bonus, the 3.0 has an exquisitely refined exhaust note, and it is respectably efficient (16/25 per the EPA).

Diesel, Schmiesel – here’s your engine of the future, ladies and gents.

The 535xi can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission – unique to this class – but the test vehicle was equipped with a six-speed automatic with a an excellent sequential shift function. Purists may prefer the manual, but the 535xi’s six speed felt a lot like the four-speed on my dad’s old 733i: slightly rubbery, with a too-long throw and excessive clutch travel. Given that instrumented tests found a minimal difference in acceleration, I’ll offer myself up as a heretic and recommend the automatic, especially with the paddle shift option.

Toss a challenging road at the 535xi, and it responds like Emmitt Smith carving up a defense in his prime. The key is its’ gem of a steering rack: sharp, precise, and communicative. The chassis is set up almost flawlessly to balance ride and handling, and the brakes feel bionic. All this makes the 535xi the best in class by far on a challenging road. On the highway, the 535xi trails the Mercedes and Lexus for long-distance cruising serenity, but it’s still plenty quiet and stable, and it has the same engaging personality it does on back roads.

Best ever?Add all this up, and you have a sublime driving experience – best in this class by a wide margin.

So why doesn’t this car dominate the sales charts in this class? The styling is one answer; IDrive is also a major turnoff for other buyers. But the biggest culprit is the window sticker. Driving nirvana has its price, and Lord knows BMW makes you pay – the base here is a stiff $53,000, and at that price, you’re still on the hook for other goodies like navigation, premium sound, satellite radio, and keyless entry.

But the flip side is that for that money, you get the aforementioned performance envelope, but you also get to set up your car almost completely to your liking. Unlike its Japanese competitors, who outfit their cars in a one-size-fits-all configuration, BMW offers a huge array of trim options on the 535xi: no less than 11 different exterior colors, four leather colors in two different “hands,” and four interior trim options (three wood, one aluminum). That’s something that speaks to buyers in this class, as does the maintenance program, which lets the owner pass the bill for all scheduled maintenance to BMW for four years. Hey, if they have the balls to charge $750 for satellite radio when Hyundai tosses it in for free on the $19,000 Sonata, they ought to pick up the tab for something.

Then again, what price do you put on what may well be the best all-around car in the world?

Performance: 5/5

Possibly the best all-around powerplant on planet Earth – powerful, extremely responsive, wonderful to listen to, and remarkably efficient

Ride: 4/5

Amazingly well controlled for a car with this kind of handling prowess, if not quite as supple as, say, the Jaguar

Handling: 5/5

Flawless over the road at any speed

Exterior: 2/5

Classic BMW proportioning is attractive, but Bangle-era styling details ruin the design

Interior: 2/5

Instrument panel is six kinds of ugly; IDrive is improved but still a pain to use

Fit and Finish: 5/5

Can the guys who built this car do my kitchen?

Toys: 1/5

BMW nickel-and-dimes you for every single option, many of which are standard on competitors, and all the options are expensive

Desirability: 5/5

Paraphrasing Han Solo: she may not be the prettiest in the bunch, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.

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75 Comments on “Import Sport Sedan Comparison: First Place: BMW 535xi...”


  • avatar
    iceracer

    In 2007 Jay Shoemaker reviewed the 535xi for TTAC. He stated that driving this car in the real world commute was torture. The throttle tip in was described as insufficient at first then way too much. The brakes were grabby and the transmission was jerky when decelerating. Michael I wonder if you could comment on how the 535xi felt in every day traffic.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    I agree with everything Michael says, but have 3 things to add:

    1: a small trunk and tightish back seats are bad news in a mid-sized sedan.
    2:It’s too expensive when properly equipped.
    3: Too bad you’d have to look at it every day if you bought it. The new (2011) looks much more promising to me.

  • avatar
    tsofting

    @ZCD2.7T
    “small trunk”, tight back seat”. I don’ know what you compare with when you say this, a Cadillac Deville, or a pickup truck? My subjective feeling is that the trunk is as big as can be expected, and my objective observation is that the trunk is both longer and taller than the trunk of my wife’s E39. Back seat, same thing there, and if that is tight, help is on its way in the new F10 which is expected to stretch the wheelbase by about 4″.

    As to the review; great review, gives a bimmerphile a good feeling to see a 6/7 year old design beat the crap out of brand new ones!

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    @ tsofting:

    I’m comparing them to the back seats and trunks of the other cars in this test – the Bimmer’s natural competitors. The only one that has similar or less room is the Jag, and it’s also very small back there, just like its predecessor the S-class was.

    The e39 was/is very handsome, but is not competitive with the current crop of sedans when it comes to roominess.

    To me, a mid-sized 4-door sedan ought to be able to seat 4 adults in comfort and hold all their luggage for a road trip. The Bimmer can’t really do that.

  • avatar
    TZ

    Interesting. I admit that I haven’t read all of the installments in this series, but I find it curious that the Audi, a car that garnered no less than 4 points in every category, lost to a car that received two 2-point scores and one 1-point score.

    The final result seems to be based primarily on the “desirability” factor.

    I’m having flashbacks to just about every C&D comparo I’ve ever read. Fun to drive! Gotta have!

  • avatar
    ajla

    Stop typing in the comments section about how another BMW won another comparison.

    Never!
    __________________________
    If I wasn’t blown away from the time I spent with a 2005 530i, I doubt that I’d like the 2010 535xi much more.

    Also, even though I agree the N54 engine is a gem, I’d put it below GM’s LS7 and AMG’s M156 in terms of overall greatness.
    ___________________________

    Anyway, even though I ended up disagreeing 100% with how you ordered the cars in this comparo, I did enjoy reading your take on everything.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Pretty much have to agree with the BMW winning. Then again I’m somewhat of a fanboy.

    I think the new E looks hideous, especially those contrived bulges on the rear flanks. I know it’s supposed to be some kind of reference to some 50s Merc but IMO it doesn’t work. I’m not a big fan of the Japanese offerings either: if I’d have to drive the Lexus I think my soul would die a little every day. The Infiniti has at least some appeal to the enthousiast but has some flaws that aren’t allowed in this segment.

    I would probably choose the Jag over the Audi in 2nd cause the Audi is too loud and essentially FWD. I like the A6 Avant model though.

    It doesn’t bode well for the competition though that the BMW is still on top now now and the promising looking F10 is around the corner…Maybe we Europeans can also finally enjoy the biturbo I6 in the 5 series when the new model arrives, cause till now for some reason that hasn’t happened yet (it’s available in almost any other model, but not the 5 series here).

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Michael,

    I think a drive in this car with the manual transmission would change your mind. I took a 535i (RWD) out for a spin. What a hoot. I’m sure the auto is nice, rev matching on down shifts, etc., but that’s a far cry from the level of control you have when rowing your own.

    You don’t have to drive like an a-hole to enjoy this car, but it helps. Alternatively, you could find some winding roads around where you live and ring this thing out, which is what the test drive was for me. The car is awesome, but as soon as you get out, you realize you like the ugly girl. But damn, she’s good in bed.

  • avatar

    I drove a 535iX Touring and was a little disappointed with ultimate thrust. It was like finally watching a move that has been overhyped, it was good but nothing spectacular. I also believe there is in fact some turbo lag that is detectable in certain circumstances but overall a great turbo engine. Like the smaller class, the BMW is absolutely the best sports sedan but they are getting priced tot he point of pushing enthusiasts away and the BMW brand image is very tarnished because of the status seeking types they seem to attract. Still brilliant car, but I’m rooting for a sorted out XF Jag in due course

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    @ JJ :
    October 26th, 2009 at 4:52 pm
    “….cause the Audi is…essentially FWD.”

    Well, except for it having quattro full-time AWD (read: NEVER FWD) and a 40/60 front/rear torque split.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    iceracer :
    October 26th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    In 2007 Jay Shoemaker reviewed the 535xi for TTAC. He stated that driving this car in the real world commute was torture. The throttle tip in was described as insufficient at first then way too much. The brakes were grabby and the transmission was jerky when decelerating. Michael I wonder if you could comment on how the 535xi felt in every day traffic.

    Thinking back to the times I drive this car (it was a while ago), I didn’t intentionally hit heavy traffic to see how it effective it was as an urban warrior, but I didn’t note any real difficulties in the suburban setting I drove in. I can see how this car might be edgier, and thus a little less relaxing to drive, than, say, the Lexus, but it’s far from unpleasant around town.

    Hope that helps. Thanks for your question!

  • avatar
    Newyokie

    @ZCD2.7T
    I don’t get the leg room/trunk size comparison either. Leg room? Maybe. Back seats are reserved for my toddlers, so I can’t comment. My trunk contains 2 strollers and a golf bag as i type. It’s huge.

    @jkross22
    Ugly girl, good in bed is hilarious. My lease ends next year. I’m definitely eyening the new 5er, (perhaps an M5 this time). Hopefully it’s the pretty girl, good in bed type.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    jkross22 :
    October 26th, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Michael,

    I think a drive in this car with the manual transmission would change your mind. I took a 535i (RWD) out for a spin. What a hoot. I’m sure the auto is nice, rev matching on down shifts, etc., but that’s a far cry from the level of control you have when rowing your own.

    You don’t have to drive like an a-hole to enjoy this car, but it helps. Alternatively, you could find some winding roads around where you live and ring this thing out, which is what the test drive was for me. The car is awesome, but as soon as you get out, you realize you like the ugly girl. But damn, she’s good in bed.

    LOL…

    Well, I wouldn’t say the 535 is ugly per se…more like an average girl wearing Lady Gaga’s clothes and makeup. But, as you say, damned if she couldn’t suck-start a leaf blower (shout out to James Cameron for that line).

    I actually did drive the six-speed 535 (it was AWD – you can’t find RWD ones around here), and I actually preferred the slushbox. Go figure. Maybe I’m just used to smaller cars, but I found the clutch travel was oddly long, and the throws were as well. I never missed a shift if I didn’t floor the clutch, but it felt odd doing that in such na expensive car. Maybe if they could install a short-throw kit in it…?

    I actually found the slushbox easier to drive quickly, and with the sequential shifters, you get a lot of the responsiveness and control you find with the manual. Plus, it’s a no cost option. Try it out and let me know what you think.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    Newyokie :
    October 26th, 2009 at 5:30 pm
    @ZCD2.7T
    I don’t get the leg room/trunk size comparison either. Leg room? Maybe. Back seats are reserved for my toddlers, so I can’t comment. My trunk contains 2 strollers and a golf bag as i type. It’s huge.

    I have 4 baseball bags in the truck of my ’04 A6, one with catchers gear, and was able to fit in some grocerie bags. I’m 6’2 and have about 4 inches of legroom in the back when sitting behind the drivers seat (and I have the driver’s seat set pretty far back). The C5 A6 has tons of room and I appreciate having it. Would less passenger room stop me from getting a car if it had the best engine/performance? Nope, but to some its important.

  • avatar
    JJ

    @ZCD2.7T

    I know a quattro model was tested here but I mean the A6, like all Audi (except arguably the R8) are essentially designed and set up as FWD cars. They have placed the engine a little further back now in the newer models but still. The front axle is still close to the A pillar, ie they are still noseheavy.

    Even in the models equipped with Quattro, the FWD bias is still there, whereas in the AWD Bimmers, the RWD bias is still there.

    Here in the Netherlands, quattro makes up for only a very small percentage of the Audi sales by the way…Most A6s are 2.0T, or of the TDI (2.0, 2.7, 3.0) variety. I think only the 3.0TDI is always a Quattro.

    That’s partly because of taxes but also because, obviously there are no mountains to be found anywhere. So, I might be more inclined to think about the FWD-ness of Audi. I think that this will become more of an issue for Audi in the future, especially if brands like Alfa Romeo or Honda (Acura) also go for RWD setups, because where does that leave the ‘premiumness’ of Audi (except for very nice interiors). I wonder when Vee-dub allows the Audi designers to crank out some RWD platforms (as in steal them from Porsche).

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    I have 4 baseball bags in the truck of my ‘04 A6, one with catchers gear, and was able to fit in some grocerie bags. I’m 6′2 and have about 4 inches of legroom in the back when sitting behind the drivers seat (and I have the driver’s seat set pretty far back). The C5 A6 has tons of room and I appreciate having it. Would less passenger room stop me from getting a car if it had the best engine/performance? Nope, but to some its important.

    Additon to my own post…perhaps newer midsize german sedans are reducing the amount of interior space. I have tons of room in the back in my ’04 A6 but, when driven to work by a dealerhip driver in 2007 A6 during my last maintenance, I noticed MUCH less leg room in the rear and the backs of the front seats had these god-awful plastic moulds on them, with a bump in the middle and dips of the sides for your knees to fit. When I tried to climb out I got stuck and whacked my knee on the bump on the hard plastic back of the front seat…yeah, 2004 interior MUCH better. More legroom, no hard plastic to hit your knee on.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I thought they upgrade the interiors. I went to see a new one recently and thought wow, this is much better then I remember. It was really really well made. I wanted one with the older engine without the new vanos, cause I thought it would feel more natural. But after driving a new 328xi, I thought it was fine. I hope I get to drive on of these soon.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    That’s partly because of taxes but also because, obviously there are no mountains to be found anywhere. So, I might be more inclined to think about the FWD-ness of Audi. I think that this will become more of an issue for Audi in the future, especially if brands like Alfa Romeo or Honda (Acura) also go for RWD setups, because where does that leave the ‘premiumness’ of Audi (except for very nice interiors). I wonder when Vee-dub allows the Audi designers to crank out some RWD platforms (as in steal them from Porsche).

    The B8 S4 and newer models (2010 A8 will be first I think) will have a 40/60 split but will also have a vectoring quattro system, meaning torque can also be sent to individual wheels in addition to the front/rear axl. This is supposed eliminate understear and drastically improve handling. Idea is that, during a turn for example, the outside wheels will get more torque than the inside wheels. I would say that should equal, if not surpass, the handling provided by a RWD based setup. X-Drive and other RWD biased AWD systems are designed to help you through slippery snow, the vectoring quattro system is geared toward improving overall handling in all conditions. Should be interesting to see how it works once it comes out.

  • avatar
    speedboatsteve1

    I am sure these are all fine cars but none of them are very desirable to me. They are too small for true luxury, too big/heavy/complex to be very sporting, none of them are good looking, and all of them are absurdly expensive. These strike me as cars for not quite rich guys to lease in the hopes of bagging their dental hygienist.

    If I had this kind of money I would just purchase an SHO and put BMW badges on the back and a Merc star up front and I would drive it like I stole it until the warranty expired.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    DearS +1

    I still think that iDrive hump just ruins any kind of flow the dash had. When I park in my parking garage, I’m usually within a dozen steps of a previous gen-3 and 5 series. Those interiors were so “German-serious” but they looked and felt solid, flowing, and high quality. As plain as a current 3-series’ interior is right now sans iDrive, it still reminds me of when there were few to no gizmos that took over the interior.

    I also recall before this gen 5-series came out, the previous one was ranked the best car Consumer Reports ever tested. Now we look at this current one and go “huh???”

    To me, the new 7-series looks like a sign that BMW might be ready to streamline their designs again. The very attractive new Z4 also gives hope. Looks like the “flame disaster” is coming to an end.

    Now if Mercedes wants to go back to a more Germanic design, the first thing they must do is ditch those RX-8-like fender flares.

  • avatar

    This is also the car I’d rank first.

    I happen to like the styling okay with the Sport Package wheels. With RWD, the manual trans, and Sport Package it’d be much more fun than in the tested configuration.

    I find the back seat more comfortable than any of the others save the Infiniti.

    Reliability has been okay in recent years, based on responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey:

    http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php

  • avatar
    Newyokie

    @frizzlefry
    Point well taken. My wife drives an audi and we think it’s a beautiful car.
    But if I had to transport 4 adults with luggages and etc… I would just hop into my SUV.
    But then again, not everyone has an SUV/truck as their second car… So you know exactly where my priorities are when reviewing the mid size sedans.

    BTW, wonderful reviews, Michael. I was hooked from day 1.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    (Dumb) question to Michael Freed and maybe this has been answered before.

    How did you get your hands on these cars?

    That’s a rather impressive collection of cars that you compared.

  • avatar
    DearS

    The 550i Sport looks awesome. I’m not sure I’d prefer the handling of the V8 though. I’m not sure I’d prefer the E60 over the E39, as I have not driven it. Or over my E34 for that matter. Life being what it is though, I need to make the best of what of things. Not that I need such a car anyhow, but I do love them.

  • avatar
    paulb

    @Michael Freed:
    “…the smaller one handles boosts torque at low speeds, and the larger one handles high-rpm power.”

    Isn’t it that the twin-turbo N54 engine uses 2 small turbos, each feeding 3 cylinders, and it’s the twin-turbo diesel that uses the small and large turbo setup, no?

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Years ago, I learned a general rule of design, namely that a convex curve is off-putting while a concave curve is welcoming. It seems pretty much borne out in the real world, so why would BMW go the convex route with their dashes? Beats me. Can’t even blame that one on Bangle, I don’t think. The first time I sat facing this configuration, I immediately felt that something was wrong. Is there even one other manufacturer that has gone this perverse route?

  • avatar

    Ok here’s my beef . . . No prob with BMW, or putting the “ultimate driving experience” above all else. But at what point does the drive not make up for the rest of the car? Here, the interior is weird, the exterior is weird, the options are nonexistent or awfully expensive, the ride’s not the best, and the sticker’s high. The Audi, on the other hand, looks awesome inside and out comes with almost everything, and has the second best engine/handling in this group. Really? Is the 3.0 that great? As I see it, the interior matters whether I’m in the garage, at a stop light, or on the boulevard. I’ll care about how the sheetmetal looks everytime I get in or out. I’m only missing the 3.0 twin-turbo six on the backroads, but I’ll miss the sweet looks everywhere.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    I’d be happy to drive any of these six automobiles, but happier in some than in others. Michael Freed’s opinions are well put and good reading. A worthwhile follow-up would be his opinions on these cars in winter, when AWD is especially useful, particularly in Colorado. A brief drive in pleasant weather doesn’t test the AWD systems’s performance on snow-covered roads.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Wow, TTAC has comparos just like C&D, and with the same results, too.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Audi’s supercharged 3.0 is the better engine. It might not sound as good, but it’s more effecient, and IMO its power delivery is smoother. I’m not interested in iDrive, or run flat tires, or BMW’s idiotic AT shifter and ugly orange gauges. Why is it that Infiniti got ripped to shreds for using orange, but BMW gets a free pass for using the EXACT same color?

    The X3 has the worst throttle response and transmission I have ever experienced. The throttle literally does nothing at all for about 20% of its travel, and at 21%, gives way more power than you wanted. When coasting to a stop, the transmission jerks and lurches its way down to 1st, one gear at a time. The 5 is nowhere near that bad, but it’s brakes are grabby, and it’s much harder to drive smoothly than the A6.

    If you want a 5, get the RWD version. Their AWD cars are all compromised in steering feel and performance. The “sport package” on an AWD BMW amounts to little more than a seat upgrade. The actual suspension only comes on the rear drivers. If you want AWD, get an Audi.

  • avatar

    Given how much it costs to replace the clutch on a 5-Series, I think the autobox makes sense, as well.

    I don’t see how a comparison of leg room and trunk space with that of the other cars in this test is in any way silly or unreasonable. If those things aren’t key priorities for you, Mazel tov, but some people are tall, have tall kids, and/or like to carry more than two golf bags.

    Size is really the only compelling reason to shop this class, rather the 3-Series/A4/E-Class/et al. Maybe the bigger cars have better interior materials, but they certainly aren’t better looking, and the price premium is a lot to pay for better plastics.

  • avatar
    jmo

    These strike me as cars for not quite rich guys to lease in the hopes of bagging their dental hygienist.

    Yeh, keep thinking that.

    For business owners, there are many hidden savings in the tax code. Take that new company car, for instance. If you’re willing to jump through a few hoops, you can use the Internal Revenue Code to get the government to pay 40 percent or more of the cost of your new luxury car.

    http://www.inc.com/resources/tax/articles/200709/colombik.html

    Many of those leasing are doing it because they are owners or partners in a law firm, physician practice, CPA firm, consulting firm, etc.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    @ Robert Schwartz :
    October 26th, 2009 at 8:38 pm
    “Wow, TTAC has comparos just like C&D, and with the same results, too.”

    You’re 1/2 right.

    The Audi won the C&D comparison, with the Bimmer 2nd.:

    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/comparisons/09q3/2009_audi_a6_3.0t_vs._2009_bmw_535i_2009_infiniti_m45_2009_jaguar_xf_2010_m-b_e350-comparison_tests

    ….which result was pooh-poohed by TTAC’s Mr. Baruth, since he suggested that the final results were re-jiggered to favor the Audi:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/review-2009-audi-a6-30t-quattro/

    …even though that isn’t true:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/review-2009-audi-a6-30t-quattro/#comment-1522324

    Just sayin’….

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    For the record, I wrote that the 5 series has “a small trunk and a tightish back seat”. Never mentioned leg room.

    My comment was based on the fact that I fit in the back of the A6 with the driver’s seat where I would need it (I’m 6’2″), but I don’t in the 535.

    The A6′s trunk space is EPA rated at 15.9 cubic feet, versus 14 for the 535.

    Oh, and the A6′s rear seats fold down 60/40. You have to pay extra for that (like just about everything) on the 535.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    Unlike turbo engines of old (or the ones in 2009 Saabs), which were out to lunch until the boost kicked in at 3500 rpm or so, the 535xi’s system delegates power and torque responsibilities to individual turbos; the smaller one handles boosts torque at low speeds, and the larger one handles high-rpm power. 
    No it doesn’t. It has two equal-sized turbos, each connected to three cylinders. Sure, Clarkson got it wrong too, but TTAC writers could just read the data sheet. Or pop open the hood and have a look.

  • avatar
    LeaperNYC

    Quick: are we in America, or Afghanisthan? Any second grader will independently verify the following:

    Comparo winner 535xi gets 29 points.

    Second-place finisher A6 scores 33.

    Third place XF gets 28 – but oh wait, it was missing a “Desirability” score. Well, as anyone who has ACTUALLY driven all 6 cars will tell you – just ask Justin Berkowitz – the Jag is a clear 5 on Desirability.

    So until we submit to Afghanistan electoral norms, the faulty chads are hereby recounted, yielding…

    JAG & AUDI TIED FOR FIRST.

    (See my additional comments under the Jag review)

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    No it doesn’t. It has two equal-sized turbos, each connected to three cylinders. Sure, Clarkson got it wrong too, but TTAC writers could just read the data sheet. Or pop open the hood and have a look.

    I remember hearing the same thing about the Audi 2.7T. The “one turbo for low end, one for high” bit. Not true. I own one and, in A6 s-line varient, it makes 280 ft pounds at 1800rpm. 0-60 in 6 seconds. Slower in comparison to the bimmer biturbo V6 but afterall, the 2.7T is almost 10 years older and .3 litres smaller.

  • avatar
    therealtruth

    Great engine no doubt. But hardly ground breaking or ‘engine of the future’. Actually, engine of the past. Let’s turn the Delorean dial back to 1993….

    http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/supra/1993/review.html

  • avatar
    V6

    i personally think the 5-Series looks hot. the main thing i don’t like (as with the 3-Series) is the awful dashboard hump.

    in saying that, i don’t really find any of these cars appealing

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    theflyersfan :
    October 26th, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    (Dumb) question to Michael Freed and maybe this has been answered before.

    How did you get your hands on these cars?

    That’s a rather impressive collection of cars that you compared.

    Well, I’ll tell ya…getting your hands on these cars is half the fun. It’s a multi step process, almost an art. I’ve been a car nut since I could walk, so as soon as I could drive in 1979, I was test driving cars at dealers. Over the years, I have learned the Jedi Ways when it comes to finagling extended test drives.

    First comes the Holy Trinity: decent credit, valid insurance, and a clean driving record. Being a big 45-year-old guy who looks like a rabbi helps. More on that in a moment.

    Step 1: Roll up to the car dealer in an impeccably clean car. It doesn’t hurt my car is an ’05, and it’s paid for. Again, that’s critical…more on that later.

    Step 2: Take a test drive with the salesman to show him you’re not the second coming of (insert name of celebrity driving miscreant here).

    Step 3: Come back a couple of days later, and tell him you’re interested in the car but you have to run it by the wife. He then suggests you take it home to show the wife and take the kids out for dinner.

    Step 4: Here’s where you put it together – the Holy Trinity, paid-for trade, and demonstrated track record of not driving like Cole Trickle in someone else’s $60,000 car. Your credit’s good enough to get financed, you can put in a decent down with a paid-for car, you’re not going to destroy their car, and if you do, you can verify that it’ll be on your insurance company’s nickel. Most times, dealers will verify your insurance at a minimum before they let you tool off in their car. As hard-up as dealerships are for sales these days, if you strike them as a good prospect, they’ll be nice and let you take their car for a few hours. Obviously, good manners dictate that you don’t put too many miles on the car, and bring it back the way they gave it to you.

    Step 5: Turn off the ESC and go to afterburners when you’re a discreet distance AWAY from the dealer.

    One of the dealers I borrowed a car from actually let me have it from Saturday to Monday morning.

    Unfortunately, the Jedi Extended Test Driving Ways don’t work for seriously fast or expensive cars. Test something like a M5 or E63 AMG, and there’s gonna be a salesman riding shotgun. Can’t blame them. And, for some reason, the Jedi Ways NEVER work for Corvettes.

    And forget it if you’re under 30, unless you can have a banker’s card handy to verify your well-off status.

    If this strikes some as manipulative, they’re right. But of the last three cars I’ve bought, two were from dealers that let me do this.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Robert Schwartz :
    October 26th, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Wow, TTAC has comparos just like C&D, and with the same results, too.

    Interesting, since C/D’s last comparison of these cars had a completely different finishing order, except for the Jag, which finished third.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Mirko Reinhardt :
    October 26th, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Unlike turbo engines of old (or the ones in 2009 Saabs), which were out to lunch until the boost kicked in at 3500 rpm or so, the 535xi’s system delegates power and torque responsibilities to individual turbos; the smaller one handles boosts torque at low speeds, and the larger one handles high-rpm power.
    No it doesn’t. It has two equal-sized turbos, each connected to three cylinders. Sure, Clarkson got it wrong too, but TTAC writers could just read the data sheet. Or pop open the hood and have a look.

    I stand corrected, Mirko. Thank you.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    Diesel, Schmiesel – here’s your engine of the future, ladies and gents.

    :) I totally agree.

    yes, the BMW 3.0L R6 twinturbo diesel has bigger and smaller turbo. Gasoline version has two with equal size.

    Compared to the N54 gasoline version the diesel has nothing to show for. N54 has broader torque curve, maximum torque starts much lower, it lasts longer, engine revs much higher and is eager to rev – a rare personality among todays turbocharged gasoline engines. And N54 sounds much better! Diesel has only marginal advantage when it comes to fuel economy, BMW has made amazing advances with ther gasoline direct injection technology. I’ve driven and tested both in a 3-series body.

    Diesel fanboys say that at highway speeds 335d is faster than 335i because of the torque advantage, again not true. In our local one mile topspeed competition there were two stock 3-series coupes with similar mileage and same productuion year – 335d reached 227kmh, 335i 236kmh. Both made two passes.

    By the way first R6 twinturbo engine was on R32 Skyline GT-R from 1989 – it was a parallel system with same size turbos. MK4 Supra Turbo had also same size turbos, but the system was built so that the turbos would operate in sequential mode – a neat exhaust gas routing system which was dependent on the rpm (the amount of exhaust gases exiting the engine). But why is BMW-s N54 revolutionary – it combines amazingly low fuel consumption figure provided by the direct injection with very low-starting broad torque curve and eager revving nature with 300+hp.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    quote: Audi’s supercharged 3.0 is the better engine. It might not sound as good, but it’s more effecient, and IMO its power delivery is smoother. I’m not interested in iDrive, or run flat tires, or BMW’s idiotic AT shifter and ugly orange gauges. Why is it that Infiniti got ripped to shreds for using orange, but BMW gets a free pass for using the EXACT same color?

    Audi’s new supercharged 3.0 has narrower powerband than N54 and looses big time in efficiency in real life conditions:

    http://www.golfmkv.com/forums/showthread.php?t=96088 (page 52)

    BMW has been using orange gauges since late 80′s. Nothing special about them, but they’re with classic traditonal BMW desing and are easy and pleasant to view.

  • avatar
    LeaperNYC

    Do your math Mike.

    BMW = 29 points

    Audi = 33 points

    Jag = 28 points **without Desirability rating**

    post my note or fix your report

    thanks

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    FreedMike:
    ZCD2.7T:

    I was just funning you. I stopped reading C&D years ago.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Brock_Landers :
    October 27th, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Diesel, Schmiesel – here’s your engine of the future, ladies and gents.

    :) I totally agree.

    yes, the BMW 3.0L R6 twinturbo diesel has bigger and smaller turbo. Gasoline version has two with equal size.

    Compared to the N54 gasoline version the diesel has nothing to show for. N54 has broader torque curve, maximum torque starts much lower, it lasts longer, engine revs much higher and is eager to rev – a rare personality among todays turbocharged gasoline engines. And N54 sounds much better! Diesel has only marginal advantage when it comes to fuel economy, BMW has made amazing advances with ther gasoline direct injection technology. I’ve driven and tested both in a 3-series body.

    Agreed totally, but I’ve also driven the BMW turbo diesel, and it’s brilliant in its own way -remarkably powerful (the torque is off the scale) and refined for a diesel.

    The diesel isn’t as fun as the gas version, but if fuel prices here were at European levels (in Germany, it costs about $7-8 per gallon, and diesel is considerably cheaper), it would be a pretty painless way to go.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    LeaperNYC :
    October 27th, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Do your math Mike.

    BMW = 29 points

    Audi = 33 points

    Jag = 28 points **without Desirability rating**

    post my note or fix your report

    thanks

    The scores are subjective, not objective. You might have different rankings. If so, go for it – this site is about talking cars, so let’s talk!

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    I would love it if BMW would stop nickel and dime-ing customers. Honestly, who buys a $50K car without leather or HIDs?

    The base level of equipment is not for enthusiasts but to suck another 5-10K out of a buyer. Raise the base price so you can package the leather and other very very common options into the base price.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @werewolf34 :
    I would love it if BMW would stop nickel and dime-ing customers. Honestly, who buys a $50K car without leather or HIDs?

    Actually I prefer cloth or cloth/leather to a full leather seat. Feels better if it’s cold, feels better if it’s warm…
    BMW has very nice cloth. I have the cloth/leather in mine.

    HIDs… don’t know. I like them.

    What I can’t stand is that they make electric seat adjustment standard in some 5-series models.

    • 0 avatar
      joepappy

      i have owned merc .. jag .. ford .. chevy .. japanese … i own this car and love it (2010) .. even have the executive pkg because the sport pkg felt too tight (at least in downtown toronto with our crap roads in canada) .. thing performs great and one thing thats never mentioned in reviews is how a car relaxes also ..  most of my daily driving is just driving around a lot of traffic in a major city so the 535xi delivers a total good vibe in that scenario (even with lots of snow) … want the snot when you get outta dodge .. dinan stage 2 and the thing lights up .. good review and fun comments all around  … is it kinda like comparing clapton to hendrix to van halen to gilmour .. all cars mentioned are pretty awesome and at least its not robbie krieger/hundai so its just what YOU end up loving sitting in every day …

  • avatar
    energetik9

    Good for the BMW. I shopped this car (minus AWD) very closely and ended up buying a loaded 335 with the same M sport package, which shares the same engine, just a little less weight. The only reason I didn’t opt for the 5 was that I didn’t need a sedan and I didn’t want a new car that is soon to be restyled.

    It is an absolute blast and for me was worth every dollar. The engine is fantastic; great powerband and great torque. I also happen to enjoy the iDrive. It only takes a little practive to get it all figured out. I never used the old versions much, but the 2009 version of iDrive is easy and convenient and combined with voice commands, I never even touch the center stack anymore. The bump in the dash means nothing to me and I have come to appreciate having my screen up near eye level instead of looking down at the center stack.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Hmmm, looks stink, user interface stinks, overpriced … but it drives like a BMW so it wins. Where have I seen this movie before?

  • avatar
    therealtruth

    It’s hard to debate the fact that BMW makes excellent sedans. Although, there is still that white elephant in the room – reliability. I’ve owned a 3 series (plus know many Beemer owners), and the story is always the same. Bulletproof under so-many-miles (give or take 100,000), big bucks to maintain past mid-life. This doesn’t pose a problem for many, but for those that like to keep their cars for a LONG time the Lexus makes sense. Sure, the driving experience is inferior to the German. But knowing you can go 200,000 miles without headache is something Munich has not solved.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Manual transmission: slightly rubbery, with a too-long throw and excessive clutch travel

    Unfortunately, all 5 Series, including the old E39 suffer from BMW’s so-called “Luxury Shift”. Most enthusiasts will upgrade to a short throw shift kit, a clutch pedal travel stop, and the very popular CDV (clutch delay valve) delete.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    “Unlike turbo engines of old (or the ones in 2009 Saabs), which were out to lunch until the boost kicked in at 3500 rpm or so,”….

    2009? Really?

    Sorry, unless the torque curves I’ve seen and my own experience is bogus–Fail–even if it was meant to be hyperbole.

  • avatar
    fahrkultur

    Driving a 1995 Audi S6 4.2L V8 with 100k+ miles total repair costs outside regular maintenance have been less than 500 USD in 14 years. Car still looks new and performs superbly on the Autobahn and treacherous roads in the French country side. The AWD system works wonders in bad conditions. Best car ever driven.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    fahrkultur – In the universe where I live nose heavy V8 layout will stress Audi’s delicate front suspension so that usually you’d have to throw money into the front suspension every 20K miles or so – not cheap with the V8 Audis. But maybe your Audi is capable of flight so the wheels never touch the ground while driving? :) And that 4-speed autobox (combined with permanent AWD and old-school V8) must do wonders to the fuel economy :)

  • avatar
    vassilis

    Nice series, and some very interesting comments.
    I drove the Mercedes E200 CGI and for just a 1,8 lt petrol engine it is impressive considering performance and fuel economy.

    What is really unique (at least in the price range in Europe), is just how refined the E-Class is. Fit and finish manage to impress and I personally believe that finally this is the smaller / cheaper S-Class it always meant to be.

    Best way to find out is to test drive the new S-Class immediately afterwards: You will not be left missing much if you go for the smaller sedan.
    Suspension even in Avantgarde/AMG packaging and even with 18 inch wheels with 35 profile tires was comfortable in the city and ideal on the motorway.

    The winner of the comparison test is a great car aand I can see how it is in first place. The thing is that the 5series range desperately needs an update. For the person who is looking for the most upmarket shopping in that category, the E-Class is the obvious choice. Perhaps not for car-guys but, for everybody else.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    vassilis :
    October 28th, 2009 at 5:01 am

    Nice series, and some very interesting comments.
    I drove the Mercedes E200 CGI and for just a 1,8 lt petrol engine it is impressive considering performance and fuel economy.

    What is really unique (at least in the price range in Europe), is just how refined the E-Class is. Fit and finish manage to impress and I personally believe that finally this is the smaller / cheaper S-Class it always meant to be.

    I agree with you 100% on the E-class’ refinement level. It has great road manners (if you’re not flogging it down a back road), and the interior is first class.

    Unfortunately, at least here in the states, we got stuck with an underpowered and somewhat unrefined carryover base engine (the 3.5 V-6), which really hurt the car in this comparison. I really expected a lot more of the E-class. Hopefully Mercedes can get a better engine into this car, and soon.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @FreedMike :
    Unfortunately, at least here in the states, we got stuck with an underpowered and somewhat unrefined carryover base engine (the 3.5 V-6)

    @vassilis :
    I drove the Mercedes E200 CGI and for just a 1,8 lt petrol engine it is impressive considering performance and fuel economy.

    Funny how a 3.5L V6 is “underpowered” in America, while a 1.8L I4 is “impressive” in Europe.

  • avatar
    wmba

    From the rear three quarters view, I have several times mistaken this BMW for a Hyundai Sonata at a quick glance. It’s thick through the midriff.

    Haven’t driven the 535i, but my audio buddy has a 335xi auto, and my car nut friend has a six speed 135i.

    I’m jealous. Both of them go like stink, but don’t act like some hairy old Detroit iron. Surprisingly, the 135i has quite good traction, all things considered. I enjoy driving them both, and then get back in my Legacy GT school bus , which seems slow and ponderous, but quieter and smoother..

    Not a fan of the interiors, though. All I can say is, if you haven’t driven this turbo engine, armchair pontification is particularly far away from the actual experience.

  • avatar

    I never drove this car but I have driven the 750.

    BEST DRIVE EVER.

    If Only it had interior space for me (6’6 300lbs) I wouldn’t have spent the extra $20,000 for the S550.

    BMW makes great cars but their interior and exterior styling has never been as polarizing as it currently is, and iDrive seems to always play second fiddle to Command or simple nav systems like SYNC.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I couldn’t get my head around having to look at it for several years. The lack of a standard tire option was also a deal killer. The Bangled version has been around for a long time. When is it due to be restyled?

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    The Bangled version has been around for a long time. When is it due to be restyled?

    Done, but for 2010? Perhaps 2011.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Mirko Reinhardt :
    October 28th, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Funny how a 3.5L V6 is “underpowered” in America, while a 1.8L I4 is “impressive” in Europe.

    I think this has to do with the different missions of this car in Europe and the U.S. Across the pond, cars in this class aren’t necessarily upscale sedans – they’re everyday family cars. They don’t come with all the equipment and luxury features we expect at $50,000, so they’re probably a bit lighter for starters.

    My guess is that a smaller-engined E-Class would probably provide the same performance as, say, a Camry. Nothing wrong with that, but here in the states, the E-class is a luxury car, and luxury car buyers expect more engine than the E350 has. The car isn’t underpowered per se, but it’s badly outgunned in this company.

  • avatar
    dchen2

    FreedMike :

    Well, I’ll tell ya…getting your hands on these cars is half the fun. It’s a multi step process, almost an art. I’ve been a car nut since I could walk, so as soon as I could drive in 1979, I was test driving cars at dealers. Over the years, I have learned the Jedi Ways when it comes to finagling extended test drives.

    First comes the Holy Trinity: decent credit, valid insurance, and a clean driving record. Being a big 45-year-old guy who looks like a rabbi helps. More on that in a moment.

    Step 1: Roll up to the car dealer in an impeccably clean car. It doesn’t hurt my car is an ‘05, and it’s paid for. Again, that’s critical…more on that later.

    Step 2: Take a test drive with the salesman to show him you’re not the second coming of (insert name of celebrity driving miscreant here).

    Step 3: Come back a couple of days later, and tell him you’re interested in the car but you have to run it by the wife. He then suggests you take it home to show the wife and take the kids out for dinner.

    Step 4: Here’s where you put it together – the Holy Trinity, paid-for trade, and demonstrated track record of not driving like Cole Trickle in someone else’s $60,000 car. Your credit’s good enough to get financed, you can put in a decent down with a paid-for car, you’re not going to destroy their car, and if you do, you can verify that it’ll be on your insurance company’s nickel. Most times, dealers will verify your insurance at a minimum before they let you tool off in their car. As hard-up as dealerships are for sales these days, if you strike them as a good prospect, they’ll be nice and let you take their car for a few hours. Obviously, good manners dictate that you don’t put too many miles on the car, and bring it back the way they gave it to you.

    Step 5: Turn off the ESC and go to afterburners when you’re a discreet distance AWAY from the dealer.

    One of the dealers I borrowed a car from actually let me have it from Saturday to Monday morning.

    Unfortunately, the Jedi Extended Test Driving Ways don’t work for seriously fast or expensive cars. Test something like a M5 or E63 AMG, and there’s gonna be a salesman riding shotgun. Can’t blame them. And, for some reason, the Jedi Ways NEVER work for Corvettes.

    And forget it if you’re under 30, unless you can have a banker’s card handy to verify your well-off status.

    If this strikes some as manipulative, they’re right. But of the last three cars I’ve bought, two were from dealers that let me do this.

    I am also a fellow car nut and actually employ the same system to wrangle extended non-accompanied test drives from dealers. In my case its a bit harder since I am a under 30 male but I got hooked when I sweet talked my local BMW dealer into letting me take out a certified used 330ci for a 4hr extended test drive when I was 19.

    Since then, I’ve gotten extended test drives of a used 01 BMW 740i sport (funnest pure lux car ever!), 07 335i coupe, 07 550i sport, 01 Lexus IS 300, 01 GS430, 06 GS430, 07 LS600L (this was recently during the height of the econ slump when the local Lexus dealer was completely dead and I showed geniune interest along with pulling up in a new M3), 06 Infiniti G35c, 08 M45 sport, 05 Saab 9-2x turbo, and 06 Sub Legacy GT.

    I also noticed that it was impossible to wrangle Corvettes test drives without the salesperson tagging along. I finally satisified my corvette fetish when I was able to rent a Avis 6.2L 436hp Corvette for 3 days during a business trip.

    My justification for this is that during those extended test drives (at least in the last several years since I have the financial resources), I was a serious buyer and always ended up buying my used/new (01 GS430, 08 335xi coupe, 09 M3 sedan) car from the accomodating dealers.

    I can also wax eloquent about how there is just something in how a Bimmer drives that makes you want to buy it and disregard the funky interior, random electronic gremlins, and price gouging options. I thought my 01 GS430 was a fun car (tuned out with the factory Lexus L-tuned suspension and 18″ wheels) but as soon as I test drove a new 335i back in 07 I got bit by the bimmer bug.

    I had my 335xi coupe for 18months and loved that car to death, especially the extra power that is unleashed with a tune. My only regret with my 335 was that the xi meant the sports pack doesn’t include the normal RWD BMW sports suspension but the all wheel drive (+snow tires of course) was critical during the 2 winters I lived in WI. Plus launching from stoplights in a AWD ~400hp/425tq bimmer is incredibly addictive. Getting rid of those factory runflat tires helps tremendously with the ride comfort and tire grip too… thankfully my E90 M3 came with normal tires.

    My finances allowing and barring BMW messing up the “driving excitment” part, I see myself having a BMW of some sort as a DD for a long, long time.

  • avatar
    nlk10010

    This is weird.

    I had JUST finished e-mailing the papers for the purchase of a 2010 535XI 6-speed to my dealer when I came across a reference to this review.

    I chose the car because driving it was the closest I could get to the experience I had with my old E39 M5. I really can’t remember when, since that M5, I’ve had so much fun driving a car (and that includes my current E63). Coupled with the fact that the price was $30,000+ less than a new M5 (and I really think 500HP is too much for a manual transmission) the 535XI was, even though I DESPISE the looks, the best compromise I could find.

  • avatar
    Kman

    Dont’ know if this has been covered, only made it halfway through the comments.

    I don’t believe the engine setup is a sequential, small-then-big, turbo setup. From memory, it is two small, quick-spinning turbos, with each one acting on three of the six cylinders.

    This is indeed a gem of an engine, but I agree that at this point it is going to suffer from inflated expectations. But remember the best line from the review: “…Unlike turbo engines of old (or the ones in 2009 Saabs)…”. Before this engine, turbo lag was an integral part of turbo engines.

    All that being said, this is very likely the best all-around car period.

  • avatar
    tdstauffer

    Late post to this, but I read and enjoyed every word of the article AND all the comments. I love my 2001 530i (owned 5 years) and think often of updating… but, from exterior design flaming to iDrive to Banglebutt… I have not pulled the trigger. I mostly commute mountain to canyon to freeway in LA. (20 mins.)

    Is 2010 the model year to do it? 2011?

    My 2001 has only 85,000 miles, but I spent over $5K on maintenance this year (included tires).

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    Again it seems BMW seems to have seats that fit some drivers well (which always comes as a surprise to me), and others attrociously badly. When my old man was last shopping for a car, the 535d fit all the boxes in terms of driving pleasure, acceleration, etc. but the seats were so far below par that it was not even funny. Same for me. We tried the sports option (sampled here), a luxury option (with chairs based on the 7 series design) but no luck whatsoever. Half an hour of being uncomfortable before the real numbing pain sets in.
    He eventually ended up buying the GS450h, primarily because of the interior overall – with the seats being the real differentiating factor. The E Class was out, as that was the car being replaced and the reason for it was the horrendous reliability, the A6 fell out of contention when the E class was purchased 3 years before (even the Audi dealer, who is a family friend, councilled against it) and Jag at the time was still offering the S Type. The S80 and 9-5 both had good seats but were completely uncompetitive in all other aspects.
    Funilly enough, I do enjoy the rest of the E60 interior (unless it has that dreadful aluminium trim) much more than any of the previous ones. At least most of the thousands of super tiny buttons, which are all the same and cannot be operated blind were gone.

  • avatar
    acaper

    Mike — I’m also scratching my head over how the BMW could earn only 29 pts. against the Audi’s 33 and you can still say that it’s “best in this class by a wide margin.” What’s the point in trying to make your assessment objective by using categories and scoring and then completely ignoring them in your review? It really undermines your credibility…it’s like a bait & switch, or deus ex machina  (“hey — I’m not biased…there’s discipline in my reviews. You can trust me. But the BMW’s magically better! The most awesomest driving machine on the planet!!” )
    This is the first time I’ve read any of your reviews so I don’t have much of a basis for comparison, but my first impression is that you’re totally in the tank for BMW…if I were the cynical type I’d have to wonder if maybe their “viral marketing” department wasn’t hidden somewhere in the woodwork. Obviously I can’t know if that’s true, but when I see a huge disparity like this it really smells fishy. Or, at the least, it’s a bit insulting to the intelligence of the reader.
    So, if you want the advantage as regards credibility that a scoring mechanism confers, you really need to stick to it. If, on the other hand, you want to make your case through the power of your arguments and the feeling in your gut, then toss the scoring rely on your prose. But trying to have it both ways is really frustrating to the reader.

  • avatar

    BMWs r bynd dbt th ltmt drvng nd bst lkng crs t n tdy’s mrkt.
    wn 530 wth sprts pckg ( whch mns wth 18 nchs dp dsh rms, sprts sspnsns nd s n). t s bynd dbt, th bst thng t thr. Ppl cn’t kp thr ys ff th cr (ncldng m). thnk, Bngl hs gvn lf t th 5-srs by hs mzng dsgnng. ” S MTTR F FCT MNY WBSTS HV 5-SRS S THR BNNR.    Bt, wll dmt tht f 530 r 535 ds nt hv sprts pckg n t, t s pln gly. Thrfr, lssn t lrn s nt tht th xtrr f 5-srs s nt tht grt lkng, bt t s tht by 5-srs nly whn y hv ngh mny t by t wth sprts pckg.
    By th wy, cn’t stnd ppl cmmntng n cr trggrd wth tr jlsy. ” T ll f y t thr, t s k f y cn nt ffrd BMW”.
    nthr thng, drv s jst btfl pc f wrk. t tks sm tm t ndrstnd t, bt t th nd, t s jst mzng. drv tks wy th nd f fldng crs cbn wth hds bttns nd s n. Wht pzzls m s tht hw cn ppl wh cn nt ndrstnd drv, dd cm p wth th mny t by BMW. Bcs, srsly t s smpl, bt nt s smpl s cv mn cn ndrstnd t.
    ll hv t sy, s tht f y wld drv 5-srs wth sprts pckg, y wll jst nt fl lk drvng ny thr cr. Ppl mk m lgh whn thy try t cmpr 5-srs t nfnty M45, d 6, Lxs GS. Y PPL SRSLY ND T DRV BMW BFR CRTQNG T.

  • avatar
    conceptmat

    i will disagree on styling comments.  when equipped with M- Tech bumpers and 19′ wheels like 172 or 166 this car looks great. in fact ,in my opinion it wins the styling over all competitors.

    as for interior, i only wish that they kept driver-oriented panel style. but flat one looks minimalistic though.

    people complain about idrive. yes it has it’s flaws. but didn’t audi and the rest of the cars copied it? all the controls we see in competitors is an improved idrive. the first one was in BMW, and sure it was not perfect because it’s a first try! i am sure new f10 will win this part

    and yes, the handling is the best in it’s class

    ovarall it deserves the 1st place (and it was designed over 6 years ago!)

  • avatar
    Bamaboy

    Well, after test driving a 535i (RWD)  I just made a difficult decision to NOT purchase a low mileage Certified Pre-Owned  twin turbo BMW 535i.  The driving experience was just amazing.  My current car is a 1995 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo.  This old Nissan also has a 3.0 liter twin turbo engine creating 300HP but I was amazed how well the BMW drove with the Sport Package.  The 20-way adjustable sport seats and the thick beefy sport steering wheel along with a relatively compliant ride (at least compared to my old 300ZX) made this driving experience one that not only put a grin n my face but actually made me “hoot and holler!”  My wife drove it and shouted with joy when driving it. I had been reading about how wonderful this BMW twin turbo engine was for a while and finally got to experience it first hand.  The engine really is fantastic and the handling is amazing.

    Perhaps I’ve toned down my objections to Bangle styling over the years.   When I first caught a glimpse of a “Bangle Butt” 7 series it was profoundly odd looking to me.  I do NOT find the Bangle styling on this 5-series in any way objectionable.  Maybe it was never really objectionable to me – just odd back in 2002 when I saw my first “Bangle Style” BMW.  Maybe I’m just accustomed to it now.  I actually like the Bangle styling on this 5-series.  Now, the Banglized Z4 roadster is another thing altogether. As I told my brother, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and for me the Audi trademark exaggerated “megamouth” grill is MUCH more off putting than any of the Bangle cues in the BMW 5-series.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on aesthetics.  I can find issues with some of the interior, but I can forgive them all in light of the car’s ability on the road.

    So why did I decide to NOT buy the BMW with it’s seductively silky twin turbo engine, fantastic handling and unparalleled sport seats?  In one word – RELIABILITY.  Remarkably, the evaluation article above did NOT use RELIABILITY as a criteria in judging this car against it’s competitors.  For me, RELIABILITY is way up on my list of criteria.  The 135, 335, and 535 BMW’s that use the twin turbo N54 engine are all plagued with a design flaw that could leave a motorist stranded on the road – or possibly present a danger if the anomaly were to occur while taking a curve with exuberance.  It’s the “High Pressure Fuel Pump” design.  They fail routinely on these cars.  There is now a recall on the cars equipped with the N54 engine but BMW simply replaces the HPFP with more flawed hardware and/or programs some new software and sends the owner back on the street with a car that is just-as likely to fail again.  Some N54 owners have no problems with their fuel pumps and some have had it replaced numerous times.  The Certified Pre-Owned 535i that I was SOOOO tempted to buy had less than 30k miles and yet was already on it’s 3rd fuel pump.  I spoke with the Service Manager at the dealership in an attempt to find out whether BMW had come up with a genuine “fix” for the problem and it apparently has NOT.

    For first hand details from 535 owners (or anyone with the N54 3.0 liter twin turbo engine) go to one of the BMW enthusiast forums and search on HPFP and 535. It seems that it’s not really a matter of “if” the HPFP will fail but more of “when” (or perhaps “how often”):
    http://www.bimmerfest.com/
    or http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum/index.php

    I for one would NOT like to find myself stranded on a trip waiting for a BMW dealership to fix my car – even if it was covered with an extended CPO warranty.  I also do not want to have to visit my dealership regularly to have the darned fuel pump replaced with another temporary “patch.” Under pressure from an ABC special that exposed this problem to the world, BMW has extended the warranty for the HPFP to 10 years and 120k miles. This is nice, but I would prefer that they actually fix the problem.

    If you’re a gambler and you’re feelin’ lucky, then perhaps this is the perfect car.  For me and the money I was going to invest, the risk was just too much.  I’ll keep looking.  Maybe the new 2011 single turbo 535 will have a more reliable fuel delivery system.  Time will tell.
    BMW is facing a class action law suit associated with this unresolved flaw.  http://www.prweb.com/releases/BMW-lawsuit/turbo-lag-fuel-pump/prweb4615794.htm

    (BTW: The “turbo lag” they mention in this law suit is a farce. I could not detect even a hint of turbo lag in this car. Turbo is seamless.)


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