By on June 6, 2007

front-3.jpgBack in the day, BMW didn’t exactly pander to its customers. We build, you buy. Life is life. As BMW’s fortunes and model lines expanded, options appeared. But the German carmaker never quite outgrew its arrogance stubborn streak. You want a 7-Series without iDrive? Not possible. Don’t like run-flats on your 3-Series? Go and buy what tires you like. Thankfully, you can circumvent the iDrive in the new 535i and run flats are now optional. Is this the harbinger of a kindler, gentler 5-Series?

Nein! Visually, the Bavarians continue to cling to Chris Bangle’s flame surfaced sacrilege. That’s an “Inside Baseball” way of saying the 535i is still pug-ugly both coming and going. Although BMW’s metal meisters have toned down the model’s Dame Edna headlights, the 535i’s riotous (not righteous) amalgamation of curves, creases, bulges and bustles is about as coherent as a teenager debating U.S. foreign policy– after his seventh alcopop.

Step inside Bimmer’s blingmobile and sitz down on a driver’s seat that’s harder than aggregated diamond nanorods; a perch that makes your old school desk chair seem like Roche Bobois low-level seating. What’s more, BMW’s swathed their ultimate thrones in a material they call leather that feels like charred and blistered road kill. Just in case you’re not aesthetically appalled, the new bamboo anthracite wood trim looks like tar on concrete and the headliner could have been X-Acto-ed from a Trabant.

0855_02_lg.jpgWhat’s this? Martians have stolen the 535i’s transmission lever and left behind a replica of their sex organs. Too bad the tactile sensations produced by this flimsy plastic lever lack any hint of sensuality (extra-terrestrial or otherwise). Our non-sport pack equipped tester’s steering wheel was skinny and slippery. Overall, the 535i’s cabin ambience is more German taxi than $60k luxury car.

On the positive side, BMW has finally put me out of my iDrive misery. While Bimmer’s boffins haven’t actually fixed their multi-media controller’s inherent user-antagonism, the 535i now offers a six-button work around. You can program these buttons to do astonishing things, like change the radio station without having to bump and needle the still-ugly wart between the seats. This is a pretty amazing– and entirely welcome– concession from BMW’s automotive dictators.

I think I’ve finally figured out why so many people find BMW drivers offensive: there’s no way to enjoy the marque’s cars while driving responsibly. As long as I helmed the 535i emphatically, darting about, passing everyone, flaunting both decency and legality, the experience was exhilarating. At 9/10, the 535i is a weapon: cool, charismatic and kick-ass. It’s safe, predictable and plenty damn fast. The rest of the time…

It’s jittery. Yes, as soon as I rejoined the real world commute, I was miserable. I repeat: driving the 535i with even a modicum of civility at low speeds and/or stop-and-go traffic is torture. The 535i’s set-up conspires against it. The brakes are grabby at low speeds. The transmission is eternally restless; whenever I tried to bring the car to a stop, the autobox engaged in a herky jerky search for a lower gear. It wasn’t pretty, or fun, or pretty fun. 

side.jpgIn the 3-Series coupe, BMW’s new twin turbo powerplant is awesome– in the traditional, standing mute in front of a Ferrari sense of the word. In the 335i convertible, the 300hp engine is… a bit muted. In the 535i, the mighty mill’s been completely hamstrung by electronics.

Flogged without mercy, the 535i’s in-line six is a gas; sixty arrives from zero in less than six seconds. Around town, it’s like having gas. On tip-in, throttle response is insufficient. Then, it’s WAY too much. As in the SMG-equipped M5, there’s just no way to parcel-out acceleration that’s fast, smooth AND consistent.

Speaking of which, BMW has quietly de-listed the SMG gearbox from the option sheet. This loathsome mechanical monstrosity was the reason I shunned the M5, one of the world’s finest sports sedans. While the next gen M3 is slated to receive the company’s replacement M DCT (M Dual Clutch Transmission) paddle shift system, low-end vehicles like the 535i need it most. With a proper cog swapper, I reckon the twin turbo 535i– indeed the whole 5-Series lineup– would be transformed. 

0855_04_lg.jpgAs it stands, the BMW 535i is let down by its awkward exterior, cheap and charmless interior and jerky low speed dynamics. All of which can be, as TV people like to say, “fixed in post.” But will they? In fact, why didn’t BMW sort this out BEFORE they released the car to their dealers? Someday, BMW may learn how to listen to its critics. Until then, 535i buyers have to take what they’re given. Or not.

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79 Comments on “BMW 535i Review...”

  • avatar

    BMW will still sell boatloads of these things so they feel little pressure to change. But 60K is a lot of money and Lexus and Mercedes make nice cars too.

  • avatar

    I’ve been figuring the twin-turbo six and 5-Series were a match made in heaven. Not so?

    I’ve long noted that BMWs can be boring in everyday driving and feel their best when pushed hard. The current 3 overcomes this dichotomy with quicker responses than the old one, but the 5 bumps the level of isolation up considerably. If you’re doing less then sixty, it feels like you’re barely moving.

    For pricing and other information on the 2008 5-Series:

  • avatar

    What about the oft praised auto in the 335i? Does the 5 series not share it?

  • avatar

    Chevy Monte Carlo inspired headlights — on a 60K car… I’m glad that I’m poor, so this car is verboten to me.

  • avatar

    Oddly enough, this 535i is an American-only model for the moment. The BMW people apparently decided Europeans like V8’s better (!) than twin turbo I6s…so we get instead of this 535 the 540 with 4.0 V8 and the same HP output- as a sedan only model.

    Anyway, in Europe, or at least the Netherlands, sales of the A6 surpassed the 5 series’ since the new A6 is launched. And judging by the way that looks (especially Avant) I’m not surprised. In fact, it might be the first Audi I’d buy over it’s counterpart BMW.
    The 5 series still outsells the E-class, but then again, the E-class isn’t that much of a contender.
    The Lexus ES is way to small, petrol only and a Lexus (expensive Toyota), so in Europe at least, nothing to worry about for BMW.

    Also, I read a lot of reviews that praised the new gearbox, but that can of course be subject to personal subjectivity.

    All in all, the current 5 series maybe isn’t the benchmark as much as its E39 predecessor was, but what else are you going to buy (apart from the A6, which has its downsides in America (lack of interesting engines, added blinklights, dealerexperience)???

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Jay, which option packages were on the car you tested?

    I’m somewhat afraid to admit that the design of the 5-series has been growing on me. Or maybe it’s just been growing (as in mould); I’m not sure.

    Speaking of differences between BMW’s homeland lineup and what we get in the US, I would love it if TTAC would find someone across the pond to review the 335d.

  • avatar

    The A6 doesn’t sell nearly as well as the 5er in the U.S.

    Sales through May:
    5: 19150 (down from last year)
    E: 18560 (up from last year)
    A6: 4919 (way down from last year)

    The E-Class used to rule this segment, while BMW and Audi used to be primarily makers of compacts.

    I’ve always liked the looks of the current 5 – in the right colors (silver, dark gray) with the right wheels (the sport package 18s).

    One new twist on the 5 this year: the automatic is a no-cost option, with paddles a $495 option. The days of the stick shift 5 could be numbered.

  • avatar

    Nice review, and thanks for the honesty. The continual parade of, “Pant-pant, oh how BMW can do no wrong…” reviews gets so tiring in the media (not to mention highly suspicious for credibility). In my line(s) of work in the last three decades, I’ve regularly driven all brands of cars. While any particular brand can have an exceptional model here and there, all too often I’ve found many models simply not worth the reputation/price premium.

  • avatar

    Interesting observation about BMWs only being fun at extra-legal speeds. I have an e39 and it feels the best when pushed into offramp and (paradoxically) cruising at 79 mph along a smooth interstate. Everyday driving around my urban neighborhood just sucks. It loses its composure on every bump and vibrates awfully when not on silky asphalt. However, I probably wouldn’t even notice how bad it is on city streets if it weren’t so good on highways.

    Also, every time I go over a bump, I can’t help wondering how much life I used up in the expensive aluminum control arms and Bilstein shocks.

  • avatar

    I drove a 04 545 with SMG and I’d have to say it was one of the best sedan’s I had ever driven. I would think the 535 would be better just because it is about as fast as a 550 for much less $$$. As to styling that is whole subjective. I find the current 5 series to be one of the best designs BMW has made. While the previous BMW buyers seem to love the e46 and previous 5 series style I find then bland and conservative (except on the M3). The e90, e60, Z4, and 6 series look great to me so while many don’t like the new Bangle styling many who wouldn’t have bought a BMW now might.

    Give me a manual 535 with sport package and Vishnu tuning and I’d be a happy guy. Alas that is 20-30k too much so I’ll wait to see what the 1 series offers. The TT 6 in a 3,200-3,300lb car for 35k sounds awful nice to me.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    There are three things we need to keep in mind with BMW.

    1) Infiniti is gradually becoming their primary competitor in the U.S.

    2) There are an awful lot of vehicles in the 25k to 35k range that provide a comparable driving experience to this 60k model.

    3) As customers become more used to customizing their rides, and buying late model vehicles instead of new, the 50k to 70k range for sedans is going to struggle.

    With extended warranties, pre-certification programs, and rapid fire depreciation, there’s little to no stigma with buying a two year old luxury car.

  • avatar

    Thank you Jay for your honesty and review of this car. Yes the German cars are always going to be best when driven fast and hard. It is the way they are designed and driven in Germany. It is the way the Authobahn allows them to be driven. Of the German cars I owned, Porsche, MB and VW, only the MB and VW were ever good drivers here in the US. They were all great drivers in Germany however, with the Porsche being the best of course. I purchased my Porsche when in Germany in the 1970’s and sold it after driving it for just one year here in the US. Your comment about the BMW in traffic is exactly my experience with the Porsche 911 and the main reason I sold it.

    Jay wrote,”there’s no way to enjoy the marque’s cars while driving responsibly. As long as I helmed the 535i emphatically, darting about, passing everyone, flaunting both decency and legality, the experience was exhilarating. At 9/10, the 535i is a weapon: cool, charismatic and kick-ass. It’s safe, predictable and plenty damn fast. The rest of the time…

    It’s jittery. Yes, as soon as I rejoined the real world commute, I was miserable. I repeat: driving the 535i with even a modicum of civility at low speeds and/or stop-and-go traffic is torture.”

    You hit the nail on the head. Of course if I were of the means I would have kept the Porsche for sport driving on the weekends, but alas I am not of those means. To me the German makes will always be a luxury here in the US because you end up paying for driving capabilities that are useless most of the time. Yes they are nice drivers, but they are not the best cruisers or movers in traffic. The truth being that a nice mini-van is likely to be the best for interstate and traffic situations. And who wants to drive a mini-van?

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Thanks for your honest review. I too am unhappy when BMW reviews paint the picture that somehow RWD performance and inline 6 engines mean you need to ignore the stylistic and ergonomic fopahs.

  • avatar

    We often talk of German products designed to be driven in Germany. Romantic notions of the Autobahn come to mind.

    The reality is that German cities are often confusing mixtures of medieval heritage (read narrow) streets, and modern heritage (reborn after bombings into narrow streets) winding ways with frequent stops.

    While autobahns allow fast motion (sometimes, when away from city traffic jams or roadwork or accidents).

    So in the city something like a Smart car is probably more drivable. On the autobahn dare I say that a Crown Vic might provide comfortable, long-distance smooth driving at speed?

    The BMWs are designed maybe for Valhalla, or some other Teutonic or Nordic dreamworld. Or given their Bavarian heritage, possibly for some southern Europe joie-de-vivre spin down the Corniche.

    Don’t know, but am grateful that someone builds a car for some world where you are the only driver on the road, and all the traffic police everywhere are guaranteed to be in donut shops for the next few hours.

  • avatar

    Ditto on the daily ride handling qualities of most BMW’s I’ve driven. My e46 325i with sport suspension drives wonderfully when carving corners but definitely is not the best stop and go commuter. Coincidentally, when I drove the new 3 series last week I thought the car had gone a little soft. Possibly BMW is struggling with the balance between performance and luxury. If you dont get to drive BMW’s the way they are meant to be driven they lose their appeal rather quickly. Not so different than other tightly wound sports cars I would guess.

  • avatar

    I enjoyed the review as well, and as others have said, it’s nice to see someone calling BMW out on its mistakes rather than constantly kissing up to the company.

    I had a 2001 530i that I loved, and traded it for one of the last available 2003 540i 6-speeds around when I first saw pictures this current (2004+) 5-Series. It hasn’t grown on me and I’m hoping the next model is something I wouldn’t scowl at when I look into the garage. For $60K they can do a lot better. I’ve had 7 BMWs, including a brilliant 2007 335i Cabrio, and would gladly trade my E-Class for a 5-Series if they get back on track. I have several friends that have also gone to Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, and others makes as a result of the E60 5-Series’ styling and I-Drive. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the next one.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    What amazes me is (stylistically speaking) how much better the Hyundai Genesis concept is at being a 5-series than the BMW version. It obviously has the Bangle influence, but looks nice from every angle.

    And with a big V8, RWD, 6-speed and a low asking price, Hyundai ‘s production version might actually perform like a 535 without the price/Bangle/i-Drive handicap. The potential is there and that’s truly impressive.

  • avatar

    Read your review, then just for the heck of it, popped over to and read their review of the car.

    Were you guys driving the same car?

  • avatar

    There is no mention of reliability in the review. BMW reliability is on its way to south. Lexus is a threat if that continues.

    BTW, was it AutoCar that published an illustration of next gen 5 series? It is very handsome.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    It doesn’t cost more to bend sheet metal into attractive shapes.

  • avatar

    I bet their standard is Rear Wheel Drive.
    Nope not for me… I won’t drive this car on snow or icy weather.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    sykerocker: that’s why I asked what packages were on the review car. BMW’s options can drastically alter the driving experience of the machine.

    Sajeev: I still think the TL is the best looking 5-series on the road, though its compromised FWD setup doesn’t provide the same 9/10ths satisfaction as the 5-series. I haven’t drive the M35, but those I know who have speak highly of it. Aesthetically, it’s saved from being the ugliest car in the segment by the even worse GS.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Coming from a cheaper car class (economy cars) I found driving a 2006 330i with sport suspension, and a 2007 335i coupe with sport suspension, to be one of the best suspensions for everyday driving.

    The 3 felt like water flowing over a winding river brook. I can’t explain it any better. It felt completely and utterly glued to the road, rolling over every bump without the slightest harshness, jarring, or chassis vibration. I finally understood what all the reviews were about, in regards to the suspension. I can’t wait to own one because it was the perfect compromise for a comfortable highway ride while offering zero lean in corners. So, just my .02 cents. Hopefully BMW will offer the 1-series with the TT engine and in 5-door format…

    Jay – I’ve read that the new 5-series uses a revolutionary door panel design, whereby the skin of all the door “panels” is actually one piece, uniquely dyed to make it look like multiple pieces put together. It’s supposed to be lightweight, cheaper to make, and reduce the risk of future trim failings or rattles/creaks.

    Did you notice this at all? Any comments on it? I haven’t been in this new 5-series yet, but I feel the interior really looks immaculate in pictures. The design flow looks so much better. Are the materials that cheap, or just not up to par for 60k?

    Also, I personally would choose the G35 over the 5-series. They offer similar options and capabilities, and the G is just so much substantially less expensive for not much less content. Further, in my eyes, it’s a more coherent design.


  • avatar

    That’s an “Inside Baseball” way of saying the 535i is still pug-ugly both coming and going Count me among the minority on TTAC, I suppose, but I really like the way Bangle BMW’s look. It seems that reviewers and commenters alike think it is self-evident that the Bangleized BMWs are so hideous as to deserve all the scorn heaped on them. Not that anyone ever went broke underestimating the taste of the average American, but if BMWs are so gawd-awful, why are they doing as well as they are? I don’t follow the sales trends, but BMW certainly seems to be doing as well as it ever has if not better. I think a little self-reflection is in order on this “BMW’s are ugly. Full stop.” meme. Is taste not subjective? Has the market not spoken? At least quit referring to the supposed failure of BMW’s design as if it’s settled fact. It’s not. 

  • avatar

    OK. Enough!

    Can someone tell me which car is OK for stop go everyday driving. And if the answer is some sort of soft sprung luxobarge I’ll scream!

  • avatar

    Rear Wheel Drive…..My Gosh BMW are great on snows. buy one!!!

  • avatar

    I have an e39 540/6. It is unnatural how much I love my car.

    I am suprised the seats on the new model sound so hard and uncomfortable. And the leather so appalling. The sport seats on the E39 are the most comfortable automotive seats I’ve ever tried – at least for an average sized guy.

    Jay does the 535 have a sport package? Did the one you sampled have the sport package?

  • avatar


    For the price you pay for this car, it’s a crime that it doesn’t rule at everything except maybe off-road.

    Espcially when you consider that other makers have made $70,000 cars that are 90% better in Stop-Go and about 10% worse in spirited driving.

  • avatar

    Name one.

  • avatar

    Also, run flats are now optional, but did the test car have run flats? I’ve heard terrible things on the ride quality of run flats.

  • avatar

    I prefer the G35 series excellent car and the rear tail lights look like an Alfa Romeo and 2008 Mitsu Lancer.

  • avatar

    I am glad someone mentioned Lexus ES in the same breath as 535i. ES350 is a great commuter in both stopngo as well as highway traffic. Most importantly at half the price of 535i.

  • avatar

    How does it drive in stop-go everyday traffic? Is it fun????

    (Hint – possibly rhetorical question especially given the way US roads are constructed and maintained)

  • avatar

    Gotcha – ES350 is a yawn.

  • avatar

    i always considered bmws, and most other german marques for that matter, as being premium-quality vehicles that were quite conservative but extremely capable. and that is just the way i liked them.

    for 20 years, from the mid-1980’s through the mid-2000’s, my wife and i thoroughly enjoyed continuous ownership of at least one bmw automobile – from among two 5-series and one 3-series – all equipped with manual transmissions.

    then bangle arrived on the scene, and i must admit, i am not a fan. i have more than 30 years of professional design experience under my belt and i personally find the aesthetics of chris’s cars downright repellent – except for the newest 3-series coupe and convertible.

    how this company, with its demonstrated ability to produce such a beautiful three, also choses to offer such deplorable-looking fives, sixes and sevens, is beyond me.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Jay, you nailed it. I have been trying to think of a logical explanation for the phenomenon that BMWs are quite often driven obnoxiously; yours is perfectly conclusive.

  • avatar

    I think the 5 series are great looking cars. Just wish they didnt have all the gadgets and gimicks on the inside. I just want to drive not fiddle with i-drive etc. I drove a 5 series loaner and just resorted to listening to rap (as all my car radios and loaners have been set to after leaving ANY dealership) so I didnt have to have a head-on while arm wrestling the i-drive.

  • avatar

    Are the seats harder than they used to be? Our 2004 has firm seats, but if adjusted properly, they are really comfy.

    The best looking woods in Bimmers seem hard to get. I loved their burled walnut.

    Lastly, why an autobox in a BMW sedan? You deserve a bad ride, you apostate!

    Nice review, thanks.

  • avatar

    The E60 5 series has always had run-flats as options. This is nothing new for 2008. Also, I think a drive in a 535i sport with manual transmission would have yielded a much better driving experience (especially for this site). The one thing about BMW’s is that there is a night and day difference in handling between sport-package cars and non-sport package ones.

  • avatar

    The only thing BMW has going for it right now is the 3-Series. This year alone, the 3-Series has accounted for almost 65% of BMW sales in the US. Both the 5-Series and 7-Series are no longer special anymore.

    Like someone else mentioned, Infiniti is becoming the primary competition for BMW. The Infiniti M35/M45 are on the same level as the 5 and the new G35 can be had for multiple thousands less. It is almost the same size as the 5 as well.

    The only reason I would buy a 5-Series is because it is the only car that offers a manual transmission in its class. Otherwise, I would rather have an M45 Sport or G35 Sport 6-Speed. They both look better inside and out, and offer much better technology.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    Two comments:

    1. Is there any reason to buy this car over a loaded Infiniti M45 Sport? I can’t think of any. Hell, the Bangled Dame Edna flourishes on the 5 series make the awkward M look like Jessica Biel.

    2. The reason the media pants over BMW is that, through the E46 and E39’s, BMW really was building automotive enthusiast perfection. Now, not so much.

  • avatar

    “What amazes me is (stylistically speaking) how much better the Hyundai Genesis concept is at being a 5-series than the BMW version.”

    Used 5-series and E-classes on a Hyundai lot…Wouldn’t that be a kick!

  • avatar

    I don’t get the choice of test car – 535i – no sport package and the automatic transmission – no Driver wants this package, its for mid level execs who want to “look” the part and spend too much to do so….delete the automatic, check the sport package box and test that!

  • avatar

    A few comments on the review:

    1. Why chose to test drive an auto and complain about the transmission hunting gears? The last time I checked, the manual transmission comes standard. Isn’t that the proper cog-swapper you’re looking for?

    2. The current styling, particularly the rear, is offensive. (I think the e39 design was among the most beautiful sedan designs ever.) But the market seems to have spoken and these 5-series can’t wait to get off the dealers’ lots.

    3. I agree that BMWs don’t like stop-and-go traffic. I have to apologize to mine everytime I subject it to the SF-Oakland commute, especially through all the bumps, cracks, and potholes. I don’t think the engine and the brake like to be kept at under 4500rpm or 60mph either.

    4. That being said, the only real competition to the 5-series now is the Infiniti M45 (and that is auto-only.) I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in a Lexus or E class.

    As for Audis (A6), they’re just for conformist self-professed non-conformists who buy an Audi just because it is not a bimmer with the full realization that they’re getting an inferior and less reliable product for just as much, if not more, money.

  • avatar

    June 6th, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Here are the renderings of next gen 5-series…

    Looks a lot cleaner IMO.”

    WOW! BMW will sell a TON of those with the new body style.

  • avatar

    I agree with you that there is some lowspeed jerkiness in the new auto, especially at stopsign style full stop and immediate restart scenarios. As a bimmer driving a-hole, you can work around it by coasting through, California style. Anyway, I think you are exaggerating a bit. Its not a bad tranny in absolute terms.

    Styling wise, I absolutely love the Touring (why exactly is wagon considered a 4 letter word among car co.’s?) version of the new 5. Thats the one to get if you ask me. Its one of the few wagons that aren’t noticeably louder and boomier that its sedan sibling. It’s only 4 wheel drive (at least in the US), but with the turbo motor, and driven in a manner appropriate for a 5, doesn’t suffer for it.

    If the tranny in the 535 is the same as the 335, another thing to watch out for is its adaptability. If you’re driving ‘briskly’, it will quickly catch on and avoid up-shifts even on trailing throttle. It can be a bit embarrassing to come up on a police car, stab the brakes, and slowly roll past with the engine close to redline:).

  • avatar

    the next gen 5 series looks very much like a plus-sized 3 series, and i love it! i’ve been having a helluva time deciding on a business lease car for the next 2 years; i think i’ll go with the M45 and then switch back to the 5 series when it’s available. thanks for the links!

  • avatar

    Speaking of the Touring, that is indeed the 5-er to get. Now that it’s the 535xi!. As the 530xi, you threw on a couple of options, and you’re immediately in 550i territory. Can’t pass up a 550i if you’re ponying up all the money.

    As the 535, though, the performance is as good or better than the E39 540i, so at least you’re not losing out on that. A definite buy, and gorgeous as well.

    Make mine this color.

  • avatar

    Pete: Name one

    Forget the Lexus ES. It’s a Camry (!)
    Highest MRSP on Lexus LS: $71,000

    People have mentioned the Infiniti M.

    Audi S6, $72K MRSP.

  • avatar

    When I switch from Classic view to Improved view, I notice that the word ‘Vagina” is included only in the first paragraph of the improved article. You guys are good.

    I guess there are no sacred cows at TTAC. You will never read a review like this in C/D, Motor Trend, or any of the other lightweights. If RF had a reward for review of the year, I would pick this one.

    My hands on experience with BMWs began and ended on the same day about 4 years ago. I stopped into a dealership and ended up taking a test drive of a late model 3-series convertible. A nervous salesman was beside me, so my 3 mile or so test drive was confined to a straight road with two turnarounds and not much opportunity for hoonage. I was expecting an automotive experience to rival a night with Jessica Alba. I was strangely unimpressed. It was just a car, not bad, not good, just unmemorable. I thought maybe because of my Detroit upbringing and steady diet of Big 3 cars and trucks, I did not have the sophistication to appreciate fine machinery.

    I left the dealership and walked to the Mini dealership next door to see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t expect much; these cars were too small, too girly, too underpowered. What I found was a very cool dealership staffed by willing and ‘normal’ salespeople. A salesman through me the keys to a base (non-S) mini with CVT. I took it out myself and put it through the proper paces. It was a total hoot, especially compared to the 3-Series I just drove. When I brought it back, the same salesman told me where to park it, and threw me the keys to a stick-equipped model. I’m now having the experience I craved in the BMW, in a car I thought was a turd not more than 1/2 hour ago. A lot was learned that day.

    (Sorry for veering a little off topic)

    Way to go Jay!!

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    At least quit referring to the supposed failure of BMW’s design as if it’s settled fact. It’s not.

    I have to disagree. I haven’t met a person yet who has said they love or even appreciate the look of the 5 or 7 series. Bangle screwed up royally, and thus to save face was kicked up stairs. Why the design retreat on the 3 and the refreshened 5 and 7? Hideous. Oh, and one more – Z4…the sales of which have hit rock bottom and the panic button has been punched.

    So why the record sales? Status. Image. Wannabes. I’d reckon 70-75% of BMW sales are for image purposes only – the owner not having a clue as to what exactly they’re driving.

    The previous 3 generations of 5 series were to me the epitome of classically styled , tossable sedans. The next generation seems to follow that tradition.

  • avatar


    The strangest thing about the BMWs is that the sedans are hideous (I’m on board with that meme, I see plenty every day), but the wagons are the hottness. I don’t know if I’m a weirdo (probably) or if there’s something malformed about the hunched, high, lumpen trunks which infest most modern cars. Subaru, Audi, BMW, Volvo, all are gorgeous as wagons and strange as sedans: for some reason, the wagons just look right.

  • avatar

    I’m looking forward to two things:

    1) The day when BMWs are attractive again.
    2) The day when the currently hip phrase “back in the day” fades into the sunset.

  • avatar


    With respect to point 1), I suspect that most of us couldn’t agree more. Chris Bangle singlehandedly ruined a theme which BMW had spent years to build, and the E39 5 series was one of the best looking sedans ever built.

    And yet, with all my aversion to the bangled design of even the 3-series sedan, when it came time to buy a new car, I drove the G35 and the IS350/GS350, and none have the driving dynamics of the BMW. The G35 is close, but the thrummy V6 does not invite use at higher RPM’s, it is larger than what I was looking for and the fuel mileage is simply not competitive with the 335. And the twin-turbo is simply the most tractable engine I have ever had the pleasure of driving.

    No question that the buttery leather and interior appointments in the Lexus is at the top of the class, or that the G35 is the hands-down value leader, but the E90 335 is a spectacular car.

    While I think that Dave M. is right about image-concious buyers, this is true with every expensive car, from BMW’s to Porsches and Ferraris; Ferrari sales have risen spectacularly since they included a sequential manual gearbox for those who cannot or will not shift for themselves. But take a 335, sport-package equipped 3- or 5-series to the track and you will quickly find out what the fuss is all about.

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    What I want to know is….



    Do I have to bring it to a BMW dealer where they will drain the oil, measure it, and then re-install it in the car?

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    No, seriously Jay, tell us what you REALLY think! Dont be so shy!!! HAHA

    Since I cannot buy this car, it is comforting to know it sucks. Thanks. I needed that.

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    June 6th, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Here are the renderings of next gen 5-series…

    Looks a lot cleaner IMO.”

    It’s certainly better. They took the front 2/3 of the 3 sedan and the rear of the 3 coupe and embiggened it a bit. It’s better than the current 5, no doubt.

    But, the e39 still takes the cake. What is the fascination with really high beltlines these days? It compromises visibility. It means that you have to have huge wheels for the car to look balanced – and replacing 19 or 20 inch rubber is expensive.

    It also means that you have to do something about the door sheetmetal. Without any frippery a high beltline means huge slab-like doors. So you have to flame-surface, or crease, or otherwise Bangle-up the car.

    I mean compare the current or upcoming designs to the e39:

    A few tasteful changes to the e39 would have been fine. But that’s not what we got.

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    Kman, I fully agree about the 530 vs 535 tourings. Thats why I passed on the 530 and got a 335 sedan. The 3 is also a nicer handling chassis, but there are times when I miss the space. I’m sure I would have gotten the wagon if the turbos & new transmission was available. That thing is so sweet it makes the plainest Jane soccer mom look hot in the drivers seat.

    I think all current sedans look ugly because carmakers are trying to squeeze max amount of interior space out of every vehicle platform. When the resulting fat midsection is combined with the less voluminous rear of a sedan, the look is that of a fatso. I feel the added rear visual weight of the wagon treatment camouflages this, and achieves some of the same effect Porsche does with their wide body models. Big hips over big belly. Always a good tradeoff if you ask me.

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    Good god the E39 is handsome. Thanks for reminding us… I want one suddenly.

  • avatar

    Call me crazy, but I think that the M45 Sport is a really great looking car:

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    Wow…those pictures of the new 5 certainly look great.

    Still, they’re only computer renderings for now, so we’ll have to wait if the real one is just as nice as these pictures promise. I saw some less appealing ones as well in an Austrian Magazine a while ago that looked only slightly better than the current one.

    With respect to the Bangle discussion; in contrast to common believe Bangle did NOT design the 7 series. A fellow dutchman Adrian van Hooydonk designed the exterior. Bangle’s mistake was to choose this design over two rivalling designs. Whether or not he made some changes to the overall appearence I don’t know. I know pretty certain Bangle DID design the Z4 and 6, which I personally think are quite good looking cars (especially 6 series).

    Finally…on the wagon/sedan question (I’ve mentioned this before) In Europe wagons are much more popular than sedans, especially among private buyers. So, the ones that like wagons better may have a more European taste in cars. So congratulations to you :)

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    Turbo G

    BMW lost its evolutionary styling touch when Wolfgang Reitzle left. The e39 5 series and e38 7 series are some of the most handsome sedans ever made…

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    What is the fascination with really high beltlines these days? It compromises visibility.

    Its for safety purposes. You dont want an SUV sideswipe you in a low beltline car… Imagine a dodge ram ramming you in an old e39

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    While I can’t get used to E90 sedan without thinking Pontiac GrandAm, I do like the E92 snout. If the next 5 adopts that look, it will be a car you don’t cringe at anymore.

    Look, no car is fun in traffic. It’s traffic’s fault, not the car’s. It’s the times you’re not in traffic when the roundel-hooded ride is so fun!

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    I like the way it looks, especially in darker colors.

  • avatar

    It’s the times you’re not in traffic when the roundel-hooded ride is so fun!

    That is until a cop pulls you over… from then on, it wont be much fun anymore.

  • avatar

    “That is until a cop pulls you over… from then on, it wont be much fun anymore.”

    There are frequently speed traps near my house, and my wife warns me not to speed. To which I reply “Honey, I don’t speed, I just go 0-30 really fast, and don’t slow down for corners.”

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    Another non-sense review but heck at least TTaC is different.

  • avatar

    I don’t agree with your review of the exterior or interior, I think you’re definitely being far, far too harsh there, it’s not necessary to be so overly critical on cars like this when there truly are vehicles out there that have awful fit and finish and are ugly as hell, just turn to many domestic makes for that.

  • avatar

    The 535i twin turbo can produce 406Nm of torque? the figure is close to that of the M3 V8 engine and its good quality BMW brake caliper if im not mistaken… But i wont dare to think about the price if it is sold here in CBU form. Even Brad Pitt would think twice before buying one!

  • avatar

    I read the article Jay Shoemaker wrote about the BMW 535I and was astonished at his remarks. I am 62 years old and still ride high performance bikes – like my current BMW K1200S. I bought a new 2008 BMW 535xi last week and can say it is without a doubt the finest mix of luxury and performance I have ever driven — and I've driven everthing out there worth driving. I live in Northern Nevada and we have snow/ice, so I was looking for all wheel drive in a performance vehicle but was willing to settle for 2 wheel drive if it was exceptional. I drove Lexus 450h & 460L; MB E550 and E550 4Matic; Audi A4 & A6; BMW 335I, BMW M Series Coupe; Porsche Caymen S, Carrera S and Carrera S4. I can afford any of these and the best buy of the lot was the BMW 535xi. It was fast, handling was exceptional, all the hype about the "I Drive" is a lot of bull, it had all wheel drive and it was under $60K. I got 20 way adjustable sport seats, Navigation, Sirus radio, automatic, sport wheels, heated seats & steering wheel and sport package included. As far as speed goes, it will hold its own with anything I drove except the Porsche Carrera S series. 

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    I like the current 5 – color and wheels are essential though! The 7 has always and will always be ugly, BTW. The 3 is as handsome as ever ( i really love the last gen). The 6 has mad sex appeal. I think Bangle did a good job.

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    I like the look of the 5 and 7 series, but not the Z4 at all. I buy a new car every year and have done so for over a decade. The cars are all starting to look too similar and have for years. BMW 5 and 7 series are NOT cookie cutter looking, they look much different, and i’ll be honest if they looked like a Camry I wouldn’t buy it regardless of their capabilities.

    From where I stand I am comparing my 2007 Acura TL Type-S options and performance to a hopefully superior 5 series. I feel the 335i would be the best bet but I feel is too small. I drove the 550i up to 100mph and I agree that at speed it was superior to my Acura but until that point I was amazing put off by it. It shifted slow and hesitated at slow speeds, the on and off ramps didn’t compare to my Acura. The nav screen was much smaller and hard to read, the interior looked about a generation behind my Acura. I do believe it was quieter inside while driving. I can afford the BMW but I just can’t justify it DAMN! What do I do? I want basically my car that handles a little better at the extremes is a little faster but I don’t want to compromise the fine qualities of what I have. I also don’t want to pay more than 50-60K. I looked at the M45 and it is not faster nor does it handle better than my car.
    WHAT A SHAME, I guess I have to buy a Vette and keep what I have, I don’t see an option.

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    All I can say is the writer is entitled to his opinion. I just happen to think he is wrong on just about every count.
    Pug ugly. Harsh words.
    Cheap and charmless interior? Hardly. How about modern and tasteful?
    I have yet to read a positive review about iDrive or the new auto shifter. But drive one for a while, and the shifter, while different is just plain cool, and iDrive beats a million buttons on the dash any day. With a little practice, the various functions become second nature. I hardly ever use those six extra buttons on the dash.
    Hats off to BMW for pushing the envelope….and eliciting strong opinions..both ways.

  • avatar

    I have been driving 530 for about a year and still hate iDrive. I know how to operate it, so the issue is not in my inability to learn. It is just ridiculous how many turns and click does it take to adjust a vent or switch radio stations. I’ll take good old buttons instead of iDrive any day. However, I’d still take iDrive over Lexus nav since at least BMW doesn’t prevent me from using the system when can is in motion.

    BMW will happily continue selling cars since a) it is still the best “driver’s cars” (for those who cares about 0-60 and enjoy neck snapping at every opportunity), b) there are plenty of people that will buy anything as long as it has roundel on the hood and c) there is not much choice considering Lexus inability to compete in sportiness, MB quality problems, Audi overall weak package and odd look of Infiniti. That’s how I ended up with BMW – I didn’t love it, but I liked other brands even less.

    I completely agree that 535 is jerky.

  • avatar

    No matter what engine, it still looks ugly (to me)on the outside. Can’t wait until the 2010 version of the 5 is available. Hopefully, the nightmare will be over.

  • avatar

    The slushbox hamstrings the motor? This is God’s way of telling everyone to get the 6 Speed.

  • avatar

    These new 5ers are muted by electronics and therefore hardly any fun. I’d rather resort to a good early 90s 535i. Here in Holland, one could pick up a 1988-1995 535i (211 bhp) for just about 7K. And I’m talking 40K mile cars here, so about brand new.

    Those cars were made to drive, not to play music over 12-speaker sound systems, watch tv or heat your ass. They came with nothing but a great set of seats and a great, great 3-spoke steering wheel–although the US version probably came standard with an airbag. Driving was what these cars were for and BMW never forgot about that while designing every nut and bolt.

  • avatar

    I read this review before I purchased a used 2008 535i in 2012. I like the car a lot more than the review. The review says that the car was no fun to drive slowly, and that the transmission was constantly hunting for different gears and very jerky. I wondered why he wrote that, because mine was very well behaved. Then one day what the author wrote described my car exactly! Turns out, I had left the “sport” button engaged. The car does not like to be driven slowly in “sport” mode. But there is no reason to do it. Frankly, the only think I don’t like about the car is that the turn signal indicators are blocked by the wheel, so you can’t see them. And the stalk has terrible feedback. It’s comfortable, quiet, economical on the highway, and when the opportunity arises — is quicker than hell.

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