Much of BMW’s promotional documentation about the 2014 model 535d sedan emphasizes the impressive fuel efficiency. It talks of 26 mpg in town driving and 37 mpg on the highway. Driving in blizzard conditions, New York Times motoring correspondent Lawrence Ulrich reported even more impressive figures 42 mpg on an upstate New York highway.
Fuel efficiency is mainly about saving money, yet most people who cut a check for nearly $60,000 for a mid-range luxury automobile are not overly concerned about saving a few dollars at the pumps, or, if they are, it certainly is not the reason they buy this car.
The 535d sedan is a delight just to look at and, even more so, to sit in. Its interior is utterly sumptuous with soft Dakota leather upholstery, black doors with dark wood trim, and black dashboard.
The front seats are 10-way power adjustable. The understated dash houses the upgraded BMW “iDrive” computer console, which gives the driver easy, one-handed touchpad control of the information, communication, navigation, and entertainment functions. For extra safety, the driver can operate the iDrive without having to look at it. The car’s ride is more like gliding on air than driving on hard tarmac.
This is due to the upgraded lightweight Suspension, the ZF eight-speed ultra-smooth automatic transmission, and the almost silent 3.1-liter diesel engine that BBC’s motoring magazine, Top Gear, described as “one of the greatest diesel engines in history.”
The 6-cylinder engine may not make much noise, but it makes a big statement when you need it most. With one jab on the accelerator the twin-scroll turbocharger kicks in hurling the car forward as if its life depended on being somewhere else fast. (Its 255 horsepower engine can take you from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds).
That kind of acceleration is particularly comforting when you need to rapidly overtake a couple of tailgating eighteen-wheelers before an oncoming overzealous driver, unconcerned by the speed limit, becomes an unwelcome addition to your front grille. Amazing acceleration is vital, but so too is dependable deceleration. You don’t have to hit the brakes hard for the 535d to stop like a jet fighter landing on a carrier deck.
Yet the determined deceleration is not unsettling, and there is no risk of the occupants’ buttons or jewelry flying off, thanks to BMW’s most sensitive advanced breaking system (ABS). Accelerating, decelerating, or just cruising, the 535d sedan’s ride is firm and reassuring, especially when cornering. Road adhesion is greatly assisted not just by the wide, low-profile radial tires, but also by the all-wheel drive transmission and the advanced dynamic traction control system.
Tight cornering at speed gives the impression that the big tires are studded with a million tiny suction caps determined not to let go of the roadway. Night driving safety and driver comfort are greatly enhanced by dynamic, auto leveling, Xenon adaptive headlights. All these safety features add up to three things: driver and passenger protection, comfort, and confidence.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and seen from the curb, the 535d sedan is classic BMW luxury with clean, sleek, sharp, head-turning lines.