Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo-Diesel 3.0L I6
Power:
255 HP / 413 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
5.7 Seconds
Top Speed:
130 MPH (limited)
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,255 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
18.4 CU-FT
MPG:
26 City / 37 HWY
Base Price:
$58,900
I absolutely love to travel, but man, do I hate flying. Not the act of flying itself, but air travel in general – slogging through the airport, dealing with security, fighting with delays, only to finally be crammed like cattle into a too-small airplane seat where you're offered $8 sandwiches that are half-frozen. (Okay, it's not always that bad, but still.)

So when I was tasked with attending the launch for the 2015 Subaru WRX STI in Carmel, CA, I had a choice to make. I could fly into San Francisco and find my own way down to Carmel, or I could grab a turbo-prop out of SFO and fly directly into Monterey. And since you're reading about all of this in a car review, it's pretty obvious which option I chose.

The current BMW 5 Series isn't a new car, despite receiving a couple of updates for the 2014 model year. But what is new is the 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline six-cylinder engine found underhood, borrowed from the larger X5 xDrive35d and also seen in the upcoming 740Ld xDrive. It's a honey of an engine, and here in the 5 Series, it makes for a truly first-class experience.

Driving Notes
  • Obviously, the heart of the 535d is what's most important, that 3.0-liter engine putting out 255 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque in this application, the latter of which comes on in full force at just 1,500 rpm.
  • For comparison, the 535d's main competitor, the Audi A6 TDI, also uses a 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine good for 240 hp and 428 lb-ft. Less horsepower, sure, but more available torque – and with a diesel powerplant, it's all about those foot-pounds. For what it's worth, Audi estimates the A6 TDI with Quattro all-wheel drive will hit 60 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds, while the BMW 535d xDrive does it in 5.7. But really, that's splitting hairs.
  • Acceleration in the Bimmer comes on with a great rush. You immediately dig into the available torque, and it stays strong through the short rev range of each gear. Speaking of gears, the BMW has eight of 'em, and the shifts are smooth as butter. The ZF eight-speed automatic transmission really is a great match for this 3.0-liter setup – while cruising at 75 miles per hour on the highway in eighth, the engine was only turning over at about 1,600 rpm.
  • It's that sort of efficiency that allows the BMW to fully achieve its EPA ratings of 26 miles per gallon city and 37 mpg highway. On my cruise down the 101 between the San Francisco airport and Salinas, CA, the onboard trip computer showed me averaging about 36 mpg, even taking into consideration the stop-and-go stints I faced leaving SFO.
  • But the diesel engine isn't just for highway efficiency. Once I finally got off the 101 and through the city of Salinas, I was greeted with many a canyon road on my way down to Carmel Valley. On uphill passes, the low-end grunt was welcome, as the 8AT didn't need to jump down several gears to keep the power on tap. With my foot firmly on the throttle, the transmission would only step down one gear, maybe two, the full 413 lb-ft readily available to move the 4,255-pound sedan with authority.
  • None of this 5er's aspects of driving were particularly sporty, this first and foremost being a luxury cruiser, but the 5 Series is still designed to be a great steer. The suspension is well tuned to be comfortable on the highway and firm enough to offer good feedback and damping on winding roads, the steering is direct yet somewhat heavy, and body roll is apparent but well-managed – nothing you wouldn't expect for a car this size. Honestly, the 535d is a relaxed, smooth operator, but it's still plenty engaging on more entertaining stretches of pavement.
  • One gripe: run-flat rubber. On many surfaces, plenty of tire noise was apparent, and the ride quality did suffer on broken stretches of road. The larger 19-inch wheels of the M Sport package look wonderful, though – just ditch the run-flats.
  • Inside, the 5 Series is exactly what you'd expect – comfortable, well-appointed and quiet, all things that make the commute down the 101 as serene as possible. I dug the ivory white Nappa leather of this tester (don't spill anything!) and the way it contrasted with the black dash/doors and aluminum trim. While I still prefer the Audi A6 in terms of onboard tech, the 5 Series with its latest iteration of iDrive and a touchpad integrated atop the large iDrive controller dial has all of the functionality you could ever want.
  • The 535d starts at $56,600 with rear-wheel drive, or $58,900 with xDrive all-wheel drive. Add on options like the M Sport pack, the Lighting Package, Premium Package, and multi-contour seats, and you arrive at the $68,725 of my test car, including $925 for destination. A comparable 535i xDrive starts at $1,500 less, of course, but the diesel power is really well-matched with the dynamics of the 5 Series. If you don't mind the added price premium – not to mention the higher cost of fuel – it really is a great package. To hell with airplanes – this is the way to fly.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 55 Comments
      Andrew
      • 10 Months Ago
      $1500 isn't bad. I'm betting the fuel economy pretty well covers the additional $/gal, while resale more than makes up for the initial price. Used diesels seem popular. However, one can still get a 535i with a manual...
      Andrew
      • 10 Months Ago
      Oooh an "//M" left foot rest! Hahaha... I'll take a clutch pedal, please.
      icemilkcoffee
      • 10 Months Ago
      0-60 in 5.7sec! That is super impressive for a diesel car.
        72CJ5driver
        • 10 Months Ago
        @icemilkcoffee
        Heck, when the e39 540i came out it was the fastest car in its class for a long time with a 5.7 0-60 run.
        19nomad56
        • 10 Months Ago
        @icemilkcoffee
        Even the smaller diesel in the 328d will do just over 7 seconds, while getting 32/45 mpg. Decent compromise.
      Zeppelin
      • 10 Months Ago
      M550d please.
      Wisdom Seeker
      • 10 Months Ago
      The only thing that would keep me from owning this car is the price. But a great choice for those who can swing it.
      banksy
      • 10 Months Ago
      Why is it that in Europe the X30d (330d or 530d) are the ones putting out 256bhp, and the X35d put out 306bhp? Sounds like America is getting the short end of the stick on this one!
        mini-me
        • 10 Months Ago
        @banksy
        BMW is really selling the 530d here and calling it the 535d so it does not appear "inferior" to the 535i on the showroom floor. BMW should bring the "real" 535d and call it a 540d or something else to differentiate.
          montoym
          • 10 Months Ago
          @mini-me
          Or they could just do what they always used to do and just put the damn displacement on the trunklid. Call the 330d and 330d if it has a 3.0L engine. I'd like to believe that consumers are smart enough to research what they are buying and aren't so totally drawn in by what's listed on the trunklid that they could care less about anything else.
        jessesrq
        • 10 Months Ago
        @banksy
        I believe it has something to do with inconsistent levels of sulfur content in our diesel fuel that requires some de-tuning.
          atc98092
          • 10 Months Ago
          @jessesrq
          It's not the sulfur. North America changed to ultra low sulfur diesel (5 PPM) about 8 years ago. The bigger problem for NA diesel is its lubricity. However, with many states mandating low levels of biodiesel (usually B2, but some states are higher), this improves the lubricity enormously. In fact, mixing BioD at the B2 level makes our diesel even better than it is in Europe. As long as the tanks aren't contaminated at the station or on the trucks (with either gas or water), then our diesel is fine.
      carguy1701
      • 10 Months Ago
      Did this car have Active Roll Stabilization?
        normc32
        • 10 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        The Motor Trend figure-eight test for the 535I is only half second faster than my Verano 2.0T with it's all season tires. So probably not on runflats.
          mitytitywhitey
          • 10 Months Ago
          @normc32
          wow, you're like the Buick version of BlackDynamiteOnline.
          chrishs2000
          • 10 Months Ago
          @normc32
          No one gives a sh*t about your Verano. Your endless posting about it just serves to prove that point. Should I also discuss how my S2000 handles better, because that's super relevant to the 535d?
          normc32
          • 10 Months Ago
          @normc32
          My turbocharge 2.4 Saturn Sky would run rings around your ricer burner! It also sees over 40+ mpg.
      normc32
      • 10 Months Ago
      My Verano 2.0T 6MT did 37 mpg 1,000 mile trip at +5 mph in near freezing temperature unlike CA warmer climate. Also crossed PA-80 at the highest point on I-80 east of Mississippi.
        Aurio Salimonne
        • 10 Months Ago
        @normc32
        Who cares,is a Daewoo on drag and not on the same League,cheaper build,ugly design from china S.A.I.C. And a key fob that can be trace on any old European Daewoo too,sad for you and sorry for spend all that money (Lexus ES300 even if it is base on Camry is more class and better value than Veneno)
          normc32
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Aurio Salimonne
          Ha! Camry a driver's car? It is over one second slower than Verano on MT figure-eight!
          normc32
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Aurio Salimonne
          Grandpa car? I'm not 50 years old and graying! The Verano runs with the Accord V6 in Motor Trend's figure-eight test. The Lexus ES is about one second behind! No rolling appliances for me!
          May
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Aurio Salimonne
          Verano is a European Opel Astra. Cruze is a Daewoo.
        19nomad56
        • 10 Months Ago
        @normc32
        my 2014 Mazda3i GT did 42.7 on a round trip from south Orange County to LAX (120 miles). What's your point?
          normc32
          • 10 Months Ago
          @19nomad56
          So you refilled at 3 gallons of fuel? Small capacity...no wonder they get good mpg. I can do a two way average and see 45 mpg in the Verano 2.0T 6MT and I have Trifecta Tune with twice the hp and trq to you 150 lbs weakling!
      muspod
      • 10 Months Ago
      All for the same price of a Cadillac CTS. This is how it's done Caddy..
        msspamrefuge
        • 10 Months Ago
        @muspod
        How what is done? The 5 doesn't enjoy clear superiority to the CTS, so I'm a little lost as to what you're insinuating.
          muspod
          • 10 Months Ago
          @msspamrefuge
          go drive both.. You'll get it if you have any car sense at all. It'superior in ALL ways. Fit, Finish, ride quality, Accelleration Stopping Dynamics,etc etc and now diesel!
      BarryH
      • 10 Months Ago
      Having owned both BMW and Audi, I'd go BMW in a flash. Our BMWs had issues, for sure, but were more fun to drive than out Audis that also had issues. No comparison really as our Audis were horrendous to keep running. Really poor engineering. Worse customer service.
      poggi
      • 10 Months Ago
      3-series diesels are experiencing very expensive issues with EGR/carbon buildup requiring head replacement in some cases. Has BMW solved this problem in the 5-series? A friend's 3335d is in for repair for 30 days waiting on parts!! http://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=675023
      Stridenttube
      • 10 Months Ago
      Drop dead gorgeous car. Three years later and I still think this is one of the best looking cars on the road. Timeless design from BMW as usual, I think this will age as well as the e39 five series for sure.
        CoolWaters
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Stridenttube
        You may need an eye exam.
        RobbyCough
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Stridenttube
        It is. I lost a lot of my BMW enthusiasm years ago but this is a beautiful car. It has great proportions and I think those are some of the nicest wheels in the business.
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