Fire up the 535d and you can tell right away that it’s a different take on the already excellent 5 Series. This one starts up quietly, calmly and with no fanfare. It doesn’t scream “I’m different!” or “I’m diesel, hear me rumble!” Instead, it turns over with the humble demeanor of an engine that knows it’s new on the block, but also knows it’s probably the best value available.
|1. A 3.0-liter turbo-diesel six-cylinder makes 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque.
2. The diesel engine is only available with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
3. Both rear- and all-wheel drive configurations are available.
4. Official fuel economy is 26 MPG city, 38 MPG highway and 30 MPG combined for rear-wheel drive models.
5. The diesel engine is just a $1,500 upgrade over the gasoline 535i.
MOST EFFICIENT 5 SERIES
The 535d borrows the same 3.0-liter six-cylinder diesel from the X5 xDrive35d. Making 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque, you might expect the engine to have the characteristics of a diesel designed for a truck. But this is a BMW sedan and not your average run-of-the-mill one either. Competing German luxury cars are getting diesel engines too, but are placed at different ends of the spectrum. The Mercedes E-Class BlueTec diesel sits as the most affordable E-Class available, while the Audi A6 TDI is the most expensive model in the A6 range. In comparison, the 535d sits about mid-range.
BMW began selling a diesel 5 Series in the E28 generation built and sold through most of the 1980s. After years of massaging its diesel tech overseas, the 535d finally reaches our shores with a sense of refinement and an emphasis, not just on fuel economy, but luxury too.
Those looking for the most fuel efficient 5 Series; the diesel engine is the one to get – offering 26 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway. At 30 MPG combined, the 535d is four MPG better than the pricey ActiveHybrid5 and three MPG better than the affordable 528i. During our test with the 535d we easily managed an average 36 MPG, making this one of the impressive engines in the 5 series stable. However, those looking to buy the 535d for its fuel economy will really appreciate the cars lesser known bonus feature – speed. With 413 lb-ft available from 1500 to 3000 rpm, the 535d easily hits 60 mph in under six seconds and makes short work of everything from stop-lights to on-ramps .
LUXURY LOOSENS ITS TIE AND HAS FUN
BMW is known for building cars with solid handling dynamics and the 535d doesn’t disappoint. The extra torque is more than enough to push the 4,085-lb sedan out of turns and while it’s hard to escape the sheer weight of the 5 Series, the 535d has enough oomph to keep from feeling underpowered. Mash the pedal in second gear at about 2,000 rpm and feel the car’s linear power band builds speed with ease.
Our tester features the always appreciated dynamic control switch that allows drivers to flip through different drive modes. Driving it mostly in comfort mode shows that the BMW 5 Series is a sleek cruising machine, neatly gobbling up miles without any discomfort to the passengers. But there’s room for aggression, too. In Sport and Sport Plus modes, it provides a more thrilling driving experience – even with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Feeling the torque as the tachometer barrels towards the redline is quite the experience, so it’s a shame that you can’t stomp on a clutch pedal and sift through gears on your own, like you can with the 535i, which is available with a manual.
The car feels brisk, tidy and tight, exactly as expected from a car with the BMW logo on the front grille. The 5 Series sees updated suspension and steering calibration for this year and it’s clear that the company did away with any unwanted feedback out of the slick sedan. With the adjustable settings, the sporty settings feel firm and confident, while the comfort settings are relaxed and leisurely. You’ll appreciate the cars limited body roll and a sense of composure over rougher pavement.
DRESSED TO IMPRESS
Interior accents get a touch up this year, with more glossy black and chrome panels surrounding key areas around the interior. For example, the iDrive display is framed in chrome trim. The 5 Series also gets a new iDrive control system, which has a touchpad fitted to the top of the knob.
Using the touchpad to write out destinations is a frustrating affair, as the system recognizes your finger up to the moment you remove it, making letters that need two inputs like T’s F’s and Y’s practically impossible to write in the system. However, the new interface proved itself to be useful while navigating the maps display of iDrive, where it can be used to move around the map smoothly, instead of nudging the iDrive controller around in an unnatural way.
Switching to a diesel powertrain doesn’t do anything to the cargo space of the 5 Series, unlike the ActiveHybrid5 which actually loses 5.2 cubic feet of its trunk. And despite the 535d’s clean-diesel exhaust treatment system, the diesel model is actually about 150 lbs. lighter than the 535i.
For 2014 the 5 Series sees few changes to its already clean-cut exterior design. A handsome and elegant looking sedan, xenon-headlights are now standard, as are a set of redesigned LED taillights.
LOW PRICE PREMIUM BUT HIGH PRICED OPTIONS
Starting at $57,525, the 535d costs just $1,500 more than the gas powered 535i and xDrive all-wheel drive costs another $2,300. Buyers get an extensive list of pricey options to equip their 5 Series with and the obvious ones are a bit on the steep side. The must-have dynamic handling package costs $3,500 and the always useful driver assistance package costs $1,800 just to add a heads-up display, rear-view camera, parking sensors and an upgraded information cluster.
While the pricey options are inevitable, the fuel costs aren’t.
In every way, the diesel is equal or better than its gasoline counterpart. It’s quiet, comfortable, aggressive, lighter and most importantly more fuel efficient. Spending an extra $1,500 is worth it as the car not only delivers on improved fuel economy but does so without compromising the characteristic BMW drive experience.