BMW 535i Sedan Review Photo:
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Tony O'Kane | Aug, 25 2010 | 2 Comments


Sitting just beneath the V8-powered 550i in BMW’s mid-size line-up is the 2010 BMW 535i, which arrived this year in an all-new skin with all-new underpinnings and a new lease on life.


What’s new?

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BMW’s new 5 Series, sitting on the new F10-chassis (essentially the architecture from the 7 Series’ F01 chassis), is a ground-up redesign.

Besides the new platform, the interior is completely different and the 3.0 litre turbocharged six fitted to our test car is also newly-minted.

Changes are wholesale and virtually nothing carries over from the model before. And there is not a downside in sight. The F10 5 Series is greatly improved over the preceding E60 model in every respect.


What’s the appeal?

Buyers trading in their E60 for an F10 5 Series will find much to like. The interior feels bigger, the design is less polarizing (although more conservative as a result), and there are numerous dynamic improvements.

Our tester, BMW’s 535i executive express, comes with a very upmarket feel and with cabin detailing that has more than a slight whiff of ‘Eau de 7 Series’ about it.


What features does it have?

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Standard for all 5 Series models is multi-zone climate control (our test car had the optional four-zone system), Dakota leather, wood trim, keyless ignition, cruise control, a trip computer, sat nav, heads-up display, parking sensors, auto-on bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and Bluetooth connectivity.

The 335i also scores active cornering lamps with high-beam assist, a rear-view camera, eight-way electrically adjustable front seats, keyless entry and a 12-speaker premium audio system with USB/iPod inputs.

Our test car also came fitted with a number of options: ‘surround view’ parking display, lane departure warning system, lane change warning system, a 10.2 inch display for the top-line Navigation System Professional, a TV receiver, heated front seats, power-operated bootlid and a sunroof.


What’s under the bonnet?

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The twin-turbo inline six that powered the previous-gen 535i (which wasn't available in Australia) has been retired, replaced by a new single-turbo straight six.

Power and torque are up by 25kW and 85Nm from the old motor’s output, with the new engine peaking at 225kW and 400Nm.

An eight-speed automatic has taken the place of the old six-speeder, and comes with a set of steering wheel-mounted shift paddles on the 535i.

Suspension has also seen major revisions. With the F10 5 Series built atop the new 7 Series architecture, BMW has ditched the old 5’s MacPherson strut front suspension in favour of a more capable double A-arm setup.

The rear rides on an all-new multi-link suspension set-up, and active rear steering is available as an option.

There’s a host of electronic aids that give the driver greater control over the chassis, including Dynamic Driving Control and Dynamic Damper control (both standard on the 535i).

The combination of both systems allow the driver to select from four modes – Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ - which alter the damper firmness, throttle mapping or both.

Sport+ also dials back the stability control system, allowing greater slip angles in spirited driving.


How does it drive?

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The 535i is an accomplished performer on the open road; it stops, turns and accelerates its 1700kg mass superbly.

At speed it is flat and composed, with thread-the-needle precision at the wheel and quite superb chassis balance.

Few car makers can engineer a chassis for the keen driver in the way that BMW can and, for a large sedan, BMW’s 535i is deceptively swift and a seriously good drive.

That inline six may have one less turbo compared to the engine it replaced, but less is more in this instance. The power curve is exceptionally linear, turbo lag is minimal and there’s loads of torque across a wide rpm band.

Power output is a healthy 225kW. Although not quite enough to make the heavy Bavarian a full-on rocketship it’s nevertheless enough to hustle it up to 100km/h in an appreciably quick 6.1 seconds.

With eight speeds to choose from, the 535i’s transmission has a gear for nearly every scenario. It’s transparently smooth and under gentle driving blends changes with seamless fluidity.

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When Sport mode is dialed up, gearshifts become noticeably quicker and sharper. It’s not quite as quick as the Lexus IS F’s eight-speed auto, but it’s plenty fast for the odd B-road blast.

Related Content: Click to read TMR's road tests across the BMW range

A criticism? We think it doesn’t downshift readily enough even in Sport+ mode. It sometimes leaves you in a dead part of the powerband after exiting slower corners. Better, we found, to use the shift paddles and manage the ratios yourself when giving the 535i some beans.

Body control, on the other hand, is excellent. Roadholding is well above par in any of the chassis modes, but pitch and roll are the least apparent in Sport mode. The electrically-assisted steering is nicely weighted and communicative – particularly in Sport.

In the daily grind, Comfort is the chassis mode of choice. The others make the dampers too firm for Australian roads, and even Comfort mode struggles to properly soak up hard-edged road imperfections.

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Take-off from standstill can be a little tardy in Comfort and Normal modes though, thanks to ‘soft’ throttle mapping dulling the accelerator pedal.

While it makes the 5 Series easier to drive in heavy stop-start traffic, and improves fuel consumption, it can feel a little lifeless in these modes.

Tyre roar from the run-flats can also spoil what is an otherwise serenely quiet cabin, although it’s only coarse asphalt that disagrees with the rubber.

Another issue is poor outward visibility courtesy of the high boot and extremely thick A and B-pillars.

The large wing mirrors compensate for the poor rearward visibility to an extent, but the thickness of the pillars means the optional ‘surround view’ parking display and lane change warning system are highly recommended for 5 Series buyers.


What did our passengers think?

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Legroom and headroom is great in the front and the leather-trimmed seats are comfortable and very accommodating.

Smaller-bodied people may find the wide-ish front seats lacking in lateral support, but that’s really only an issue when driving at the 535i’s (very high) limits.

The rear bench features seating for three, but the centre position has an extremely firm backrest (really, the underside of the centre armrest), and is best left unoccupied.

Head and shoulder room in the rear is good, but toes can get a little crowded by the front seat base.

There’s also plenty of transmission tunnel intrusion, meaning whoever’s unfortunate enough to have to occupy the middle seat has nowhere for the feet.

Generally speaking though, the new 5 Series feels noticeably larger inside than the previous-gen 5. Clearly, the move to the 7 Series chassis has paid dividends here.

While the front occupants are spoiled by a plethora of mod-cons, the rear passengers don’t miss out.

Our tester had the optional four-zone climate control system installed, which gives the outboard rear passengers independent control of their own quadrant’s temperature.

There’s also map lights, two cupholders and door bins in all doors. Headrest-mounted DVD players are also available as an option


Interior quality and feel

The 535i’s interior is one of its best assets. There’s a genuine sense of opulence in the new 5 Series’ cabin, a sensation that seemed absent in the last-gen model.

A sports leather steering wheel with paddles is standard on the 535i, and is nicely sculpted to fit the hand. High-quality soft-touch plastics abound, with wood trim polished to an exceptionally high sheen.

The layout of the centre stack is button-heavy, but the controls are all grouped logically and it doesn’t take long to figure out what does what. The backlit black panel display for the climate control is an aesthetic highlight.

Everything feels solid - this is an interior that will age well. Bar a few minor differences in shape and size, the dash layout is nearly identical to that of the 7 Series, and the prestige of BMW’s high-roller large sedan rubs off nicely on the 535i.


Luggage space

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The 535i sedan’s boot space measures 520 litres and has a flat floor, however wheelarch intrusions and provision for a boot-mounted CD stacker reduce the width.

Luggage room can be expanded by dropping the 60/40 split fold rear seats, and a ski port enables long items to be carried without having to fold either seat.

In-cabin storage isn’t that great, despite the size of the interior. The centre console bin is surprisingly compact, the glovebox is fairly small and the door bins are both shallow and short.

There’s plenty of spots to put small items like a wallet or a phone, but keeping anything larger out of view while the car is parked may be a challenge.


How safe is it?

Standard safety includes front, side and side-curtain airbags, three-point seatbelts on all seats and active head restraints.

Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are all par for the course in this segment, and BMW’s traction control can be switched between three settings – on, off or ‘Dynamic’, which allows a little bit of sideways fun before intervening.

Our test car was also fitted with the optional lane departure warning system and lane change warning system, which uses on-board cameras and radar sensors to tell the driver whether they are deviating from their lane or if another vehicle is hiding in the car’s blind spot.


Fuel consumption and green rating

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We tried, honestly we did, but in the end we couldn’t match BMW’s claimed fuel consumption figure of 8.4 l/100km. Our final average of 12.1 l/100km wasn’t even in the same ballpark, but let’s just put the discrepancy down to too much enthusiastic pedaling.

The turbo six is such a torque-laden motor that we’ve little doubt the 535i could achieve BMW’s claim, however the temptation to tap into that turbo power is overpoweringly strong – much to the detriment of fuel economy.

The Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide rates the 2010 BMW 535i 6.5 stars out of 10 for greenhouse gas emissions, and 8.5 out of 10 for particulate emissions.


How does it compare?

Audi’s A6 3.0 TFSI and Lexus’ GS 450h compete in the same realm as the BMW 535i, but both are a generation behind the BMW and their respective designs are starting to show it.

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The A6 holds a price advantage of $107,400 though, and its supercharged V6 delivers the numbers needed to be on a level playing field with the BMW. The GS 450h ($132,500) has a smooth hybrid powertrain, but is too small inside and is now looking a little dated.

However, as is the norm, BMW’s old nemesis Mercedes-Benz is the source for the 535i’s most logical competitor.

The E350 sedan bears the same $128,900 price-tag as the 535i and is a close match in terms of accommodation, build quality and chassis sophistication.

However, the E350 doesn’t get a heads-up display, fancy surround-view cameras or an eight-speed transmission. Its naturally-aspirated V6 engine also loses out to the BMW’s turbo six in both power and torque.



The 535i comes with a three-year unlimited kilometre vehicle warranty, with a three-year paint warranty and 12-year bodywork warranty.

A complimentary three-year roadside assistance subscriptions is also offered.

Colour combinations

There are two non-metallics (Alpine White and Black), and ten metallic paint colours offered in the 5 Series sedan range. Metallic paint is a no-cost option on the 535i and 550i.


How much?

The 2010 BMW 535i sedan retails for $128,900 before on-road costs, with BMW’s online price calculator estimating an on-road price of $141,025.


Our verdict

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The 535i is a technological powerhouse – and more so if you have enough cash to tick some of the options boxes. That said, it’s very well equipped in standard spec, is tastefully styled and exceptionally well put-together.

It’s also a genuine step up from the old 5 Series. With the 2010 model, BMW has moved the 5 Series nameplate further upmarket in terms of quality and overall finish.

The looks may be more conservative than the last-gen 5 Series, but beneath the business-suit exterior lies an athlete at heart.

Few large sedans can match its on-road balance and responsiveness. Sumptuous but restrained, it’s a luxury sedan for well-heeled driving enthusiasts, and we highly recommend it.

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