A sedan worth a thousand flavours
You want state-of-the-art stuff? Witness the incredible Power Turbo inline-6 engine with High Precision (direct) Injection and Valvetronic. Gone is the twin-turbo mill we all knew and loved; however, it was replaced by a new 3.0-litre engine using a single twin-scroll turbocharger. As a result, you no longer feel any turbo lag. I must say, though, that the powerplant did not feel quite as smooth as its predecessor from the get-go. Incidentally, the upgraded Valvetronic fuel management system increases efficiency.
BMW also added Integral Active Steering to the mix. Up to 37 mph, the rear wheels slightly turn in the opposite direction from the front wheels to quicken low-speed steering response and shrink the turning circle. Above 37 mph, they turn in the same direction as the front wheels to enhance handling. Meanwhile, electric-assist power steering is standard.
Ooops, there’s a corner!
On the road, the 535i behaves flawlessly. My tester featured the optional Driving Dynamics Control system, which works in Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes, toying with suspension calibration, throttle response, shift timing and steering assistance. In Comfort or Normal mode, the car cruised down the small Portuguese byroads without ever flinching.
The all-new 8-speed autobox shifts with the utmost swiftness and seamlessness, molding its action on the driving mode selected. Two paddle shifters behind the steering wheel (optional) allow manual operation. Personally, though, I could never be as quick as the electronic brain of this car.
On a challenging track like Estoril, the 535i never broke a sweat in either Sport or Sport+ mode (the latter makes the DSC stability control switch automatically to looser drift thresholds). Pushed to the limit (with the help of a fellow writer/race car driver), the machine kept its cool and balance. It’s not a race car, obviously, but it still handles easily and pleasantly like a true driver’s car.
I did feel the 535i understeer a bit at times, which is normal, but the aforementioned Active Steering further kept everything under control. In fact, even I could impersonate Jacques Villeneuve, who happened to win the last Portuguese Grand Prix ever, by the way.
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