As Perfect as They Come?

2011 BMW 535i Review

By Rob Rothwell
2011 BMW 535i Review

Summary Rating: 82%

Styling

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Accessories

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Space and Access

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Comfort

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Performance

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Driving Dynamics

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Safety

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General Appreciation

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BMW recently issued the sixth-generation of its esteemed 5-Series sedan. This rendition of the mid-size German is slightly larger than its predecessor and possibly more stylish too.

New body and stiffer chassis
Before going a word further in this road test, I must say that I’m finding it difficult to conclude that the exterior styling of the 2011 5-Series is an improvement over that of the 2010 car. Maybe my ability to appreciate fine-art is circumspect but last year’s cleaner sheeting and feline styling cues had me purring with greater affection.

I must say that I’m finding it difficult to conclude that the exterior styling of the 2011 5-Series is an improvement over that of the 2010 car. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)

Despite my potentially bombastic eye for style, the 2011 5-Series projects plenty of eye-catching angles and creases, which I imagine is the point – and which makes this vehicle a visible standout. Along with the increase in visual vibes comes an increase in chassis stiffness.

BMW tells us that the new 5-Series is a whopping 55-percent stiffer than last year’s car; the added structural rigidity pays-off in improved ride dynamics and handling ability, which will be discussed shortly. Before getting there, a word or two about the new Bimmer’s cabin is justified.

Cabin enhancements are subtle
If not familiar with BMW cabins of late, I’m pleased to advise that they are superbly assembled using high quality materials. While not completely minimalist in their design theme, there isn’t the plethora of buttons and gizmos like those found frequently in Japanese products.

Many of the 535i’s settings and functions are controlled through BMW’s antagonistic yet effectual iDrive interface. Once this device is mastered, like the game of Chess, it becomes second nature. Until then, expect to feel like a modern day Luddite—but an extremely comfortable one.

I enjoyed an outstanding degree of that comfort while behind the wheel of my tester. Particularly praise-worthy is BMW’s use of extendable seat cushions in their front perches. Why more manufacturers don’t adopt this simple solution to varying thigh length is more a mystery to me than provincial politics.

A final cabin comment goes to its exceptional human-embracing architecture. Ergonomics and driver positioning are so perfect that it felt as though BMW engineers built the cabin around me as I sat in the firmly bolstered driver’s seat.

The instrument cluster is clear and unimpeded, and overall visibility is commendable. I particularly enjoyed the vehicle’s high seating position, which enabled me to ogle the 5’s beautifully sculpted hood while driving. I also enjoyed what I found beneath my right foot.

If not familiar with BMW cabins of late, I’m pleased to advise that they are superbly assembled using high quality materials. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)

Full torque at 1,200 rpm

It’s not so much horsepower that launches a vehicle from a standstill as it is torque. Thanks to sophisticated twin-scroll turbocharging, direct injection and BMW’s Valvetronic technology, the 535i’s new 3.0-litre inline 6-cylinder engine is a torque monster.

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