2014 BMW 535d First Test
Smoky and Sweet
More than a year ago BMW released a few ads of a 5 Series doing smoky burnouts and drag racing a Porsche 911 4S. Sounds like a job for the M5, doesn't it? Except that it wasn't an M5. Instead, the sedan in that ad had an inline-six turbodiesel that can be found under the hood of a 2014 BMW 535d. The ads aimed to show off the 2014 535d's strongest assets: loads of torque and impressive fuel economy.
BMW waited until model year 2014 to finally send the diesel over to the U.S., which is why we're just getting our hands on it now. The folks in Europe, of course, enjoyed multiple gas and diesel options from the launch of the sixth-gen 5, including the 535d that our own editor-at-large Angus MacKenzie sampled in the U.K. back in 2011. To say that he liked it would be an understatement -- he declared it to be "BMW's best six."
Until this point, Americans wanting a 5 Series were stuck choosing among five non-diesel powertrains, starting with the base turbo-four that powered our now-departed long-term 528i. At best, we found that car barely lived up to its claim of being both efficient and dynamic. Next, the 550i with its burly twin-turbo V-8 seemed a tad too heavy and clumsy. Then there's the ActiveHybrid 5, which we've driven but have yet to thoroughly test. And the M5? That's in a completely different world filled with super sedans approaching 600 hp and six-figure price tags.
That leaves us with the 535i and its smooth 3.0-liter, 300-hp I-6. This car, we declared, was the Goldilocks of the 5 Series bunch, the perfect powertrain for BMW's midsizer.
Apparently BMW has saved the best for last because the 535d is the new powertrain sweet spot in the 5 Series lineup.
Its potent 3.0-liter I-6 turbodiesel, paired to a quick-shifting eight-speed auto, churns out 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. Max torque arrives at just 1,500 rpm, which means the 535d pulls strong out of the gate. Mash the accelerator, and the sedan surges forward and doesn't let up until well into triple-digit speeds. Getting to 60 mph takes just 5.5 seconds, which is tied with the last 535i we tested. Finishing the quarter mile takes 14.2 seconds with a trap speed of 97.1 mph, just slightly behind the 535i and its time of 14.0 seconds flat and 99.3 mph.
When it comes to the competition, the diesel Audi A6 TDI is one tenth of a second faster to 60 mph and tied at the quarter mile at 14.2 seconds. The Audi's 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 and eight-speed auto sends 240 hp and 428 lb-ft to all four wheels.
The Audi's all-wheel-drive advantage, however, doesn't translate on the figure eight, where the 535d posted a lap time of 25.8 seconds compared to 26.1 for the A6 TDI. The BMW was surprisingly fun on the figure eight, with its inline-six remaining eager throughout the course. The chassis also was a surprise. The Lexus GS and Cadillac CTS are still more nimble, but the 535d was satisfyingly neutral, staying flat and planted through the turns. Sure, the 535d is relatively heavy at 4,085 pounds, but weight is split perfectly over the front and rear tires, and the BMW is about 100 pounds lighter than the A6 TDI.
Out on the road, the 535d is exactly how a big and sturdy luxury sedan should be. It's quiet, with the turbodiesel imperceptible and spinning at a low 1,200-1,300 rpm at highway speeds. The engine emits a deep groan and clatter as it approaches its 5,350 redline, but other than that it's remarkably silent.
For the 535d, the EPA's rating of 26/38 mpg city/highway is a significant advantage over the 535i and its EPA-rated 20/30 mpg. Meanwhile, the Audi A6 TDI matches the 535d on the highway but beats it by 2 mpg in the city. The Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec is the most efficient of the bunch (28/42 mpg), but its smaller turbodiesel I-4 means the 535d's taillights will likely be a common sight during stoplight battles.
Better yet, stepping up to the diesel requires a relatively small price premium. With a starting MSRP of $57,525, the 535d is just $1,500 more than the 535i. The price will easily crest $60,000 once you pick an option package or two, such as our tester's M Sport package ($3,150) that adds sharp-looking 19-inch wheels, a body kit, aluminum interior trim, and an M steering wheel.
As the current 5 Series enters the tail end of its lifecycle, it's still very much a handsome sedan. And thanks to items such as available all-LED headlights and the still-excellent iDrive infotainment system, it still puts up a good fight in the technology front. And for around $60,000, the 535d and combination of performance and efficiency make it pretty tough to beat.
|2014 BMW 535d|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$66,425|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.0L/255-hp/413-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve turbodiesel I-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,085 lb (50/50%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||193.4 x 73.2 x 57.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.2 sec @ 97.1 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||112 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.91 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.8 sec @ 0.81 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||26/38/30 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||130/89 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.64 lb/mile|