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BMW 535d Touring M Sport review (2011 onwards)
Model: BMW 535d Touring
Bodystyle: five-door estate
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
GALLERY: BMW 535d Touring
What is it?
What is your favourite car? It'd be easy to pick the latest Ferrari or Lamborghini and move on to talking about the football.
But try using one of those on the school run. Or on holiday. Or to commute in. Or keep in fuel.
No, I'm talking about a real-world car that's practical, fits your lifestyle and is fantastic to drive. Ask me the same question, and I'd say the car I'm writing about now, the BMW 535d Touring.
It's diesel, so fuel bills won't murder you. It is an estate, so space is not an issue. And it has a 3.0-litre twin turbocharged engine that hauls this 2,000kg car at a rate that's hard to believe.
Where does it fit?
Of course, there are plenty of premium estates out there to choose from, most notably the Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6, but neither of these cars can match the BMW in the one key area where it excels - on the road. This is the 5 Series' USP.
Is it for you?
BMW reckons that younger buyers are more inclined to buy the Touring over the saloon and the majority are male. You can see why.
Not only is this a great-looking car, it's a very muscular design especially in M Sport trim as tested. And with rear-wheel drive and plenty of poke, it is a car that rewards enthusiastic drivers.
What does it do well?
The 535d isn't the pick of the range, that goes to the 520d for its low running costs, but if you can afford the additional £14k to get into the range-topping diesel, you will not be disappointed.
This is one of the world's great engines, a direct-injection, straight-six, twin-turbo that sums up 299hp and 442lb/ft of torque. Still want that Ferrari? The 458 Italia only produces 398lb/ft.
Sixty-two mph takes a mere 5.7 seconds and the acceleration through the gears would put most sportscars to shame. At no point will you find yourself wishing you had more power, this engine proving so flexible that even at the speed limit in top gear, you have plenty of power in reserve. It's the sheer lack of inertia and thrust you feel when you touch the throttle pedal that most amazes.
What doesn't it do well?
Then we come on to the handling, and this car is blessed with a balance and finesse that marks it out as a great driver's car. The ride, too, even on large alloys and low profile tyres, is astounding.
Now the 'but'. You will need to spend quite a bit more to get your 5 Series just as you need it. First you have to pay extra for the adaptive drive (£2,265) and the active steering (£1,330), which make a remarkable difference to the car's dynamics.
Adaptive drive, in conjunction with the dynamic drive control, has a four-way switch that allows you to choose between 'comfort', 'normal', 'sport' and 'sport+' settings. Variously, they tune the responses from the dampers, throttle, engine, gearbox and steering as well as the traction and stability thresholds.
The system also allows you to set up personalised settings such as firmer suspension (for less body roll), but with a comfort to the dampers to soften bumps, while the steering shields vibrations and kick-back very well, yet at the same time remains sharp and responsive.
Gear shifts from the double-clutch, eight-speed gearbox are seamless and fast as well, but it's still a gear too many. At least with the big, chunky paddles behind the steering wheel, choosing to change cogs manually is a joy rather than a chore.
What's it like to live with?
So it is hugely fast and entertaining to drive, but what about living with a 5 Series Touring day-to-day? Let's start at that boot. With a split tailgate, you can pop open the rear window to drop in smaller items without having to open the boot door and dirty your hands if the car is filthy.
Luggage capacity over the old 5 estate grows, too, up 60 litres to 560 and, with all the seats down, a considerable 1,670. The rear seats also fold 40/20/40.
Up front in the business end, the cabin is sculpted towards the driver and all the key buttons are easy to reach. iDrive has been improved, too, and now features additional buttons such as a shortcut to the radio and telephone.
Cabin quality is fantastic, with no suggestion of scrimping or cost-cutting in here. Then again, our car came fully loaded with options taking its price up from £49,490 to £67k.
How green is it?
BMW works very hard to ensure its cars emit as few toxic emissions as possible, while retaining that inherent BMW sportiness.
Like all models in the range, the 535d comes with EfficientDynamics, which includes stop-start and a brake regeneration system, as well as small details such as the electrically assisted steering which shuts down when the car is driving in a straight line.
Carbon emissions of 165g/km (lower than the 530d six-speed manual) means company drivers will only be taxed on 25% of the car's list price. As for fuel consumption, on the average cycle you are promised 44.8mpg, rising to 53.3mpg when cruising.
Would we buy it?
The only problem with the 5 Series is the cost of speccing the car up to the level you want. It's all too easy to get carried away with the options list.
But this aside, the 535d in particular is a fantastic car that combines supreme pace with superb 'econess'. And I'd have one in a heartbeat.
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