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BMW 535i 2010 review

Twin turbos are on their way out at BMW, being replaced by more economical twin-scroll single turbos. The first with the new twin-scroll engine is the 535i, which is part of the new sixth-generation 5 Series models.

BMW Australia spokesman Alex Brockhoff said the twin-charger engine has no more power than the model it replaces, but it hits maximum torque of 400Nm 100rpm earlier at 1200 revs and carries it all the way through to 5000rpm. Brockhoff says the twincharger is fed exhaust air through two inlets rather than one, producing a faster-spinning and more-efficient turbo.

In the 535i three-litre in-line six-cylinder with Valvetronic, it achieves a 7 per cent fuel saving of 8.4L/100km over the 540i's 10.4L/100km. CO2 emissions are down to 195g/km from 250, yet power and torque remain at 225kW and 400Nm.

BMW has also increased equipment levels in the 5 Series to be higher than their competitors. However, prices are up right across the range by as much as $8000. But BMW claims that if you consider the increased standard equipment levels, there is virtually no increase and even a price decrease on the 528i compared with the previous 530i.

Increased standard equipment levels include an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, bigger wheels and heads-up display – previously a $2800 option except in high-spec models – which shows vital information on the windscreen in front of the driver so they don't have to take their eyes off the road.

PRICING AND VARIANTS

The new 5 Series goes on sale here on June 3 - two weeks ahead of the US - with the petrol-engined naturally-aspirated 190kW inline-six 528i ($99,900), the 535i ($128,900) featuring the new 225kW twin-scroll turbo in-line six and the 300kW V8 550i ($178,900). They will be followed by the diesel-powered 380Nm four-cylinder 520d ($83,300) in September, and a six-cylinder diesel is expected to be added next year. The lean-burn engines available in Europe will not be imported because of the high sulphur level in Australian fuels. Touring 535i and 520d wagons are expected in October.

BODY AND FIT-OUT

The sixth-generation 5 Series has been slightly stretched and has shorter overhangs front and rear giving it the longest wheelbase in its class. Cargo space remains 520 litres. A full-width front air dam, plus horizontal lines front and back provide a wider look.

If the xenon headlight option is included there are LED daytime running lights included and a 'milky eyebrow' which is an attractive opaque LED lighting effect above the main headlights. Inside, there is little change except for a few extra aluminium accents while the dashboard has been tilted 7.2 degrees toward the driver.

There is more aluminium in the construction, including the bonnet, doors and side panels, making its body 50kg lighter, as well as the all-aluminium suspension from the 7 Series and new 5 Series Gran Turismo. However, with all the new equipment, stiffer chassis and electronic driver aids, total weights are up between 40kg for the 1700kg 535i and 170kg for the 1830kg 550i.

ENGINES

The three-litre 528i has 30kW more power and 60Nm more torque than the superseded 2.5-litre 525i but fuel economy is down from 9.4L/100km to 8 and CO2 emissions are down from 227g/km to 187. The new 535i features the three-litre in-line six-cylinder which combines Valvetronic and twin-scroll single turbocharging for a 7 per cent fuel consumption saving, while power and torque remain the same.

The 550i gets TwinPower turbo in its 4.4-litre V8 to deliver 300kW (+30kW) and 600Nm, up a whopping 110Nm over the previous model. Fuel economy is down to 10.3L/10km from 10.4 and CO2 is 243g/km, previously 246.

SAFETY

Electronic technologies, driver aids, a stiffer chassis and pedestrian-friendly bonnet lift the crash rating from four to five stars. When impact is sensed in the front it electronically signals pyrotechnic actuators to lift the bonnet 5cm in the rear and 3cm in the front, creating a buffer from pedestrian impact with the engine block.

DRIVING

The wet roads of the twisting and bumpy Yarra Ranges of Victoria were the perfect test for the 535i models available at the national launch this week. We drove only 535i models, some fitted with four-wheel steering and the Adaptive Drive package of Dynamic Damper Control and Dynamic Drive and others without these fancy gizmos. If you can afford the $10,600 for them, go ahead and splurge as they are not gimmicks.

Honda and Mazda gave up on their mechanical four-wheel steering technologies because they were expensive, complicated and heavy. Besides, no one really wanted them in sporty cars. In these long-wheelbase luxury saloons, it makes perfect sense. It is electronically controlled and adds only 10kg to the car's weight.

The rear wheels move just 3 degrees, but it's visible if you are following one. It is also noticeable through the steering wheel. At slow speeds, such as hairpin corners, it pulls the nose in tight as it virtually shortens the wheelbase. At highway speed it has the eerie feeling of crabbing sideways as you change lanes. It may feel strange, but it's stable. Add in the flat-cornering and controllable ride of the Adaptive Drive package and it will handle any surface.

On the wet surface, we chose normal and even comfort settings so the wheels had more time to react to quick irregularities and keep the tyres on the road for more grip. It also reduced the intervention of the stability control. However, over undulating surfaces, the comfort setting can make the car float and induce car sickness. If you can't afford the package, you will still have a saloon that handles nimbly with a more natural steering feel.

Grip is still remarkable and brakes are sharp with plenty of feeling and no jerky ABS kickback, even on a wet Reefton Spur. Tyre noise is higher than you would expect in a car of this calibre, but the twin-scroll turbo engine is refined, powerful, responsive and quiet. At 'full noise' there is only the most polite muted induction and exhaust roar. The surround view takes some getting used to as does that overly complicated transmission knob.

Seats are comfortable, if a little slippery with high lateral G forces. After a dash across the Spur, I had a raw back from sliding sideways and sore knees from bracing myself against the door skin and centre console.

Strap in tight. It's a wild ride, yet tamed by innovative electronics.

Pricing guides

$21,990
Based on 35 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,500
Highest Price
$28,950

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
530d Gran Turismo 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $23,200 – 31,570 2010 BMW 5 Series 2010 530d Gran Turismo Pricing and Specs
530d 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $17,500 – 24,310 2010 BMW 5 Series 2010 530d Pricing and Specs
530i Touring 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $18,500 – 25,740 2010 BMW 5 Series 2010 530i Touring Pricing and Specs
530i Touring Sport 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $19,100 – 26,620 2010 BMW 5 Series 2010 530i Touring Sport Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$14,500

Lowest price, based on 29 car listings in the last 6 months

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