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BMW 5 Series 535i 2012 Review


YOU buy a wagon for practical reasons. It's a bonus if that wagon has sporty spirit. It's a negative if its daily duties are compromised by its sporty nature. That's the dilemma with the 535i Touring. The 535i sedan is a delightful sporty saloon on the civilised side of an M3. In the 70kg heavier wagon, the turbocharged three-litre straight six is still a potent mill. 

However, the twin-scroll turbocharger has short, but annoying lag that makes city driving difficult - and isn't that where wagons will spend most of their time? Wagons are for dropping off and picking up the kids and doing the shopping. 

In the cut and thrust of city traffic, the "nothing, nothing, everything" acceleration of the 535i is useless. In traffic, you need to make split-second decisions about merging or entering a roundabout. You can't do that with turbo lag.


The 5 Series Touring range starts at less than $100,000 for the first time since 1997. The diesel-powered 520d Touring arrives at $92,800, saving about $5000 on the luxury tax because its fuel economy of 5.3L/100km is well under the 7L/100km threshold. 

It comes standard with head-up display, adaptive headlights and most of the features available in the 7 Series. The petrol-powered 535i Touring (from $143,800) adds 18-inch wheels, gearshift paddles, auto tailgate, keyless access, rear sun blinds, fully adjustable electric seats, ambient lighting, Bi-Xenon headlights, a better hi-fi and high beam assist. 

Our test vehicle had a sport pack and several other options fitted, bringing the price up to $169,700. You can also get an optional digital radio for $900. 


The twinscroll turbo engine in the 535i Touring has the same power (225kW) and torque (400Nm) as in the sedan and is faster than the 540i wagon it replaces. Economy is claimed to be 8.5L/100km with 197g/km of CO2. On our test, which included mainly city driving duties, it was just over 10L/100km. 

Fuel savings are achieved through a variety of means including use of lightweight aluminium in panels and chassis; electric power steering that uses energy from the engine only when cornering rather than hydraulic which uses energy from the engine all the time; eight-speed transmission; air flaps behind the kidney grille that close to quickly heat the engine on start-up and open for better aerodynamics on the highway; low rolling resistance tyres; and battery charging only when decelerating. 

Technology abounds in the wagons including the standard addition of parking assistance for automatic parallel parking, iPhone and iPod Integration and an "Office" infotainment package that integrates email, calendar, notes and text message functions from a mobile phone. 


It's not only wagons and SUVs that need rearview cameras as a safety measure. All cars have blind spots and should be fitted with rearview cameras as standard. However, this car is fitted with optional "surround view" ($1300) with cameras all round providing a bird's-eye view of the area around the car. 

This means you can see how far you are from the kerb or any other obstruction on any side of the car. It's great for parking. There is also an auto-parking function for foolproof parallel parking that isn't even available on the 7 Series. 

That's all very good for slow-speed parking maneuvres, but the birdseye-view doesn't provide vision far enough at the rear when you are reversing out of a driveway and this is where most children are run over. Apart from that, the 535i comes with a hefty suite of primary and secondary safety gear. 

Optional safety features include adaptive cruise control with a semi-automatic emergency braking function to avoid rear-end collisions, lane departure warning and night vision. Euro NCAP has awarded a maximum 5-star safety rating, thanks to a pedestrian-friendly bonnet and a raft of safety features. The wagons have not yet been safety tested in Australia. 


Not all wagons are ugly. This is a case in point thanks to an elegantly swooping roof line. For the first time a BMW also has a split tailgate where the top glass half opens remotely with the keyfob and the cargo cover folds back electronically or the whole tailgate can open as one unit. In the 535i, the tailgate also opens remotely. 

Cargo space is 560 litres, increasing to 590L with the rear seats tilted forward or 1670L with the rear seats folded down almost flat. The rear seats can also be folded down in three variations thanks to the 20/40/20 split, allowing four occupants with a set of skis to be stored down the middle. 

In the front, it is similar to the sedan with a driver-oriented dashboard. Outside, the diesel and petrol models can be distinguished by the larger front air dam on the 535i and by the twin tailpipes on either side of the 535i and together on the left on the 520d. 


The greatest accolade I can give the 5 Series Touring is that it doesn't feel like a wagon. It handles like the sedan which is a driver's delight. I also liked the auto split tailgate, the 20/40/20 split rear seats and the very handy (optional) adaptive cruise control which works right down to full stop. 

Apart from grumbles about the turbo lag, my only other concerns are the lack of centre console space, serviceable cup holders and cubby holes. The centre console is largely taken up by a phone dock, but with most people these days having Bluetooth phones, it just wastes space. 


Great for a sprint through your favourite canyon pass, but not really suitable for day-to-day traffic.

BMW 535I Touring

Price: $143,800
Warranty: 3-6 years, 50,000-100,000km (optional)
Resale: 73%
Service interval: Varies with warranty option
Economy: 8.5L/100km; 197g/km CO2
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS, DSC, dynamic braking. Crash rating: 5 star (Euro NCAP)
Engine: 225kW/400Nm 3-litre twinscroll turbo six petrol
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Body: 5-door, 5-seat wagon
Dimensions: 4907mm (L); 1860mm (w); 1462mm (H); 2968mm (WB)
Weight: 1770kg
Tyre size: 245/45 R18 (run flat tyres, no spare)

Pricing guides

Based on 22 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

520d Gran Turismo 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $16,400 – 22,770 2012 BMW 5 Series 2012 520d Gran Turismo Pricing and Specs
520d 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $14,400 – 20,240 2012 BMW 5 Series 2012 520d Pricing and Specs
535i Touring 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $40,800 – 52,140 2012 BMW 5 Series 2012 535i Touring Pricing and Specs
535i Touring Sport 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $42,500 – 54,340 2012 BMW 5 Series 2012 535i Touring Sport Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 13 car listings in the last 6 months

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