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Rating 9 9

2010 BMW 535i

25th May 2010 7:00 am

BMW has set the new 5-series a formidable challenge by making it much more of a luxury car

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  • Make : BMW
  • Model : 5 Series

BMW’s new 5-series shares much of its platform with its larger sibling, the 7-series. The car features the same ‘back to its roots’ styling and you can honestly recognise this as a BMW, even without the badges. The wide kidney grille, the double-barrel headlamps, the long bonnet, the tight-fitting roof, the kink in the rear door and the wide but subtly flared wheel arches – it has them all. The multiple surfaces on the bonnet and the flanks really lend the design an edgy air.
 
While the new Five is built on the same platform as the 7-series, the wheelbase is shorter by 100mm here. At 2968mm it’s still very long though, probably the longest in its class. BMW has also transferred a whole bunch of high-tech stuff from the 7-series to this car. Stuff like Dynamic Driving Control, which allows you to choose between Normal, Sport and Sport+ and alter throttle responses, steering feel and automatic gearbox operation. But some of the best bits are missing on the Indian 5-series, such as the Variable Damper Control (VDC), Adaptive Drive (active anti-roll bars) and Integral Active Steer (rear-wheel steering).
 
Unlike the earlier 5-series which used a hybrid space-frame front, this car uses a conventional monocoque chassis. However, you still get plenty of aluminium bits in the front of the car to help it maintain its 51/49 percent front-rear weight distribution. In fact the doors, for the first time, are made of aluminium and as a result lack that impressive solid ‘thud’. BMW’s front suspension has also been specifically designed to allow the dampers to function without having any negative effect on the location of the front wheels on the road. The biggest change, however, is that this car gets an electric power-steering system in an effort to improve the overall efficiency of the car. Run-flat tyres remain, and you still don’t get the extra security and peace of mind that comes from having a spare.

BMW breaks no new ground with the interiors of the new 5-series. The design is so similar to the Seven, it’s actually difficult to tell them apart. Still, there is a plush feel to the insides and though designers have shown a considerable amount of restraint for new shapes and forms, elements like the joystick-style gear selector and the iDrive dial make things interesting.
 
The steering and instruments retain BMW’s sporty air. The wheel on this version of the new Five is chunky, the round dials are clear and there is an interesting horizontal display screen at the bottom of the instruments. Information here is displayed in a very modern and graphic format – a nice touch. The design of the central console can be slotted seamlessly into any large BMW from the last decade and, as ever, the horizontal buttons look good. However, they are a touch too small and can be fiddly to use when the car is on the move. The quality of plastic used is as impressive as any and functionality of the buttons and even the iDrive is first-rate.
 
The 5-series’ cabin, however, lacks the solid build of the E-class and though the central console is wide, the storage areas are too shallow. Seat comfort is fantastic, though. The front seats are large, thigh and shoulder support is very good and you could be well over six feet and still be very comfortable. Space on the rear seats is even better, and the large seats add to the comfort. The new Five, however, lacks the phenomenal thigh support of the earlier 5-series and the large front seats obscure the view ahead as well. And some may find the seat backs a bit too reclined for comfort.

Light on its feet and willing to change direction, the new Five is a car that likes to corner too. The brakes have tremendous stopping power, feel from the brake pedal on turn-in is good despite the regenerative brakes, and the big Five sheds speed rapidly.

It rolls a bit on turn-in initially, but quickly settles down and then grips and goes. The steering has a reasonable amount of weight and accuracy is pin-sharp, but there is some amount of artificial feel in the system. Though this is an impressive driver’s car in its own right, it doesn’t drench you in feel and involvement like the earlier E60. It lacks the fabulously planted feel of the old car and you can’t feel what all four contact patches are doing through the palms of your hands. The new 5-series is still a fantastic handling car, just not to BMW’s standards.
 
Ride comfort though is shockingly good. The suspension is supple over bumps, it remains almost silent over even the worst ruts and holes, and road noise is very hushed as well. Has BMW been taking ride and handling classes at Rolls-Royce? It does own the company, after all. There is, however, some amount of bobbing at high speeds and the Five does not ride as flat as an E-class. And the long wheelbase and relatively low 141mm ground clearance mean you do have to take a bit of care over large bumps. 

2010 BMW 535i
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