2005 BMW 5-Series

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Short Take Road Test: 2008 BMW 535xi

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2010.
By Tony Swan of Car and Driver
Pros:
  • Abundance of torque
  • Subliminal turbo lag
  • Typical BMW dynamics
Cons:
  • Overly cautious adaptive cruise control
  • iDrive program logic is still labyrinthine

We were much impressed by our first encounters with BMW's 3.0-liter twin-turbo six, a force-fed smoothie that propelled the equally new 335i coupe to acceleration numbers all but equal to those of an E46 M3.

But the performance of this versatile power module is even more impressive hitched to a bigger buggy, such as the all-wheel-drive version of the 2008 BMW 5-series sedan. The 535xi's numbers may not seem quite as newsworthy-until you consider its mass: 4042 pounds, 485 more pounds than the coupe in our November '06 test (and about 250 more pounds than the rear-drive 535i, per BMW). The 535xi was further handicapped, albeit only slightly, by the six-speed Steptronic automatic.

No surprise that the coupe was quicker: 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds, the quarter-mile in 13.6 at 105 mph. The 535xi got to 60 in 5.4 and did the quarter in 14.0 seconds at 102. But consider how the 535xi stacks up against the 550i with its 360-hp, 4.8-liter V-8, as tested last year ["Faster Horses," November 2006]. The 535xi is only 0.2 second slower to 60 mph and actually 0.2 quicker in 50-to-70-mph blasts. The 535xi is helped by a shorter final drive, but the real key is torque that ramps up early and stays ramped up for a long time. If you're not in a big hurry, it's fast enough and saves some seven grand (nine for the rear-drive 535i) versus the 550i.

Gadgets
Modestly refreshed for 2008, the latest 5-series Bimmers get some optional techno-tweaks. The most intriguing is a video-based lane-departure warning system that vibrates the steering wheel when its brain decides you've deviated from your intended path without meaning to. This has value on long freeway grinds, but it's annoying when you're clipping apexes on a favorite stretch of back road. Fortunately, it can be switched off.

BMW has enhanced its adaptive cruise control to include stop-and-go traffic-we wish the programmers would add an adaptive off feature-and the iDrive control collective is a bit more user-friendly, but tortuous logic still abounds.

Nevertheless, despite the gizmology overlay, these sedans continue to deliver a level of competence, comfort, and response that sets the pace in their class.

Performance Data

C/D Test Results:
Zero to 60 mph: 5.4 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 13.4 sec
Zero to 130 mph: 24.2 sec
Street start, 5–60 mph: 6.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.0 sec @ 102 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 155 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 177 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.82 g

Fuel Economy:
EPA city driving: 16 mpg
C/D observed: 19 mpg

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BB06 - 8/30/2014 9:41:21 AM