For Model Year 2014, BMW showrooms will see the very direct effort by the Bavarians to sell America on diesels as a premium product. The blitz will consist of the the carryover of the X5 diesel with its turbocharged inline-six as well as the more diminutive B47 2.0 liter diesel motor tucked under the bonnet of the F30 3 Series Sedan.
Torque And More Torque
To round out its latest oil burning offerings, BMW have tucked the same 3.0 liter common rail direct injection diesel powerplant, as the X5 xDrive35d, under the hood of the F10 5 Series chassis aptly named the BMW 535d. The engine does not necessarily light the world on fire at a somewhat pedestrian 255 horsepower the grunt of the 413 lb-ft certainly makes its presence known.
BMW North America were good enough to fly me out to Seattle to take part in the launch of the new 2014 models and with them came nearly the entire diesel offerings. After an evening at the swanky Four Seasons hotel sitting atop a bluff overlooking the Puget Sound, we woke to kick off the test drive portion of the event. Being my childish self, I snagged an M6 Competition Package in the less than inconspicuous Sakhir Orange – not necessarily the pinnacle of BMW’s Efficient Dynamics program!
It wouldn’t be until after a morning of giggling and stabbing at the throttle in the M6 that I would depart the elegant Chrysalis Inn in something far more efficient and far more subdued. Loading bags into the massive trunk and with the jab of an index finger the diesel lump out front barely made a murmur as it turned over. Slipping the 8-speed gearbox into D, our Dark Graphite Metallic 2014 BMW 535d M Sport crept out of downtown Bellingham with a final destination at a roadside checkpoint just a few miles shy of the US-Canada border.
Our course led us off on a handful of backroads which were potentially inspired by a bowl of spaghetti and took us along a path carved around the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. On these roads, we began to familiarize ourselves with the 535d. My first impression was a sense of remoteness.
A common concern from the hardcore enthusiast camp is the use of active sound in the F10 M5 via the in-car speakers to enhance the overall driving experience and sense of induction and exhaust noise. The implication, of course, is that the F10 5 Series is too quiet for most. My time with the BMW 535d left me feeling the same way in that while the diesel motor is already relatively mute sitting in the F10 chassis, the effect is amplified leaving the driver with a sense of disconnect from the car and the road.
Beyond the lack of aural drama, the controls do feel a touch light. This feature makes easy work of guiding the 5,300 lbs around a parking lot but requires a bit faith that the angle at which you position the steering wheel is just where you want to hit an apex. Thankfully, the faith pays off as the dial-in on the electric steering is accurate and intuitive despite lacking strong feedback.
Performance And Fuel Consumption
Overall, while the 2014 BMW 535d is just about 100 lbs less than its V8-powered counterpart, the 550i, it managed to retain potent driving dynamics along the back roads only revealing its mass when pushed hard into tighter bends. In Sport+ mode I found that I quite enjoyed burying the throttle into the dark carpet of our Venetian Beige interior courtesy of the resulting cascade of power from the 413 lb-ft of torque. The 535d does the 0 to 60 dash in just shy of 6 seconds which is about average for BMW North America’s line up but the stead surge and linear build of power is what impressed me most. The 535d never felt abrupt but more like a locomotive gathering speed at an astonishing rate, only to be reeled back in with a hard press on the brake pedal at each twist in the road.
Beyond the acceleration it’s hard to ignore the fact that the 535d, while weighing in at 5,300 lbs and able to hit 60 in 6 seconds, can still return a reported 38 MPG – which is impressive. With an 18.5 gallon tank, that gives drivers a maximum range of just over 700 miles, and that’s not including the neat little Efficient Dynamics features like Brake Energy Regeneration or even the old fashioned way of saving fuel by not driving like a maniac.
Overall, I came away from my few hours with the 535d impressed with what BMW has accomplished in the diesel power plant. For the fuel efficiency and relative performance this makes for a compelling package.
Beyond that, the F10 is a handsome car. Our M Sport Line-equipped 5 Series carried its chiseled yet understated styling thanks to the M Sport aprons and 19 inch style 351M alloys. I still think this is the best looking midsize sedan on sale from the usual German or Japanese players in this segment. Furthermore, the interior isn’t a bad place to be at all given the luxury accoutrement afforded drivers via the much improved Head-Up display (improved but still spoiled slightly by polarized sunglasses), must-have-for-tech-geeks Technology Package and 600-watt Harman Kardon 16 speaker sound system.
With all of that said, its hard to find fault with the 2014 BMW 535d and, like the 335d and previous generation X5 xDrive35d before it, will surely find a strong following in the United States. My guess is BMW’s play with the 535d is to break out of the sometimes cultish following of the E90 335d and make a more mainstream pitch to the growing population that values a luxury, performance and ever improving fuel economy. The 535d will continue BMW’s campaign to market advanced fuel economy technologies as a part of the premium segment and I think the 535d delivers on all fronts.
Should I Buy One?
That said, given the choice – I wouldn’t buy a 535d. I would instead opt for the nearly identically priced X5 xDrive35d – the new 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35d is priced at $57,525. I drove the new 2014 BMW X5 diesel the following day after my experience with the 535d and found I much preferred the controls feedback, dynamics; and, surprisingly, the exhaust note of the X5. The noise from the rear felt more omnipresent but never intrusive compared to the somewhat Red Octoberesque 535d; perhaps BMW have engaged the caterpillar drive on the F10’s? When pressed about this, BMW chalked the quiet exhaust note of the 535d, compared to the X5, to potentially a result of the 535d being within its break-in mileage. I’m not so sure of that – but I do know that from a seat-of-the-pants experience I preferred the similarly priced and similarly efficient F15 X5 diesel.
I’m disappointed to reach that conclusion given I’m not typically an SUV person and having always been a fan of the 5 Series but the F10 chassis, outside of the M5, has always left me a bit cold when it comes to driver involvement and road feedback. As we left the 535d behind, despite its square-jawed, masculine looks, I didn’t find myself wanting to hop back in to give it a try. It must be said that I’ve had my issues with the F10 when I drove it a few years ago in 528i guise but I must say, if you end up with either the X5 xDrive35d or the 535d, you’ve lucked out by driving anything with that powerplant up front.