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First Drive: BMW 535d - on sale now

BMW

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Review

Hailed as BMW’s best ever diesel (and by some critics as THE best ever diesel, full stop), the new twin-turbo 3.0-litre is crowned with the coveted 535 moniker in the 5-series, a label historically reserved for performance models in the BMW range.

It’s an engine that will give the 5-series a sales boost (like it needs it!), with BMW adding a production-limited 1,000 units – split 75:25 between saloon and estate – to the targeted figure of 17,000 this year. However, with interest already soaring, BMW executives are keen to negotiate more models for the UK.

The engine is an astonishing piece of engineering. Based on the existing 3.0-litre diesel, BMW has added a second turbo to the unit to produce constant torque throughout the rev range, balancing reduced turbo lag at low speeds with greater power availability at higher speeds.

At low revs the smaller turbocharger provides the initial burst of acceleration (95% of torque, more than 360lb-ft, peaks at 1,500rpm), then as revs pick up the larger turbo kicks it and the smaller one closes. By 2,000rpm the engine reaches peak torque of 413lb-ft, while power output maxes at 4,400rpm (272bhp).

Dealers can expect most buyers to be incremental, although there will be some crossover from 530d. BMW’s 5-series profile is the 45-55 year-old empty-nester: 93% are male, 65% have no children at home and a quarter manage their own business.

In the new Sport form, with 15mm lower and stiffer ‘M’ suspension, ‘M’ body styling with new bumper, wider air intake and flared side sills, and internal design modifications, the 535d becomes the four/five-seater for someone considering a 6-series.

Across the 5-series range, around 70% of sales will be Sports. The taut handling and precise steering are perfect complements for the 535d, which also features commonsensical technology like run- flat tyres.

Though dismissed by some rivals as a gimmick, we tested a 5-series with all four tyres deflated and while it did feel a little odd snaking through a coned slalom, it performed competently.

Certainly with just one tyre deflated, no-one would have any problems driving a few miles to the nearest garage.

Already, 60% of 5-series sales are diesel – with the 535d, that’s likely to increase. And with the engine due to be fitted into the X5 and 7-series some time next year, BMW will tighten its stranglehold on the diesel market.

At the time of the 5-series’ launch AM described it as the “best driver’s car in the business” – that’s since been surpassed with the new Sport variant. Now it has arguably the best diesel engine.

This unit should blow away any final prejudices that blinkers the traditional ‘petrol-head’ – foot down the power surges relentlessly up to the 5,000rpm red band, sweeping the car effortlessly from 0-62mph in 6.5sec and on to a top speed of 155mph.

And, this is the really cool bit, especially for user-choosers: fuel consumption is 35mph, CO2 emissions are 211g/km. With that speed and efficiency, everything else fades into the background.

Price: From £36,575 (SE saloon) to £41,225 (Sport Touring)

Engine: 3.0-litre 272bhp 413lb-ft twin turbo

Transmission: 6sp auto

Performance: 0-62mph 6.5sec; 155mph top speed

Efficiency: 35mpg comb (Touring 34.4mpg), 211g/km CO2 (216g/km)

CAP RV (3yr/30k):46-47%

Rivals: Mercedes E320CDi, Audi A6 3.0 V6 TDi, Jag S-type 2.7 D V6

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