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2014 BMW 535d review: BMW's mid-size sedan joins the diesel fray

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It’s a diesel. Welcome the 2014 BMW 535d and the greatest fuel economy in BMW’s mid-size sedan yet.

In all it should be no surprise. Diesels are the new poster boys for squeezing the most out of a barrel of crude, so the BMW Advanced Diesel engine is the same one used in the new diesel version of the next generation BMW X5. And it no cause for amazement that the engine should use BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology—two exhaust inlets on one turbocharger. Nor that output is a very diesel-like 255 horsepower at 4,000 rpm but with a serious 413 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 – 3,000 rpm. It’s an all-new engine, and it’s smooth and quiet, but full throttle growls let you know it’s doing its job.

And yes, as we’re learning, being diesel these days means never saying sorry I’m late. The 400-plus lb-ft of torque launches the 4,000-plus lb mass of the 535d like it was on someone’s flight deck. Mind, with a 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds, it’s quite respectable but it won’t keep up with the updated 4.4-liter V-8 of the 2014 BMW 550i and 550i xDrive, which makes a thumping 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque.

And not to abandon the field to Audi, which also expanded the application of a three-liter diesel engine in the Audi A6, Audi A7 and Audi Q5 for 2014, the 5-Series diesel will also be available with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available on all BMW 5-Series models other than the ActiveHybrid 5.

Naturally, the 2014 BMW 535d tops all the other 5-Series in fuel mileage. In a first-drive test drive, including backroads, highway, and a half-hour crawl to get through U.S. Customs, we averaged in the high-20s mpg range. That coincides with the EPA estimates of 26/38 mpg city/highway for the rear-wheel drive version and 26/37 mpg for the all-wheel drive 535d. It would have been worse, however, if the 535d were not equipped with auto stop-start. No doubt while creeping along in line, people in the next lane thought we were odd to be turning off the engine every time we stopped and restarting it to inch forward. But when it comes to fuel economy, the 2014 BMW 525d in fact tops even the BMW ActiveHybrid 5, with a 23/30 mpg rating.

It hard to notice changes to the 5-Series’ exterior for 2014. BMW says the 5-Series gets “fresh contour lines for the surround of the BMW kidney grille and redesigned lower air intakes reinforce the sporty appearance of the 2014 BMW 5 Series Sedan.” See that?

And out back, the 5-Series gets new taillights, and the ”accentuated width of the rear end is underlined by an extra crease in the apron, as well as slim, sharply contoured and therefore more striking rear lights.” It would take a BMW fanatic to know, and then only one well versed in the exiting generation of BMW 5-Series.

There are details, however. Xenon adaptive headlights are now standard on all 5 Series models, while adaptive LED headlights have been added to BMW’s lengthy options list for 2014.

Also new for 2014 is the iDrive4.2 Navigation system as standard equipment, with a new iDrive rotary controller. New too is a touchpad used to write out in letters destinations for the navigation system, or phone numbers and other functions within the iDrive4.2 operating system. We’ll have to spend time with it too see how it integrates into the sometimes unwieldy iDrive system.

The optional Comfort Access system now allows the trunk to be opened hands-free, and now includes closing. By kicking under the rear bumper, the trunklid will open or close.

A rear-seat entertainment system with tablet-style displays is also new. A new version of the ambient light option can change lighting between orange and white, depending whether you’re in an orange mood or a white mood. But we know cars that cost a lot less with more colors, if that makes a difference.

BMW has also increased the number of functions for its ConnectedDrive business solutions and driver assistance systems. ConnectedDrive, for example, has a dictation function for entering text for SMS messaging and emails while traveling. A number of search, travel, office and social media services can be reach via the car’s integrated SIM card or the owner’s smartphone.

Other BMW model series have had a Luxury Line and Modern Line, each with its own trim features above the standard models, so the 5-Series joins the club for 2014. Look for similar exterior and interior trim and color treatments as with the other series. Returning, fortunately, is M Sport trim.

Alas, they don’t give them away, and with all the options BMW makes available, it’s easy to add half the model’s base price in options. That said, starting prices for the 5-Series sedans are as follows:

528i Sedan

$50,425

528i xDrive Sedan

$52,725

535i Sedan

$56,025

535i xDrive Sedan

$58,325

535d Sedan

$57,525

535d xDrive Sedan

$59,825

550i Sedan

$64,825

550 xDrive Sedan

$67,125

ActiveHybrid 5

$62,325

The 2014 BMW 535d and 535d xDrive models carry an insignificant price differential over the BMW 535i, its gasoline equivalent, but after a traipse through the options list, the difference will be pocket change. Considering the better fuel mileage—deducting the typically higher price for diesel fuel (even against premium that all BMW gas engines require)—choosing the gasoline-fueled 535i over diesel 535d seems like an odd choice.

Who ever thought we’d ever say anything like that about a diesel-powered BMW?

2012 BMW 535d sedan, key specifications

Body style/layout: 4-door sedan, front engine/rear-wheel drive

Base price: $57,525

Engine

  • Type: 3.0-liter 24-valve DOHC turbocharged diesel I-6
  • Displacement, cc: 2993
  • Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum
  • Compression ratio: 16.5:1
  • Horsepower: 255 @ 4000 rpm
  • Torque: 413 @ 1500-3000 rpm
  • Recommended fuel: diesel
  • Fuel economy, EPA est.: 26/38 mpg city/highway
  • Fuel economy, observed: high 20s mpg

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Chassis/Suspension

  • Suspension, front/rear: double wishbone / multilink
  • Wheels: 18 x 8.0-inch alloy
  • Tires: 245/45R18
  • Brakes: 4-wheel disc; 13.7-inch dia. front/13.0-inch dia. rear
  • Steering: power rack-and-pinion
  • Turning circle: n.a. ft.

Dimensions

  • Wheelbase: 116.9 in.
  • Length: 193.5 in.
  • Height: 57.6 in.
  • Width: 73.2 in.
  • Curb weight: 4,085 lbs
  • Trunk volume: 18.4 cu. ft.
  • Fuel tank: 18.5 gal.

Safety

· Airbags: Front, front and rear side, side curtain

· Anti-lock brakes: Yes Traction control: Yes Stability control: Yes Electronic brake-force distribution: Yes Brake assist: Yes

· Other: Xenon active headlights, adaptive brake lights, cornering lights, brake drying, night vision w/ pedestrian protecting, post-collision safety system, emergency braking preparation, adaptive brakelights

Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper; 4-year/50,000 mile powertrain; 12-year/unlimited-mile corrosion, 4-year/50,000-mile scheduled service, 4-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance

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