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2011 BMW 535i is bigger, yet also smaller

Although it definitely is a better value than the 2010 model, the middle child in the 5-Series lineup faces some stiff competition from the likes of Infiniti and Lexus.

After unsuccessfully trying to make a canyon carver out of this Ultimate Driving Machine, we switched modes and found the 5-Series to be an excellent grand tourer. It's long wheelbase and compliant suspension made it quite comfortable for freeway blasts without feeling floaty or disconnected from the road.
Josh P. Miller/CNET
The BMW 5-Series says goodbye to the Bangle-butt of the previous generations.
The BMW 5-Series finally says good-bye to the Bangle-butt and flame surfacing of the previous generations. Josh P. Miller/CNET

New for 2011, the BMW 5-Series is bigger, more comfortable, and more efficient. The 535i's peak power remains steady at 300-horsepower, but efficiency climbs by a few MPGs in the city and on the highway, thanks to a new turbo system. New exterior styling creates an appearance that is visually smaller, despite the fact that the sedan has grown in nearly every dimension. It amazingly manages to do all of this with a lower MSRP than the previous model year, closing the value gap between it and the lower priced Japanese luxury-sport sedans.

However, the 535i isn't without fault. The available cabin technology is top notch, but nearly every amenity is an option that adds to the bottom line at an exponential rate. Even with the lower MSRP, our well-appointed 535i was thousands of dollars more expensive than a similarly equipped Infiniti M37 or Lexus GS 350. Available safety tech checks all of the right boxes, but some of the implementations are clunky and ineffective. And even with active damping and roll control, the sport sedan's increased heft is made evident when the road gets windy.

Does the 5-Series still deliver on BMW's promise of sports car thrills with luxury appointment or is it merely the penultimate driving machine? Check out the full review of the 2011 BMW 535i for the full scoop.