>>Little by little BMW styling is coming back from its lost decade. The tortured lines too much like avanguard architecture are giving way to something more timeless. Let's jump in the, I almost didn't know that was a 5-Series 2011 535i and check the tech.
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Blue with balanced and well proportioned these are themes that are back in vogue in BMW's design house. One down side of the new look however more than a few folks mistake it for a 3-Series. However, a similar gripe is being heard over in Mercedes' showrooms these days about the C in the E-Class. Now, head unit wise nothing we haven't seen in BMWs before, nicely integrated in the newly revised dash, newish. That's a ten and a quarter inch wide screen by the way. You may have a smaller screen at home on some of your televisions. That's a big boy and, of course, the resolution and the rendering is outstanding on BMWs of late. Live traffic, of course. Satellite radio is Sirius but that's not where the traffic comes from, BMW uses a FM sub-carrier system through Clear Channel stations.
As we've shown you before at certain levels of magnification you get the satellite view, big crowd pleaser. Now, this system is hard-drive based so we've got 12.6 gigabytes of space for us to store media on. I've got a CD in here right now that's ripping. You know me I'm always calling out what kind of radio choices it's got and this guy has AM/FM and yes HD radio. BMW is one of the biggest embracers of HD and, of course, we have the BMW iPod USB aux combo thingy here in the console. You gotta have their BMW pigtail to use your iPod-based device. Once you do though the interface is pretty darn good but it's going to get better if you listen to the car tech live podcast that we do every week, you'll know they're about to implement iPod out which means an even better rendition of the iPod will be echoed up onto the screen on any device that uses iOS 4. Now, the output on this guy's stock is 10 speakers, two of which are subs, 250 watts. A tad scrawny for that many speakers, seven channel amp. If you want to go to more there's a premium sound system which has 16 speakers and nine channel amp and bumps the power way up to 600 watts.
Now, notice that even though I've got a manual gear box on this guy, I do have a backup camera with trajectory and distance indicators. So, it's one of the more advanced ones. Good vision, too. But notice this if I use this little camera button right here I can also get the God cam looking all around the vehicle that stitches together a parameter view I can also see the walleye cam as I like to call it, cameras on each of the front bumper corners looking out like a fish. This all works at slow speed by the way. Now, you can't talk about an engine without talking about the car it's installed in. I can tell you, for example, this is a BMW Inline 6, 3.0-liter twin power turbo and you'd say, oh, this car must drive like the 335i with the same engine but it doesn't. It is the same engine though. A single turbo with two scrolls not two turbos, electric Valvetronic valve timing, BMW's top of the line stuff and direct injection. Here that ticka ticka ticka? That's the dead give away. So, that's how we know this is the N55, the newer of their two twin turbo Inline-6s at 3.0-liters. This one's got 300 horse, 300 foot pounds of torque, all the same as the 335i but in this implementation a much less sporty experience.
Bottom line, a 535i gets to 60 in a short 5.6 seconds. You want to drive the other way two indicators on the tack will help. One tells you what gear to shift to for better efficiency often telling me to go right from third to sixth and another tells you when brake regeneration is putting power back into the battery and relieving the energy sapping load on the alternator. Six speed manual is standard, eight speed automatic available as a pic, no extra charge. If you're not so confident of your driving option up lane departure warning which vibrates the wheels slightly and is well calibrated. Blind spot detection here is another story. It's almost ineffectual with small low brightness indicators in the mirror housings and no sound or tone to back them up. I just didn't notice them. There's also park assist which can both find a spot you fit in and steer you into it as you work the gas and brakes.
A 535i has about 500 more pounds under the hood than a 335i even though they have the same engine so you feel every pound. This engine still has great power but often feels like it struggles to show it. It's all there when you're in the throttle rpm gear choice sweet spot but that spots not as big as on the 335i. Handling is real good. The ride is never harsh. I can't say I noticed a big difference with those comfort normal sport settings as I do on BMWs that have that and an automatic. Okay, let's price this 535i, $50,500 base, very competitive with the other one's in its class. Then you gotta add the tech toys, $1,750 for a driver assist package. That's the lane departure warning, the blind spot detection and the automatic parking. After that I want to go ale carte on everything else. Navigation, $1,900; rear seat entertainment, $2,100; adaptive cruise, $2,400; head up display, $1,300; night vision, $2,600; iPod with USB is $400 ale carte as is the rearview camera and I mentioned the sporty of the two automatics is $550 and the last big choice you have to make on a 5-Series is do you want this or do you want the 550 to really get some guts to be honest?