Sun10262014

On The Road

BMW 535d xDrive comes up short


Courtesy of BMW
The 2014 BMW 535d xDrive Sedan offers great fuel efficiency and styling, but it lacks a backup camera, blind-spot warning, parking assist and lane-departure warning.

The 2014 BMW 535d xDrive Sedan is fun to drive and fuel efficient, but it left us wanting. Here’s the rundown of our experience testing the car.

What we drove: Mid-luxury four-door, five-passenger sedan, with inline six-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine producing 255 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque mated to eight-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive.

How thirsty: 26 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, 30 mpg combined.

What it costs: Suggested base retail price $58,900. As tested – with optional M-Sport cosmetic extras, LED lighting, power tailgate, satellite radio and multicontour seats – $68,725.

What we liked best: This model offers a great combination of diesel power and fuel efficiency with BMW’s traditional handling and performance standards. In this generation, BMW has dialed out much of the steering skittishness that was once considered an essential part of the ultimate driving experience. The new eight-speed transmission provides silky-smooth transitions from high-speed cruising to steep up-hill pulls. Even on the tight curves and precipitous climbs up Page Mill Road to Skyline Drive, the car is superb. This is a full-size luxury sedan that is really fun to drive.

What we would change: For reasons we don’t understand, BMW chose to equip this car with more than $3,000 in cosmetic touches like aerodynamics and a sport steering wheel. However, the company left out safety options like the backup camera, blind-spot warning, parking assist and lane-departure warning, which we have come to appreciate in new cars – especially in this price range.

But our fundamental criticism of the car is with the BMW iDrive control system for audio and navigation controls, which seems to have gotten more complicated in the last update. While other manufacturers’ systems have been simplified with fewer buttons, the BMW iDrive system has added buttons and screens that are just too much to master while trying to drive at the same time. In an entire week with this car, we couldn’t even figure out how to scroll through the satellite radio stations, much less program the navigation system.

Bottom line: BMW makes one of the finest driving automobiles on the road, in keeping with its slogan. This one just needs better options. If we were real enthusiasts of the brand, we would have to set aside a few hours for a training class and a few days of practice to master the iDrive system.

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