- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 01 December 2011 05:06, Updated 27 February 2012 12:47
Finding ways to strap an armchair to a racehorse has been the quest by car makers for years as they try to create a comfortable ride in a vehicle that offers a true driving experience.
And with an increasing trend towards diesel, it’s also about keeping the damn thing quiet. (The clatter of a traditional diesel is more akin to draught horses down Pitt Street than Moonee Valley winners, and let’s not talk about the stuff that comes out of the rear end.)
So it is that there is a genuine race on among German luxury car makers to make their oil munchers faster, cleaner, quieter and more salubrious than their rivals.
BMW’s latest entry in the Compression Engine Sprint is a new version of the 535d, which goes like it has a burr under the saddle.
It has a 3 litre, twin scroll, turbo straight-six engine that takes it from 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds, with maximum output of 220kW at 4400rpm and 600Nm of torque between just 1500rpm and 2500rpm, which gives it great pulling power in any gear.
You would think that the decent-sized power plant would chew through a bit of old cooking oil but the fuel consumption (combined) is a frugal 6.1l/100km and it puts out only 162g/km of CO2.
Diesel models now account for just over 50 per cent of BMW’s global sales and its 535 is the flag bearer in its upper-mid range touring class.
Most luxury cars now offer at least three driving modes – comfort, normal and sport – but the 535d goes one step further with a “sport+”.
With the comfort setting on, the 535d is the smoothest, easiest car to like. It really gives a velvety ride as it glides over any bumps or unpleasantness.
With the sport+ setting, the suspension is ratcheted up to its hardest, the steering and acceleration are at their most responsive and the stability control system is backed off. But it doesn’t give you everything. The car is still monitoring your behaviour and if you get too wild, the nanny stuff switches itself back on.
The twin-turbo technology is the thing that keeps this car from being pedestrian. The first turbo eliminates the dreaded turbo lag and keeps the engine spinning at its most competent. The second turbo adds the oomph at higher revs.
Keeping it all slipping along nicely is an ultra-smooth, eight-speed automatic transmission that has the option of using the gearshift paddles to kick it into sport mode with just a touch.
Included in the car I drove was “adaptive drive”, which has what BMW calls “dynamic damper control and dynamic drive for individually selectable suspension set-up” and the M sport suspension.
It also had “dynamic drive”, which calculates lateral and longitudinal movement, speed and steering wheel angle to counteract swaying or tilting to keep the car stable.
The brakes have brake assist, whereby when they are pressed quickly the system automatically applies maximum grab, which can stop you with a bang at low speed. The 535d also includes a brake energy regeneration system that charges the battery and may explain some of the grabbiness of the brakes.
What you don’t get, despite its sports car pretensions, is an exhaust burble. Try as it might, a diesel will never sing the petrolhead lullaby. Nevertheless, the noise it produces when you sink the slipper in is quite acceptable. It’s more of a roar than you would expect.
Its steering is sharp and the only criticisms I have of this car are that the M Sport leather-covered steering wheel is too thick and the front end doesn’t give the driver much feel.
Standard gear includes run-flat safety tyres, head-up display, high beam that dips automatically for oncoming traffic, park distance control front and rear, bending headlights and daytime lights with headlight washers.
Options fitted to this car include surround-view cameras that give a seemingly impossible bird’s-eye view of the car and a navigation system with a “3D” option.
It also takes the next step into the technological wormhole – it can connect to the internet.
Inside the M Sport package, patterned burnished aluminium highlights on the centre console and fascia set off the luxury sports leather seats in the front and the large screen.
All up, it looks as good in the paddock as it performs.