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BMW 535d M-Sport

Flagship diesel gets sharp handling and a sporty makeover in M Sport guise

Just in case the 530d wasn’t fast enough, BMW has introduced the ultimate executive express, in the shape of the new 535d. 

It promises crushing straight-line performance – so does it live up to expectations?

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the BMW 5 Series

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First impressions left us a little apprehensive. In the past, M Sport models have had an extra dose of aggression, which typically suits BMW’s purposeful designs. But on the new 5-Series, the changes are less successful – we prefer the look of the standard SE. 

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The gaping front bumper and brassy alloy wheels are in stark contrast to the latest 5’s restrained styling. So there’s simply no contest for kerb appeal in this head-to-head: the Jaguar steals the show.

We have fewer complaints inside, where the BMW lives up to its billing. While the XF feels like a smaller compact executive model on the inside, the 5-Series gives the impression of a big luxury saloon. There’s more space front and rear, and the quality of the materials used is top drawer. You get none of the touches that makes the Jaguar so interesting, but it compensates with its superb clarity and finish.

The 535d trails the XF on equipment, though. M Sport models feature a revised gearshifter, a leather steering wheel, more supportive seats and anthracite headlining – but its rival has even more.

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Sat-nav is standard in the Jaguar; in the BMW, it’s an option. Buyers get a choice of set-ups; the cheaper system, offered as part of the Business Advanced package, costs £1,635, and includes a 

seven-inch colour display. 

Our car came with the £2,090 Professional Multimedia option. This comprises a huge 10.2-inch screen, and its larger read-out makes using the iDrive control system easier than ever. 

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Once you’ve selected your destination, finding a comfortable driving position in the BMW is a breeze. All of its controls are logically placed and beautifully weighted.

The firm no longer uses its “Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan, but the 535d delivers out on the road. At the track, it put on a blistering show, accelerating from 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds – that’s nine-tenths quicker than the Jaguar – despite the greasy conditions. 

The automatic box’s extra pair of ratios ensure equally savage in-gear performance. 

In the 535d, we sprinted from 50-70mph in sixth in a mere 5.2 seconds; in the XF, it took 8.7 seconds. Part of the advantage lies in the BMW’s extra traction off the line, but once it’s rolling, the eight-speeder really comes into its own. It’s smooth, fast and intelligent, adapting its shift patterns to suit each of the four settings. And the £110 optional steering paddles put swift manual changes at your fingertips.

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The huge straight-line pace is matched by the 535d’s ability through corners. It provides more grip and composure than its British rival, and inspires greater confidence, especially in wet conditions.

It feels wider from behind the wheel, but the precise and weighty steering enables you to place it accurately on the road. Our car featured the Adaptive Drive set-up (£2,220), including variable dampers, and Integral Active Steering (£1,330). This kit – in particular the latter – adds to its dynamic polish. 

A rocker switch on the centre console selects between Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes, fine-tuning everything from the ride comfort and steering effort to the responses of the gearbox and throttle. The most focused settings have a big impact on the ride, though; Normal mode provides the best balance of body control, agility and suppleness.

The 535d is a tour de force, then, but its chassis technology comes at a price. Test economy of 23mpg suggests you’ll have to keep putting your hand in your pocket.

Details

Chart position: 2
WHY: Latest 5-Series has beaten all-comers in Auto Express road tests since its launch last year. New 535d is the pinnacle of the diesel range, while M Sport trim delivers new look and more kit.

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