BMW’s 5-series continues luxury tradition

08/29/2014 9:57 AM

08/29/2014 9:59 AM

The BMW 5-series has been around since 1972, with the 2014 models comprising the sixth-generation, making it BMW's longest-serving family of vehicles.

For model year 2014, BMW has made a few changes and additions to the 5, including a diesel engine.

Prices for the eight models range from $49,500-$66,200, with the 3.0-liter inline-six twin-power turbo-diesel engine producing 255 horsepower, and adding $1,500 to the list price.

The new 535d with rear-wheel drive is EPA rated at 26 mpg city/38 highway/30 combined, with the xDrive all-wheel drive, the ratings are 26/37/30. My xDrive-equipped 535d tester, in Glacier Silver ($550 extra), averaged 34.8 combined, with more highway than city driving.

Navigation and BMW Apps are now standard, styling has been updated, and some options have been added.

The BMW signature grille has been freshened, and the lower air intake has been redesigned for a sportier appearance. An extra crease on the lower rear fascia and sharply contoured slim LED rear lights accentuate the width of the rear end.

Adaptive LED headlights are new on the options list; turn signals are now integrated into the side mirrors; Luxury Line and Modern Line options are added; storage compartments and cupholders are now larger; and several new paint colors, upholstery colors, interior trim choices and alloy wheels are available.

My 535d came with a $1,900 lighting package, which included the LED headlights and automatic high beams. Dynamic auto-leveling, cornering lights and LED corona headlight rings are standard.

The 5-series now also offers a rear-seat entertainment system ($2,200), a Harman Kardon surround-sound system ($875), a Bang and Olufsen sound system ($4,500), an ambient lighting system with changing colors, a coasting mode in the standard ECO PRO EfficientDynamics technology suite, an ECO PRO route function via the navigation system, brake energy regeneration, and auto start-stop function.

The automatic start-stop takes a little getting used to; it shuts off the engine when the car comes to a stop, say at a traffic light, and starts up again automatically when the driver’s foot comes off the brake. But rather than being instant, like it is in most hybrid cars with gasoline engines, the diesel isn’t as quick to restart, sometimes pausing just a bit as the starter turns the engine over for what seems like a full revolution or more.

The optional Comfort Access system, included in my 535d's $1,500 Premium Package, offers hands-free trunk opening using the movement of a foot under the rear of the vehicle. It also now includes hands-free closing. Comfort Access allows the operator to unlock and open the doors with a touch on the door handle. The package also adds satellite radio.

A $3,150 M Sport package on my tester included 19-inch double-spoke alloy wheels with a pewter finish, aluminum hexagon-patterned interior trim, LED fog lights, M steering wheel, aerodynamic kit, shadowline exterior trim on front and rear side-window frames, door-sill trim strips and window-recess finishers, anthracite (dark gray) headliner, increased top-speed limiter, and Without Lines designation. Without Lines means there is no "Sport" badging on the car exterior. Run-flat tires are standard on BMWs.

The eight-speed sport automatic transmission with manual-shift paddles added $500.

Driving Dynamics Control with ECO PRO mode is standard, and allows the driver to achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption. A color display indicates which functions are currently in operation to give the driver instant information regarding items such as Brake Energy Regeneration or optimized temperature control. But a week isn't long enough to become accustomed to using the system to the best advantage.

The newly standard navigation system has a 10.2-inch screen, on-board computer, an iDrive touchpad controller on the center console within arm’s reach, voice command and advanced real-time traffic information.

Its rotary, mouse-style controller has buttons in front and back, and also works like a computer touchpad for inputting destinations, phone numbers and controlling other iDrive functions.

The controller also works for radio, telephone, external multi-media and multiple vehicle functions and settings.

In fact, there are eight folders on the main menu including Office and ConnectedDrive, which enable the driver (or passengers) to connect with the vehicle and the world outside, using an integrated SIM card.

The suite of office functions includes Internet-based services such as voice activation for entering text for SMS messages or emails while traveling. The office and social-media services, and search and travel functions can also be accessed via the operator/passenger's smartphone.

BMW Assist eCall automatically transmits information to an emergency call center in the event of a collision, including the precise location, crash severity and direction, number of front-seat occupants and deployed air bags, and whether a rollover occurred. A voice connection is also established. Assist eCall comes with a 10-year subscription.

My 535d also had BMW Teleservices, BMW Online, and enhanced Bluetooth and smartphone connections.

Teleservices keeps track of servicing appointments and maintenance requirements, and connects with a BMW service center for remote diagnosis and even remote problem resolution.

For continued optimal mobile and multi-media operation, Teleservices offers software updates for download. Teleservices also monitors the energy level of your vehicle's battery.

BMW Online brings up-to-date business and stock market news, weather, Google services, telephone directories, restaurant and hotel guides, and location-based route information. Route Planner saves BMW Routes for later access.

The cockpit of my BMW was plush and comfortable, with lots of leg- and headroom (41.4/40.5 inches), multi-contour seats with adjustable side bolsters and thigh cushions ($1,300), lumbar support, and black contrast-stitched Dakota leather seating.

Rear passengers had considerably less legroom at 35.3 inches (nearly none in the middle) and a little less headroom, at 38.3 inches. Outboard seats were as plush as the front seats, but without the power adjustments.

All three rear seating positions had latch-and-tether hooks for child seats, adjustable headrests and three-point seatbelts. The rear seats are probably better suited for children or small adults, as the seat cushion is sloped down in the back making it difficult to exit. The door opening is narrow and awkward because of the curve of the rear wheelwell.

The trunk was a roomy 14 cubic feet, with several cargo hooks, bag hooks, side pocket/cubbies, and a power outlet. The rear seatbacks folded using handles located under the upper lip of the trunk opening, and there was a pass-through with a ski bag behind the middle seat.

My 535d handled well and was very agile, thanks in part to the Adaptive Drive system with Active Roll Stabilization. Electronically controlled anti-roll bars help level the vehicle in sharp turns or sudden direction changes.

Gears shifted smoothly, and the engine was so quiet one could almost forget it was a diesel.

Base price for my 535d was $58,900 (plus $950 freight); with freight and options totaling $7,050, the total sticker price was $68,750. But a fully loaded all-wheel-drive diesel 5-series could top $90,000.

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