BMW 5 Series 535d M Sport

April 2011

picture of car from the front

M Sport bodykit is most obvious from the front


Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 7Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 7Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 8Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


  • Improved level of standard equipment on all models over its predecessor
  • Wide range of options available to enhance the car's ride and handling
  • Sport package adds some much needed kerb appeal
  • High power diesel engines deliver impressive performance


  • The 'active' handling options are needed to improve the large car's agility
  • Auto gearlever could be more intuitive
  • Exterior design not to everyone's taste
  • Boot could be more accommodating

Having moved away from the controversial design of its predecessor, this 5 Series from BMW offers a more conservative approach to design. It's also now got more in common with the firm's larger 7 Series when it comes to comfort, refinement and cabin aesthetics. To prove it hasn't gone soft, the M Sport variant boasts a subtly more aggressive appearance and displays a keener approach to spirited driving.

This 5 Series is a long way from the 'love it or loathe it' approach of the previous model. It's true that it split opinion, but it's also true that the more aggressively styled M Sport variants accounted for the majority of sales.

This pattern continues, and BMW's latest 5 Series M Sport variant presents a harder edge visually and a usefully more focused driving experience. The exterior changes might be modest, but taken as a whole the car's softer appearance has been replaced by an easy on the eye bodykit and slightly lower stance.

The M Sport clues are less obvious in the cabin; although this is an area where the buyer is presented with a wide choice of alternative trim colour and materials anyway. That said, the car's chunky steering wheel and supportive seats are a welcome addition.

Obviously the big attraction to the BMW brand is driving appeal, and the 5 Series remains an engaging experience despite the company's desire to broaden the model's appeal and tone down it's once over-firm ride. The option of adjusting the ride yourself still allows keen drivers the choice, though. And in flagship 535d guise the car delivers V8 petrol-like performance without a similar impact on your wallet.

Our verdict on the BMW 5 Series 535d M Sport

In M Sport guise, BMW's 5 Series offers keen drivers that bit more in terms of on-road enjoyment than a regular model. Style-wise the car boasts a sharper look, while its dynamic properties have been given a subtle but welcome fine tune. That these variants have, historically, proven to be the most popular is the best endorsement you need.

Costs rating 7

In recent years BMW has made considerable economy improvements to all its cars. The default four-cylinder diesel 5 Series is popular and competent for this reason. There are also savings at the top end of the performance spectrum, and the 5 Series still presents a solid buy despite the increasing competition.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 7

A little bigger than its predecessor, this 5 Series offers plenty of room for four adults. Head and legroom in the rear is good for a car in this class, while oddment storage space is plentiful both fore and aft. The car's boot is also a good size, although the deep load space is not particularly wide.

picture of car on the move

Saloon presents a clean cut image from the rear

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

With BMW's i-Drive technology having steadily improved over time, it's now become surprisingly intuitive, and controls many of the car's functions: ventilation, audio, sat-nav, telephone. The car's auto gearlever requires a little practice to be fully comfortable with, but this is the only ergonomic quirk in an otherwise well thought out cabin.

Comfort Rating 8

Engine and road noise is at impressively low levels. It's only the occasional incident of wind noise that interrupts the otherwise soothing cabin ambience. There is no issue over the amount of space in the cabin, and the driving position offers plenty of adjustment thanks in part to the wide range of seat adjustments.

Car security
Security Rating 8

This sixth generation car is likely to be no less popular than its predecessor. As such, a quality alarm and immobiliser package is available plus a keyless entry and start feature, while it would be unwise to dismiss a supplementary tracking device if you value your pride and joy.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

From a full compliment of airbags to a sophisticated electronic traction and a stability package, nothing has been left to chance. There's no doubting the car's safety credentials, which is especially reassuring in a car with this much performance potential.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

Delivering a sporty driving experience for the enthusiastic executive has been a major BMW selling point. The regular SE cars have been softened a bit but the M Sport models reclaim the performance mantle. Lower and stiffer, cornering ability is improved but not at the expense of ride comfort. The flagship 535d delivers V8 petrol levels of acceleration but without the fuel bills. The eight-speed auto gearbox is also an impressive piece of kit.

picture of car interior

Premium ambience with subtle M Sport features

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 6

This really isn't a car for a family. Its plush cabin is unlikely to survive intact in the face of boisterous toddlers. Also, the car's boot isn't as flexible as a people carrier's load space.

First car appeal
First car Rating 2

There's no question that it's an easy car to drive and, with the variable rate steering, it requires little effort to park. Anyone on a budget might prefer the 3 Series, which is obviously smaller and less expensive to buy and run.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 8

The previous model, although a strong seller, divided opinion with its looks. This variant displays and more restrained appearance, and one that's likely to generate wider interest from conservative buyers. BMW's Efficient Dynamics sub-brand has done wonders for boosting sales of frugal models, while the M Sport offering remains an especially popular variant.

Accessibility Rating

Bigger than previously in all the key areas, access through the car's front doors is good. Surprisingly, the rear door aperture is generous for something in this class. Accessing the boot of this saloon variant is also straightforward.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The basic offering in the 5 Series range isn't so basic. Including Bluetooth mobile phone compatibility - is something all executives on the move should appreciate. The optional satellite navigation works well on the big screen, and there's the likes of digital radio and MP3 music player connectivity to choose from.

picture of car in detail

Visually striking and popular for a good reason

Colours and trim

Lighter hues sometimes work best, as darker colours mask the car's many exterior details. This model is more conservatively styled than previously, and it's obvious when a darker colour is chosen. The opposite is true inside, with darker fabrics and trim materials setting the right tone.


Once you're familiar with its size parking rarely proves to be a challenge. The included parking sensors help, while the optional active steering function greatly reduces the effort required. The optional reverse parking camera is an added bonus.

Spare wheel

Run flat tyres fitted as standard.


Range information

Petrol engine options - 523i (204bhp); 528i (258bhp); 535i (306bhp); 550i (407bhp). Diesel engine options - 520d (184bhp); 525d (204bhp); 530d (245bhp); 535d (299bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, plus optional eight-speed auto gearbox (standard for 550i). Trim levels: SE, M Sport.


Alternative cars

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Bold styling balanced against a rounded driving experience

Audi A6 A6's cabin is spacious but car lacks sparkle when up against the 5 Series

Lexus GS Alternative, hybrid-only, choice is well equipped but can't match brand image of German rivals or on road pace

Jaguar XF Stylish alternative offers good balance refinement and driver involvement

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April 2011