BMW 535d M-Sport 2005

There are days when you drive good cars, and there are days where all cars are bad and annoying. There are even days where you get to drive special cars, but there are few days where you get to drive an important car. You see for donkey’s years the 5 series set the benchmark for everything a good upmarket saloon car should be able to do. Whenever a car manufacturer made a new big saloon everyone debate if it was as good as the 5 series. But then BMW took on a new designer and he made, what at the time was called by some a hideous looking creation. But time stops for no one, BMW stuck with the design and now everyone likes it, BMW changed it again.

The model I’m driving today is the 535 diesel, normally I see diesel in the name and my expectations of the performance of a car drop away. You think agricultural more than sporty, well that didn’t stop BMW making one of the most powerful diesels on earth. The 535 engine is the same one found in the 530 but they strapped another turbo in there. They are known as sequential turbochargers, a small turbo charger starts running as soon as you pull off, then as the rev’s increase, a much bigger turbo comes on and takes over. So at the engine is producing 383lb ft, rising to 413lb ft at 2000rpm and that’s more than an M5. The numbers keep coming with this car, at 4400rpm this car is producing 286bhp and 580Nm of torque and that’s more torque than a 911 turbo of the same year, the 0-60 time is just 6.6 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph. When it came out there was no other diesel that could touch it, in fact there was very little on the road that could keep up. If you think about all those number and put it together with a full 5 seat saloon car and a 500ltr boot you should want one without me writing another word.

But hold on there just one second, there’s much more to this car than the engine. With a full leather and deep pile carpet the interior feels sumptuous, the drivers’ seat is firm but most German cars with leather are. There’s plenty of room up front to stretch out, the electric seats move in all directions. The dash is simple in design, with only three knobs, a couple of buttons and a slot for a CD. There’s a screen in the centre that controls everything else, BMW call the control system iDrive. There’s a wheel on the centre console for opening menus and taking charge of most things in the car. If you start to mess around it’s easy enough to get lost in settings. iDrive is complicated at first but after you’ve seen everything you’ll just use the radio and temperature controls.

The back seat is huge and comfy, plenty of leg room too. The only problem back here is you can’t fold the rear seat down, so you’re stuck with the 500ltr’s. Needless to say the quality of materials used is second to none; I can’t fault the interior fit and finish.

I started the engine, it’s quiet at idle but you know its running. I was told by the man who offered his car for test to “give it a good testing now!” So with a clear road ahead; and on a straight, I pushed the pedal to the floor. I have to say, there is no experience quite like moving in a piece of metal this big, so fast. Before I realised I was doing over 100mph (it’s a private road) it felt like being punched in the chest, the torque is huge, there’s no turbo lag the power is just there, it’s relentless.

This being a rear wheel drive the handling on the road is supremely balanced, a little more power cures any under steer and over steer is so controllable you just feel safe when it happens. The electronic nannies don’t interfere with the driving experience, they just let you know when the fun is about to happen. If you turn off the safety bits the fun goes up, but you better have spare tyres to hand, the squealing from the rear of the car was so bad, I thought there was a dog stuck in one of the wheel arches.

I took the 5 away from the private roads and out on the motorway. This is home to car like this. At motorway speeds there’s barely a sound in the cabin, the huge car settles down to one of the finest motorway cruisers on the market.

Unfortunately the 535d is missing from the future line up of BMW for the Irish market, there is still a few for sale but even they are getting rare. The 5 series is still the benchmark, although the competition is closing the gap all the time. If you want the last fantastic breed of a car, and a future classic go find the 535d and have a go.

The car I drove is not for sale, its part of a private collection that I wish I could show you. If you have a car you would like me to review be it a new, old, classic, sports whatever it is get in touch