Space with pace

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By Nick Jones

I remember first driving the BMW 535 diesel on its international launch many moons ago

What struck me that day was how damn quick it was - like a bullet from a gun. It had searing pace and yet, to my amazement, sips fuel to return over 40mpg.

I seem to recall thinking that it could mark a new dawn for diesel... and boy, has that become the reality.

On the face of it, producing nearly 300bhp the BMW 535M Sport Touring should have some serious ability on the road. It can hit 155mph easily and is limited to that.

It screams past 60mph from standstill in just 5.5 seconds (that’s quicker than a Porsche Boxster) and achieves an unbelievable 42.2mpg.

Even the emissions are amazing, just 165g/km, a remarkable figure indeed.

So how’s this possible, in a diesel engine?

Well, it’s a stock 5-Series 3.0-litre engine (and in standard form, one of the best on the planet) but it gains not one but two turbochargers.

What this creates is one turbo for the low-end grunt and as that one starts to flail, the other one kicks-in and offers top-end grunt – resulting in a jaw-dropping torque figure of 442lb/ft at a lowly 1,750 revs per minute.

The BMW has also gained an eight-speed automatic gearbox which is a breeze to use.

Devastatingly quick then, but very quiet on the inside - a mile-munching smooth operator that can carry upwards of 1,500 litres of luggage if you fold down the rear seats. They split 40:20:40 and still leave over 500-litres if you leave them in place.

Much of the switchgear and brilliant ergonomics are carried over internally, everything it seems has a button for it, but the periphery stuff is controlled by the amazing iDrive system through a head-up screen on the dashboard. Simplified now, it has a myriad functions attached to it, not to mention a cacophony of bongs, chimes and pings suggesting either yes, that’s complete or no – please try again.

Trim levels on the 535 extend to SE and mine here the M Sport, the latter looking aesthetically awesome. My test car had the Adaptive Drive Pack plus every conceivable extra going, but adds the more important bits for me – things like sills with the M logo on it, deeper valances, larger wheels, a rear spoiler and on the inside an M Sport steering wheel, sports seats, aluminium trim and anthracite roof lining.

In many ways the 535d is a remarkable achievement to extract all that power and hone it as useable on the road and yet achieve the miles per gallon figure it does is mind-boggling.

And this is done in a car that comfortably seats five and has room for the pet pooch in the rear, behind the optional dog guard.

Executive cars now have to return good comfort with pace and quality and that’s what you get here.

And yet the taxman will not have his or her share.

In many ways, it creates a yardstick by which cars of this ilk will be judged.

The 535d SE Touring is £46,200 but I’d spend the extra £3,300 and go for the M Sport version.