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    Thread: My Review: BMW 535, 550, 535 GT, IS 350 (and my GS 450h on the same roads)

    1. Banned 1SICKLEX's Avatar
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      07-28-2010 02:56 PM #1
      Instead of being linked here I'll start posting some of my reviews. This is on multiple cars so sorry its so long. I shared my F10 5-series autocross experience so here is the "road" one.


      Cliffs
      -535 GT-looks bad, lovely interior, drives like a tall wagon, sport mode is great
      535 sedan-nice looks inside and out, needs sport mode, comfy and nice cruiser
      550 sedan-nice looks inside and out, tons of power, felt complete but slightly loose at speeds
      IS 350-swift, small, very BMW like now that BMW is getting softer and heavier
      GS 450h-swift, tossable, harsher, less luxurious, brakes are cold to the touch

      3.0 turbo is not an engine I like. Too much lag and feels course and tough with these new heavier BMW vehicles
      7 speed BMW tranny is a charm. Shifts fast and smoothly
      NAV systems are huge and very modern
      iDrive (gasp ) is getting damn good and pretty easy to use
      BMW interiors have made tremendous gains and are among the leaders now
      BMW V-8 turbo is a beast, lovely engine

      I also checked out the Z4, 135 convert and 7 series sport. The Z4 had a lovely red interior and I fit pretty well. I fit even better in the 135.

      The 7 series is full of win. Now true it is tough to tell a 7 and 5 apart but my goodness the 7 series looks fantastic. This model had light leather mixed with black trim and the alacantra headliner with the leather dash and is just SPOKE LUXURY. I love it!
      I got to attend another BMW driving experience that was on the road this time, not the track. So I've been very lucky to have been able to drive the new 5 series on both.

      I attended a nice local dealership in an upper posh suburb of Atlanta, home of soccer moms and well, BMW, Benzes and Lexus. I parked and walked in and was greeted by friendly people and there is a table to finalize registration which took 2 minutes. They had the usual snacks and beverages but I skipped it to go driving.

      I was asked what I wanted to drive first and I said the Gran Turismo. They looked perplexed. I was taken to another lady who I think took track of how long I had the car and when I checked the vehicle in and out.

      She quickly took me to the vehicle and said "okay here you go, the map is on the seat, follow it and bring it back". Awesome, I would be driving by myself and I knew this area very well.

      535 GT
      If you recall in my last BMW review I really liked the 5 GT size and interior and cargo room. This didn't change. While the one at the last even was a loaded 550GT with the 20" wheels, this was 535 with some options but base wheels. (none of the cars had sticker prices on them)

      The interior again is roomy and rides higher than a car but lower than a SUV. There is a lot of space inside for you and friends/family. I got a chance to open the giant sunroof and it really provided an airy feel open or closed with the shade rolled back (unlike a Lexus the shade is also automatic, you don't use your hands to pull it back). There is a lot of cubby space around and even a slide out drawer in the middle of the dash. It really is large and wide. The swath of wood looks great and I really overall like the new BMW interiors. The top of the dash and steering wheel is black. I am not a fan of the BMW light beige leather. Too yellow for me.

      Every BMW I drove had iDrive and NAV. Never would I thought I would say I am getting used to iDrive but I am Its "Gasp" no longer that bad to me:eek2: The menu button is there, the back button is there, you click, push, twist. It clearly is a device you need to use more than once to get used to (so it won't be well received in one time reviews).

      Now this car had the optional sport/comfort settings. The 550 had this as well. I'll cut to the chase and say you basically NEED this option if you want the best from your BMW. In the 5GT there is 3 modes, comfort, normal, sport. This is my assessment;

      -comfort-Very RX like, comfy, delayed responses, less steering feel, highway cruising. You would not think you are in a BMW
      -Normal-skip this setting as its a weird blend between sport/comfort and did nothing for me
      -Sport-my favorite mode, really sharpened responses and drive admirably for such a large vehicle. Didn't drive harshly either.

      The 535 GT is powered by the new single turbo 3.0 I-6 with 300hp and 300 lbs of torque. I am going to put my neck out there and get burned at the internetz stake for this and say I do not like this engine much.:sad: Sorry. I much prefer the twin turbo unit of old. It is loud and the boost kicks in after some very apparent initial lag. It feels like an EVO and not like a luxury car. I complained about this at the track event so this is no longer an isolated incident and I felt the say way in the 535 sedan. DO NOT WANT. When the boost does kick it it provides more than ample acceleration but it feels like it is indeed working hard.

      As it should. Here are some specs.
      DIMENSIONS:
      Wheelbase: 120.9 in Length: 196.8 in
      Width: 74.8 in Height: 61.4 in
      Curb weight: 4600 lb

      You will see a new reoccurring theme here and it is weight. One admirable thing about BMWs in the past was they were either the lightest or amongst the lightest in class. Those days are DONE. The new 5 as I've stated before feels big as it is big and it feels heavier b/c it is heavier. No amount of power can mask mass. It just can't. Electronics can trick you for only so long. So by the time you add some options, bigger wheels, some people you are easily at 5,000 lbs with 300hp with a turbo that needs to kick in to move.

      That is not to say I didn't like the drive. Considering its size and weight it handles and drives very nicely when not hurried. There is significant dampening and irregularities in the road were not transmitted to the steering wheel. Very relaxing which is a good thing. The steering wheel is a good size and feels good in the hands. Looking around the nicely styled interior you really would have no idea you are in a hatch. It feels like a 7 series inside. The brakes are great, terrific feel and felt more than ample in slowing the car down. Visibility is great out front and to the sides, the rear could be better. That said BMW has trick cameras and radar all around that pops on the NAV when you put in reverse to help you park (though I swear i'd rather just stick my head out the window and do it myself).

      The iDrive screen is huge and there are cupholders and aux ports and 3 memory positions for the seats. I am not a fan of the headliner at all and I am really becoming a fan of alacantra headliners. The gear shift knob can be slapped into manual mode (no paddles) and you slap it up to shift down and down to shift up. The transmission shifts very smoothly and to me is a huge positive here.

      Finally I will talk about what has been talked about to death. Its looks, or lack of it. This vehicle was some dark grey color with the stock 18" wheels and I am sorry but it is a complete styling disaster to look at. There is no appeal at all. It simply looks like a giant uglier last generation Prius. Shame that it will keep people away as it is a good car once you get past that.


      We have spoken about the price for this vehicle and I think its another detriment. It is a costly vehicle 60k-100k with options. The X5 can sit 7 if needed and honestly doesn't drive any less sporty. Its really a small niche.

      My advice. Pony up for the V-8 and make sure you get the sport package with the dial. Skip the yellow leather as well.

      535 sedan

      Next I drove a base 535 with NAV. This is basically the same car I drove at the track. I did not like it so much on the road which really surprised me as I was pretty head over heels over it with my initial review. I would almost say it was rather disappointing.

      The problem is this car did not have the optional sport mode so this car drives the same 24/7. Now in the past that wasn't an issue as companies figured out what they thought was the best balance/ride and for BMW it was always more sport vs luxury. Without the optional sport mode, this car felt confused and quite frankly more like a Lincoln than a BMW.

      There is some serious disconnect here. Once lets go back to weight. The 535 weighs a whopping 4100lbs. My HYBRID GS with a NASA sized battery pack weighs 4100lbs for comparisons sake. It is what 300-400lbs more than a base 535 E60? The car feels heavy with the stock suspension and wheels. I noted this in my other review.

      Then you have the steering. You have a nice meaty black steering wheel but there is ample play at speed before the steering feels accurate. This is similar to feel in a Lexus or the latest Infiniti M56. This is very unlike BMW and was not confident inspiring.

      Finally you have the same single turbo engine. Its pushing 4100lbs around and while it felt faster than in the 5GT it still feels course and you feel the boost kick in and push you in the seat. It is not very linear.

      Add that up and when the car is hustled it simply didn't make me grin. Yes it handles fine and yes it won't kill you but it simply lacks the telepathically feel of a past BMW. Ironically for BMW as I slowed the speed down and "cruised" the car felt great. Never thought a 5 would be a better cruiser than sports sedan. With the softer suspension and big tires the car floats well and gives a nice luxurious ride. The window/door line is at a nice height so you can lean your arm out the window.

      The big plus again is the 7 speed transmission. It regular "Drive" it shifts quickly and you don't feel it. In manual mode you use the gear lever and it works well as I stated before. Brake feel is similar to the 5 GT which is a good thing.

      Like the other BMWs, the NAV screen is huge and there is ample room inside, this feels like an old 7 series in regards to room. There is less seat adjustments than in the 550 so I was not as comfy in the 535. Again it had the dark top dash with the yellow leather. The leather feels supple and like a BMW. The car feels wide inside and it feels more luxurious than sporty.

      My advice. Get the sport package and if you can pony up for the 550. If you want a comfy car with BMW prestige and style, get a base 535 then.]

      550 sedan sport

      If you don't want to read the review here is all you need to know. The 550 is the one to get with the sport package Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Go straight there and put your deposit on the 550 sport. If you really are that enthusiast you claim to be, get the manual. The mere thought that the M5 will have 150 more hp and drive sportier makes me happy and full of BMW joy

      There is something a Honda fanboi will never know and that is the joy of a big torque filled V-8. This vehicle has 400hp and 450lbs of torque. Never does it feel underpowered and never does it feel like its stuggling. 0-60, 30-80, 60-100, doesn't matter there is more than ample power all around. The engine is asking you to "please sir GIVE US MORE GAS"

      This is a #$(#) BMW. This car like the 535 GT I drove has the sport mode. It has 19" wheels as well. This has 2 sport modes, sport and sport +. Sport plus it seems engages some super traction control as they figure you are going to try to kill yourself through the corners and they will try to save you.

      Thats the mode I used

      First off let me say that in comfort mode, it drives cushy. Not as cushy as the base 535 but very well done and again, not much negative road feel. Things are slower and more relaxed. Great for cruising around. Sport + mode makes everything edgier and finally the 5 series feels like a 5 series. That is to say the tranny, engine, steering, brakes are all at one with one another.

      Notice I left out mass. Well the 550 weighs a whooping 4,343 lbs BASE!! So add me, some options, and two more people and you are at nearly 5,000 lbs.:eek2: There is simply no way around the additional weight and you feel it. The 550 handed great, it also felt larger and bigger. In the past thoughts were "wow this 5 handles great" or "wow this feels smaller than it is". Not anymore. Now the thought is "wow, this handles great for a BIG car". Over expansion ramps and at higher speeds you feel the tech and the big weight of the car and it felt loose. You can tell BMW is trying to do what they can to make a heavy car handle better but you can't mask that weight.

      Brakes are ample with great feel. This car has the paddle shifters and as soon as you tap them it takes you out or Drive and into manual. They are a good size and feel good and shifts are fantastic and fast. I really really enjoyed it in sport mode shifting with the paddles.

      Lets get back to the engine. It is clearly faster and more tuned for the 5 series than the 6 cylinder. The turbo V-8 never struggles and the boost is much less obvious. That is b/c even without turbos this thing makes 360hp or so. That is the joy of a big V-8.

      I love the additional seat adjustments as well. I do find that the steering wheel does not go as low as I would like it. One other 5 series quibble is when you push the button to put it in park I can't get out the car right away. There is a delay before it opens the door for me.

      My advice. This is by far the complete 5 series and the one that brought a smile to my face. Just don't expect a tossable vehicle, think mini 7 series.
      They also had a E 350, IS 350 and GS 350 to drive around. BMW again is acknowledging that Mercedes and Lexus are the other two big dogs in the market. I think its bold of them to continue to bring competition here and I applaud their confidence. Some might say "where is Audi, Caddy, Infiniti" and I surmise that BMW doesn't care

      I could not get myself to drive the E350 again. For one it looks like something you drive to your funeral. The car is slow footed and the acceleration is average. It just looks horrid in base form. It is completely unappealing to me.

      IS 350

      This is by far the smallest and lightest of the group. Needless to say it was the most tossable and the most fun. The Lexus DI 3.5 is a marvel and feels as fast at the V-8 550 around with no lag since its a N/A vehicle. This engine just loves to be pushed. I drove it in manual mode and the car shifted much harsher than any BMW I drove. Shifts were fast.

      The IS unlike 2 of the BMWs is pretty easy. You get in and touch the screen and go. There is no dials or modes. The ride is very compliant with the 18s and not harsh. This car is very cozy inside and feels like a coupe. The plastics were by far the cheapest to the feel but it should be, its the cheapest car here.

      Amazingly, the IS steering feel really mimics BMW here with a black all leather wheel and a good size. The dash is black on top. I love the gauges, they still feel fresh and techno. The steering is IMO just as good as the 535. Some play initially then it bites and the car steers where you want. I was hard pressed to tell any difference.

      Compared to the big V-8, the 3.5 V-6 does not pull over 60mph like the V-8 does. Naturally . I left feeling impressed that the IS did so well on the same roads. Anyone who says the IS does not handle well is simply not credible.

      Its amazing the differences in execution inside and out by BMW and Lexus in competing segments. The BMW feels completely German and the Lexus completely Japanese. I applaud both companies efforts. They are all great cars and its simply a matter of preference many times.

      Overall it got me feeling how I really would like a smaller, lighter car.

      My advice. Get the IS 350, tighten things up with F-sport suspension parts and be amazed that this is a "Lexus".
      Counterpoint my own GS 450h

      After I drove their cars I did what came natural and that was drive my car over the same roads.

      The road was a very nice loop for a few miles. It entailed driving on a big 2 lane road, then going on some curvy twisty back roads with significant changes in elevation. The roads are as spirited as you would get on a daily basis without really looking for trouble.

      The first thing I felt was the difference in size between the 5 and the GS. The 5 is clearly much larger inside and feels more like a sedan whereas the GS feels more like a coupe. The wood steering wheel offers less feel than the all leather wheel. The 5 feels nicer and more luxurious inside.

      What struck me was the GS easily felt lighter than the 5 series though it weighs a hefty 4100lbs itself. The GS simply felt smaller and more tossable. Acceleration from the hybrid is on par with V-8s but I feel the V-8 again would just continue to accelerate vs the battery assist of the V-6. The GS didn't feel as loose as the rear of the 5 series. Blame those electronics. I felt the 5 drove less harsh and felt better put together.

      The GS brakes feel more artificial than the 5 series. It has ample bite but never has the same feel. Its rather cold to describe it and feels mechanical.

      So the funny part is the BMW is now more comfy and more luxurious than a Lexus. Who would have thought.

    2. 07-28-2010 03:44 PM #2
      good read, how soon before you change your name to 1SICKbim

    3. 07-28-2010 04:50 PM #3
      Quote Originally Posted by 1SICKLEX View Post
      Instead of being linked here I'll start posting some of my reviews. This is on multiple cars so sorry its so long. I shared my F10 5-series autocross experience so here is the "road" one.

      In the 535 Sedan, it's "coarse" instead of "course" but I'm liking the review a lot!

    4. Banned 1SICKLEX's Avatar
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      07-29-2010 03:01 PM #4
      Quote Originally Posted by blacksand View Post
      good read, how soon before you change your name to 1SICKbim
      lol....I've always liked BMWs, the new ones I like even more as the interiors are fantastic.

    5. Banned AutoUnion32's Avatar
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      07-30-2010 03:55 PM #5
      Good review 1sick

      I have to say, I've been thoroughly impressed with the new 5er after dirving it at BMW's ultimate drive. It's a great car

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