Real Estate | BMW 535i Touring

BY Joel Tam

Singapore's best-selling model for 2011 now comes with more space and a funky twin-boot. We drive the 535i Touring and see how it measures up as a sports-wagon.

Photos: Joel Tam

I'm a big fan of wagons, have always been. So imagine my joy (pardon the 'BMW is JOY' pun) when I first saw the BMW 5 Series Touring in the Performance Motors showroom. It wasn't long before I requested for the keys and was out testing this handsome estate version of the popular BMW 5 Series.

In 535i form, the car is of course, really powerful. Which makes it more than a regular load-lugger - this is essentially a sports-wagon. A Q-car. Something other road users will not expect to be a threat. That's exactly why I love it all the more.

BMW did exceptionally well with the design. The front remains dashing like the sedan version, while the rear has an equally good-looking face with similar rear-lamps used on the 4-door. Unlike the previous Touring (E60), this new model retains the winning good looks of its saloon version.

The cabin is familiar if you're already acquainted with the 5 Series. Leather and robust materials are used on the overall sophisticated, but not exactly inspiring design. The steering wheel with paddle shifters remains meaty to hold and a cinch to use.

BMW's 8-speed automatic transmission found here is a great example of their EfficientDynamics technology. It may seem like too many gears at first, but once you get the hang of it, toggling it manually gives you a broader range to rev-match your appropriate speed during some spirited driving. It will be more fuel efficent too, hence the term EfficientDynamics!

Comfort mode for the family, Sport mode for the solo drives. As found on most BMWs, this feature changes the behaviour of the car from pussycat to tiger in an instant. Hit the button till you see Sport mode on the instrument panel and you'll get sharper response from the engine and a stiffer suspension setup for when you're in the mood. I must say that it's not just a gimmick though, we've tested this feature on many BMWs now, and they've all work wonderfully.

More buttons can be found here on the trunk. Depress the car icon and the boot closes automatically. These don't do anything to enhance your driving pleasure, but they do make life easier, especially when you're tired or just plain lazy.

Short but effective tonneau cover hides the contents in the boot from prying eyes...

...especially if your boot has got $10,000 worth of camera equipment. Look at that load capability! 560-litres to be exact.

Okay, so it's not exactly a twin-boot like the 5 series GT or the (Ahem!) Skoda Superb. But this feature that is also found on some SUVs has been proven to be rather handy - when you just need to drop in small items, you can flip open the glass panel, for larger loads, the whole trunk can be raised with a touch of a button.

The last bit is the best bit. 535i - 6-cylinder in-line unit producing 306 bhp and 400 Nm of torque via a 3-litre twinpower turbocharger. This fires the car up to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds and even further up to a top speed of 250 km/h. It all feels fast and satisfying, but maybe it was the high expectations I had, I did feel that the car was lacking torque. Yup you read that quite right. There was enough of it for sure, but yet, I was longing for more.

Don't get me wrong, I'd choose this almost over any car if I had the means. The 5 Series Touring retains the agility of its sedan brother, is powerful, is a car for all seasons and will satisfy an extremely large portion of your needs and wants. But it is slightly short of being the perfect sports-wagon - maybe the 530d with 540 Nm would do it. Oh, and don't forget that lovely M-Sport kit too.