My weapon of choice for this trip is my trusty 2008 BMW 535xi Touring. I’ve owned this car for just over a year having bought it as a certified pre-owned car from my local BMW dealer and have covered a lot of ground in it. It is one of the best cars I’ve ever owned and the fact I was able to comfortably cover over 3000 miles in four and a half days is quite spectacular. Jeremy Clarkson on one of his recent DVDs called the 5 series Touring, albeit in 535d guise minus the four wheel drive the best all round car in the world. I have to agree with this statement and if they did that engine here in a 5er I would already be driving one. That said though the 3.0 twin turbo petrol lump, despite a prodigious thirst that would shame it’s oil burning cousin is a joyous powerplant installed in a fine chassis.
All German luxury cars come with a fair amount of kit as standard compared to the same cars in Europe. My car is no exception, with an original sticker price of nearly $80,000 the list of standard kit is impressive. The seats are quite simply the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in. My car has the optional 20 way “Comfort” sports seats. There are 20 ways you can adjust the seat including side bolsters that automagically grip you when you put your seatbelt on. I also have a head up display that I originally dismissed as a gimmick but now is one of my favourite features. The speed, nav instructions and any check control messages get projected onto the windshield meaning you can keep an eye on your speed and where you are going without ever taking your eyes off the road. All four seats are heated making it an awesome winter transport and the xDrive system means you aren’t going to be fumbling for snow chains. Even the iDrive system that got panned by critics when it first appeared in the E65 7er has been excellent.
It isn’t all moonlight and roses though. First off the car has not been reliable, it has never stranded me at the side of the road but every time it visits a dealer for a service it ends up with all kinds of stuff being done under warranty including a recent fresh set of turbos! The heating controls are also very infuriating. It has climate control but it doesn’t work as I expect it to. I’ve had many cars with automatic climate control and my expectations are that you just need to dial in a temperature and the car will do all the rest of the work. I had a 1990 Mercedes 300E that I drove from a cold, wet San Francisco to hot and dry Las Vegas and I did not need to touch the temp control once, it just kept the cabin at the required temperature. The problem in the BMW system is that it has too many configuration options. You hit the automatic button, set the required temperature but then you get to decide on the level of cold/warm air mix and select from three different programmes, soft to intense. This means that you end up having to constantly adjust the system to keep things comfortable as weather conditions change and I don’t like this. I’m all for options but in this case less is definitely more.
Overall though the car is magnificent, the stereo loud and clear and the performance and handling more than adequate for such a practical vehicle. It is a rare sight in the US with a tiny percentage of 5ers sold here in the ‘wagon’ configuration as most Americans would go for a SUV over a wagon but I like this as it makes the car stand out. I can’t see myself changing this car anytime soon unless they bring the 330d Touring to America. There just isn’t anything else on the market that I like.