Months in service: Eight
Miles to date: 21,756
"Home for the Holidays" -- popularized by Bing Crosby, and drilled into our collective conscious by relentless repetition, presents a romanticized vision of people travelling to see family. Creative director Kelly Murphy was among them, spurred on additionally by the fact that his family is in Naples, Florida. Heading out late on the afternoon of December 23rd, the 535i at first seemed like the ideal car for the journey.
"The Dunlop snow tires made a huge difference in ride quality over the worn-out original-equipment rubber," he noted. "The ride was almost as good as when the car was delivered." He pressed on into the night, and noted: "This is probably one of the best cars for night driving. The headlights are amazing, and the interior ambient lighting lets you see everything yet it's not distracting."
At an overnight stop in Lexington, Kentucky, the gas gauge was reading half full, so he went ahead and filled the tank, adding 13 gallons. "I thought for the briefest of moments, 'Hmm, that's a really big tank, but then again this is a true road car.'"
On Christmas Eve, he got a pre-dawn start and was barreling through Georgia when the fuel gauge again was reading 1/2 tank and the trip computer estimating 240 miles to empty. "I thought I'd run it down to 1/4, then get fuel and something to eat," he recalls.
"I pulled into the passing lane, and the car went to reduced power. I got a warning sign on the dash, 'Engine Malfunction Power Reduction.' Within ten seconds it happened again. By this time I was on the side of the road with the engine shut off. When it wouldn't restart, I called BMW roadside assistance."
Even though our 535i is equipped with navigation, roadside assistance said they couldn't determine its location, and needed Murphy to give them a mile marker. While waiting for the flatbed tow truck, Murphy realized that he had gone 557 miles since that last fill-up, and figured that -- despite what the gas gauge and trip computer were saying -- the car had run out of gas. He called roadside assistance back, asking for fuel to be brought instead of the tow truck. But the operator said that the service call had already been initiated and couldn't be changed. She had also transposed two numbers in Murphy's cell phone when giving his number to the tow truck operator, so the tow truck driver was unable to reach him. In all, it was not the finest hour for BMW roadside assistance.
When the tow truck finally did arrive, he took the car on the flatbed to the nearest service station. The car took 19 gallons of gas and started right up. Christmas was saved!
"The entire ordeal delayed me about three hours," said Murphy, "and I was in Naples by 7:30 p.m."
He adds, "For the rest of my trip I reverted to my motorcycle driving habits and gauged my fuel stops by the odometer."
Back in home Michigan, the 535i has gone in for service -- and a recall on its fuel level sender.
2011 BMW 535i Sedan
Base price (with destination): $50,475
Price as tested: $65,425
3.0-liter single-turbocharged DOHC inline 6-cylinder
8-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and DBC
Dynamic stability control and traction control
Xenon adaptive headlights with auto-leveling and corner lights
10-way power adjustable driver's and front seat with memory
AM/FM stereo with CD/MP3 player audio system and HD radio
2-way power moonroof
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Power tilt/telescoping steering wheel
Automatic headlight control
Leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel
iDrive system with on-board computer
Vehicle monitor system
Adaptive brake lights
Options on this vehicle:
Dynamic handling package -- $2700
Electronic damping control
Active roll stabilization
Sport package -- $2200
19-inch alloy wheels
Sports leather steering wheel
Navigation system -- $1900
Premium package -- $1800
Driver assist package -- $1750
Automatic high beams
Lane departure warning
Active blind spot detection
Convenience package -- $1700
Comfort access keyless entry
Side and top view cameras -- $800
Park distance control -- $750
Deep Sea Blue metallic paint -- $550
Rearview camera -- $400
iPod and USB adapter -- $400
Key options not on vehicle:
Active ventilated seat package -- $2950
Cold weather package -- $1050
Premium package 2 -- $4900
Premium package plus:
Heated front seats
Power rear sunshade
Night vision with pedestrian detection -- $2600
Satellite radio -- $350
Fuel economy, city/hwy/combined: 20 / 29 / 23
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged direct-injected DOHC inline 6-cylinder
Horsepower: 300 @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 300 lb-ft @ 1200-5800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed STEPTRONIC automatic
Unladen weight: 4090 lb
Wheels/tires: 19-inch V-spoke aluminum wheels; 245/40R19 94Y front, 275/35R19 96Y rear Goodyear Excellence performance run-flat tires
Competitors: Mercedes-Benz E-class, Jaguar XF, Infiniti M37, Hyundai Genesis sedan, Cadillac CTS