2009 BMW 535i Sedan

The current 5-series is a bit long in the tooth and, some would argue, has been compromised since its debut by awkward styling and frustrating technology. But from the driver's seat, it still represents the nexus of BMW's best attributes. Less claustrophobic, more comfortable, and more luxurious than the 1- and 3-series, it's still infinitely more engaging to drive than the bigger, cruising-oriented 7-series, not to mention the various X-crossovers. I was simply astounded by how well it tracked through corners -- better than some sports coupes -- while absorbing bumps as well as on would expect of a $60,000 luxury sedan. I'll admit I was also seduced by the presence of the smooth, six-speed manual transmission. How many cars this size even offer a stick shift these days? It's become popular to compare any decent-driving rear-wheel-drive sedan to the 5-series, but I can honestly say that with the possible exception of the Maserati Quattroporte, I've never been in a car this size that dances so well.

I'd also argue that time has provided some perspective on this Bimmer's oft-cited flaws. After five years on the road and a subtle face-lift, the Chris Bangle design is no longer jarring, and, if anything, receives no attention at all. We've also all learned to accept that modern luxury cars come festooned with technology. In fact, compared with some of BMW's newer efforts, the 5-series cabin seems positively quaint, with a conventional shift lever and real analog gauges.

My only beef with the 5-series is the price. The 535i starts at $51,925, and options quickly kick it beyond $60,000. That means the 300-hp 5-series is essentially the same price as the 556-hp Cadillac CTS-V.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

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