2011 BMW 535i xDrive

This vehicle is virtually identical to our Four Seasons 535i, except it has xDrive all-wheel drive, the presence of which is quite difficult to detect in normal, dry-road driving. All things being equal, I’d probably prefer my 5-series to have all-wheel drive, but the truth is, I spent a very snowy weekend in our rear-wheel-drive 535i this winter, driving through six inches of fresh slushy white stuff in the Chicagoland area, and that car was unstoppable, because it was equipped with excellent snow tires. Adding xDrive to your 535i subtracts one mpg from both the city and highway fuel economy figures, making them 19/29 rather than 20/30 mpg; and it adds $2300 to the base price. The weight penalty is pretty marginal, though; the 535i xDrive weighs 4233 lb versus the rear-wheel-drive 535i’s 4090 lb.

In any case, this 535i xDrive has the same beige and black interior and the same dark blue exterior paint as our Four Seasons car, so it both felt and looked very familiar. I’m always struck by how well the 8-speed transmission works in these BMWs. The gearbox just takes little sips of torque and swallows them up and moves on to the next gear with the smoothness of a singer taking an intake of breath before moving on to the next stanza. It’s very seamless. The car has an impressive sense of solidity and roadholding. I can see that the steering might be considered by some to be a little uncommunicative but I find it to be just fine in day-to-day driving. The three-position seat heaters, which we don’t have in our Four Seasons 535i, are very fast acting and very hot.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

BMW are masters at offering buyers a $50,000 mid-size luxury sedan and then tempting them with all sorts of extras so that, before they know it, $15,000 worth of options have been added. As with out Four Seasons 535i, this car is equipped with a host of high-dollar option packages that give you equipment such as a rear-view camera, heated seats, navigation, larger wheels, etc. I doubt that BMW actually sells any cars at their listed base prices.

Having said that, the 535i is a great place to spend time, whether it’s a short commute to work or a long road trip. The seats are very comfortable and can be adjusted twelve ways to Sunday and the turbo I-6 is smooth as silk, its power transmitted seamlessly through the eight-speed automatic transmission. Plus, it greats pretty great fuel economy for a car in this class, coming close to the 30-mpg mark on the highway. Still, $67,000? I’m still having a hard time swallowing that.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

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