2014 BMW 535d xDrive
2014 BMW 535d xDrive
2014 BMW 535d xDrive
2014 BMW 535d xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jacob Black

Some cars blow you away with their capability. In sunnier times those cars are usually performance cars with stonking great amounts of torque and horsepower. In winter, it is cars that handle the soggiest, slickest and scariest of road conditions with ease, all while delivering grin-inducing levels of fun and excitement. In this case, it was a little from column A, and a little from column B.

Either the weather gods love me, or they love the BMW 535d, because on the week of my test I was treated to an almighty dumping of snow, sleet and freezing rain. With nary more than a drive to Bancroft and a winter driving school under my belt, this was my first real-world experience in proper winter road conditions – and my loved ones were concerned. They needn’t have been.

The BMW 535d I was testing had all the goodies, xDrive (that’s all-wheel drive in BMW speak), winter tires, and yes, a heated steering wheel.

Under the bonnet there was also BMW’s fantastic 3.0L six-cylinder diesel with 255 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque, the output of which you could monitor with one of the coolest infotainment screens I’ve ever seen.  For the record, torque comes on 100 percent at 1,500 rpm, horsepower at 4,000.

Oh, and for good measure, there was a head-up display to keep your eyes where they ought to be, and active LED lights to make sure your eyes had something to look at.

To say the BMW pulls hard would be a dramatic understatement. It’s no lightweight, but with an all-wheel-drive system and just about every luxury feature known to man to haul around, the 1,930 kg curb weight is pretty impressive. Thanks to that reasonable weight and the aforementioned torque-fest the 535d got up and going more than quickly enough to make other drivers shake their head in disdain at the next lights.

There is grip for days too. No matter what the surface, I could accelerate and turn confidently, with plenty of feedback through the wheel and the pedals. I’ve since driven a car with better braking feel (which is a story for another day) but still the BMW’s brakes were responsive and communicative. All-wheel drive helped with the grip when accelerating and turning, but it was the 245/45R18 winter tires, and four-wheel, independent suspension, plus the large brake discs with brake drying that helped pull the BMW to a halt. Despite braking hard on several occasions, the ABS never even kicked in, such was the “organic” braking capacity of the car.

I was comfortable too. The optional comfort seats ($1,500) were clad – like the rest of the interior – in dark brown leather, so they were not to my taste aesthetically. But my lord were they ever comfortable. I have what some people might refer to as a “wide” backside, but the seats wrapped it well, and even during my excursions into a large, clear, ice-covered parking lot (to take photos of course) I didn’t move an inch in the seat.

2014 BMW 535d xDrive2014 BMW 535d xDrive2014 BMW 535d xDrive
2014 BMW 535d xDrive. Click image to enlarge

The climate control was superb, it came up to temperature quickly and was easy to control. Likewise the heated seats and heated steering wheel. Just as in my review of the Mini Cooper S, I found the iDrive system to be responsive and comprehensive, though complex and convoluted. I imagine that those who use it daily get to grips with it well, but I think it could be improved by having some of the extraneous stuff culled from it.

The large 10.2-inch display is impressive though, and I’ve already mentioned I enjoyed the vehicle information screens, in particular the digital dials which show current horsepower and torque, plus mark the maximum hp and torque reached during the most recent run. It was fun to see that information, but also informative – it’s almost embarrassing how little of the available horsepower we call up during even a spirited drive.

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