From £29,250
A masterclass in the black arts
Autocar
14 December 2004

The 630i in front is flat out. Over gentle wind rustle and road hum come snatches of exhaust noise as it howls to the red line. But it isn’t pulling away, and I still have three inches of throttle travel.There’s never been a diesel quite like the 535d. 

Jaguar’s twin-turbo V6 uses one blower per bank, but BMW has added two sequential turbochargers in line to its 2993cc straight six engine: a small turbo spools quickly for low-rev response and a big one boosts power higher up the rev range.

The result is 272bhp – more than Audi’s 4.0 TDi – and 413lb ft of torque. That means 0-62mph in 6.6sec (6.5sec for the saloon) and a limited 155mph top speed. It renders the £5775-costlier 545i petrol obsolete, offering more mid-range torque, the prospect of better residuals, 34.4mpg (up 9.6mpg) and, with a rating of 29 per cent, a drop of six tax bands for company car buyers.

Power delivery is much like a V8 petrol’s. The small turbo prevents lag – there’s 392lb ft of torque from 1500rpm – and there’s huge punch at all times. It is as happy to waft along at 1500rpm as to spin to the 5000rpm red line, 500rpm above a 530d’s. With such linear power delivery you’ve got to keep an eye on the speedo, but four massive ventilated disc brakes will keep you out of trouble.

It even sounds good. There’s some clatter from cold but once it’s warm a deep, straight-six thrum emerges from twin chromed exhausts. Drive reaches the rear wheels via a ZF six-speed auto with manual override, and the Five’s spacious cabin, fine chassis balance and body control remain unchanged. As does the ride, the car constantly fidgeting on the run-flat tyres.

SE spec brings six airbags, 17in alloys, cruise and climate control, part-electric seats, CD, iDrive and metallic paint for £1815 more than a 204bhp Mercedes E 320 CDi Elegance estate.If you want a Q-car that will devour B-roads and swallow four passengers and a couple of labradors without necking tanker-fulls of fuel, this is it.

Alastair Clements

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