What is it?
There are two separate pieces of 5-series news to talk about here, but unfortunately only one that we'll get to the bottom of. The first is the return of the 535d to the range, absent since the launch of the F10. The second, that it is now possible to buy a 5-series in M Sport specification.
What's it like?
Although retaining two turbochargers, the 35d engine has been comprehensively re-engineered and now produces 295bhp and 442lb ft of torque. Much as before, the car is available only with an automatic transmission, but the 'box now has eight speeds. The performance for a diesel saloon car is extraordinary; if anything, the claimed 0-62mph time of 5.7sec undersells the real-world, on-demand response.
Perhaps of more relevance, though, is that this new 535d is significantly more refined than the previous model, which could occasionally feel and sound slightly coarse. Why exactly is difficult to pinpoint; it could be the new engine and gearbox or simply because the F10 employs more sound deadening than its predecessor.
The biggest question, though, is whether you actually need the extra performance, given that the 530d is now such a competent and potent motor. For those deciding that the half-a-second gain in the 0-62mph time is worth the extra £3425, the consolation is that the 535d matches the 530d’s claimed economy figures and produces just 2g/km more CO2.
And so to the M Sport specification, which is available throughout the range at a cost of £3225 over SE trim. You can come to your own conclusions about the visual changes, which consist of new valances, sills, wheels and a bootlid spoiler on the outside and an M Sport steering wheel, sport seats, anthracite roof lining and aluminium trim inside.
As standard, M Sport also brings recalibrations to the suspension (springs, dampers and ride height). However, this is far from the end of the story, because it is possible to opt for the M Sport look but retain the SE suspension settings. And if (as here) you specify the £2220 optional Adaptive Drive pack (active dampers and anti-roll bars), the situation gets even more complicated. Because with Adaptive Drive, the suspension and ride height revert to SE specification, meaning this M Sport 535d drives no differently from a similarly optioned SE model.
So is it an option worth ticking? Sadly, that's not a question we can fully answer just yet, as we've not tried a passively damped M Sport 5-series. What we can say is that in SE trim, Adaptive Drive does improve the 5-series' composure and ride quality, and given that this is effectively what we've got here, the 535d M Sport is an extremely pleasant car to drive, if no more sporting than an SE, even if its styling might suggest it is.
Should I buy one?
With BMW offering such a broad spectrum of optional technology, selecting the optimal 5-series specification was already difficult, which the arrival of M Sport has now only made more complex. What's clear, though, is that a 535d M Sport with all the toys is an excellent executive all-rounder, if an expensive one. But it also poses yet more questions – mainly about the passive M Sport set-up. Watch this space.