Performance

What sets the 5 Series wagon apart from the A6 and E-Class is the way it drives. Sure, its looks scream BMW inside and out, but so does the sweetly smooth acceleration coming from the twin-turbo six-cylinder under the hood. In today's horsepower-heavy world, where cars of all classes frequently top 400 hp, the 535i's 300 hp doesn't sound very impressive, especially when you consider how heavy a car this is Ч 4,101 pounds Ч but it's still lighter and more powerful than the A6 and E350.

It also has a superior engine in terms of refinement. The six-speed automatic features a manual setting, but rest assured that even in plain old Drive, the 535i wagon shifts flawlessly and will deliver enough thrills for most drivers.

BMW is notorious for heavy-handed yet precise steering. The 535i features what BMW calls Active Steering, which happily takes away a lot of the labor involved in turning the car during low-speed maneuvers, like navigating parking lots. It isn't as heavy as its sibling X3 crossover I tested the week prior, and during high-speed driving the steering wheel feels incredibly natural and intuitive Ч like a good sports car's.

The steering was probably the most surprising performance aspect, because you don't expect such a long, large wagon to carve corners like this one did. No, it isn't a sports car, nor is it an M3. But for a station wagon, it's near the top of the heap in terms of cornering and handling.

Even the ride was more comfortable than you'd expect, and it definitely felt smoother than the last two 5 Series sedans Ч a 528i and 550i Ч I've tested. (The latter one, to be fair, had a suspension-firming Sport package. The wagon did not.)

    See also:

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    Sitting safely
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