FactoryTwoFour would like to welcome our latest author Rob Graham
It’s been four hours, and I’ve got another eight to go. I’m headed north somewhere in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia, driving along the east coast from Atlanta, Georgia to Princeton, New Jersey in BMW’s latest mid-sized sedan. The cruise control is set at 100mph, and has been for the past half hour and the car is averaging just under 30mpg. Like nearly everything BMW has produced in the past five years, this car is an exercise in over-engineered precision. Even with the speeds firmly fixed among triplets on the speedometer, the car is almost completely silent and remarkably compliant. Imperfections in the road surface disappear under the chassis like interstate landmarks in the vehicles rear view mirror.
As the miles wear on, the heavily weighted steering continues to inspire confidence as I negotiate the gentle mountainous curves at triple digit speeds. In spite of the hilly terrain, the ample torque from the twin turbo charged straight six and the intelligently controlled six speed transmission keep the car calm and relaxed even when the landscape would force a downshift in lesser vehicles. Without the slightest hint of perspiration in my palms, the thick rimmed steering wheel is comfortable, and its spoke mounted controls make finding entertainment on my long journey fast and easy.
It occurs to me, as I near northern Virginia that I am in the heart of NASCAR country, and although my autobahn inspired German chariot lacks the thunderous V8 soundtrack, the 320ft-lbs from the sequentially operated turbos ensure passing in traffic is a mere breath on the accelerator away. It’s upon entering the state of New Jersey that the 5 Series really begins to come into its own. Even over the apparently cobblestone constructed roadway disaster and perpetual construction nightmare that is the New Jersey turnpike, the car remains comfortable and composed. Perhaps more importantly, despite the entire state of New Jersey not possessing a single intersection where a u-turn is legal, the BMW’s nav system makes short work of finding my destination, even when I’m sure the scope of my navigational incompetence could crash a supercomputer.
It’s not until I’m pulling the BMW curbside amongst a sea of yellow cabs, that I realized what a truly remarkable automobile this is. While coddled in a ocean of luxury, supple leather, and traveling at sustained speeds nearing or in excess of a hundred miles per hour, I had lost track of the time that had passed. In short the 535i, like so many of its predecessors, is timeless. This is an expression that also applies to both the design language and to the driving experience itself. As my passengers disembarked, to attend the wedding that was the cause for my journey, I felt nothing but sympathy for those individuals forced to arrive in the stained bench seats of Crown Victorias and Town Cars. They may have found the venue, but for my passengers and I, we had arrived.