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Motor Max: Diesel put you in the fast lane; 5 Series puts petrol in shade.

Byline: STEVE HUGHES

DRIVING more than 1, 500 miles in two days is no easy task, but it is helped when the car is a hugely powerful oil-burner.

Executive diesels are on a roll right now and the latest from BMW is about as good as it gets.

I drove my test model from Southern Spain to the North of England, flat out all the way with average economy of 29. 1mpg.

As the name suggests the BMW 535d is a 3. 5-litre diesel version of the 5 Series, available in saloon and touring body styles. Trim levels are SE and Sport, with the latter being somewhat in-yer-face for a diesel, with lowered front, side and rear skirts plus fancy alloys and other cosmetic sporting touches.

At pounds 36, 575 for the cheapest SE Saloon and pounds 41, 225 for the Sport Touring, the newcomer is certainly not cheap. For those who can afford it, however, it is a glorious package, if somewhat contradictory.

If the idea of opting for a diesel is to save money because it is more economical then forget it.

The petrol equivalent costs so much less that you would need to use the diesel version every day for a couple of years just to break even.

So why even consider the diesel model at all? Well, amazingly, one reason could be its superior performance.

The twin-turbo 3. 5-litre diesel is not only significantly quicker than the single-turbo 3. 0-litre model but it is even quicker off the mark than the 3. 0-litre petrol model with a remarkable 0-60mph acceleration time of just over 6. 5 seconds.

All BMWs have their top speed limited to 155mph, but economy-wise it is significantly more frugal than the petrol model but more thirsty than the 3. 0-litre diesel.

The combined figure is 35mpg in comparison to 30mpg for the petrol model and 41mpg for the 3. 0-litre diesel.

There is, therefore, a price to pay for the impressive performance, but the bonus is an excellent driving range and less time spent at the pumps.

Key to the newcomer's character is the unique use of a variable twin turbo, which ensures a silky smooth flow of uninterrupted power, transmitted to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox with manual override.

Currently just over half of all BMW 5 Series sales in the UK are diesels and the new 3. 5-litre ver-sion is expected to boost this by a further 1, 000 sales next year.

Rock-solid residuals and reasonable running costs are an attraction, which is enhanced by the newcomer's pounds 1, 000 all-in five-year maintenance package. According to BMW's market research, 93% of buyers will be men aged around 52 years, with no children living at home and a quarter of whom have their own businesses.

What they will get for their money is a hugely rewarding sporting drive with all of the benefits associated with the very latest diesel technology.

Prices are pounds 36, 575 for the 535d SE Saloon, pounds 39, 300 for the Sport Saloon, pounds 38, 600 for the SE Touring and pounds 41, 225 for the Sport Touring.

max fact

Key to the newcomer's character is the unique use of a variable twin turbo, which ensures a silky smooth flow of uninterrupted power,

CAPTION(S):

GLORIOUS: The new BMW 535d is a great package; STYLISH: The inside of the new BMW 5 Series
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 24, 2004
Words:569
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