Well, in the end it was a no brainer. Turns out it was also a fantastic deal, a car that cost less than a similarly equipped 2009 model and by a considerable amount. It is large enough but not too large, comfortable, drives very well and has some cool, the choice for is...
One of the rewards of buying the last model year of any particular car is that generally speaking you are going to get the best version of that particular model. BMW has a habit of adding a little something extra in the last year of production and the last e60 and e61 got some goodies previously reserved for markets outside the US. The most obvious is the M-aero kit which adds that vaguely M5 wagon look to this 2010 BMW 535i xdrive (that is the official name!).
Now I will have to come clean and admit as a former e39 5 series owner, I was never a fan of the e60 5 series looks. Over the years however, the car did grow on me, I stopped focusing on the Dame Edna glasses in the front and started looking at other views, especially the rear 3/4 view and the scalloped line of the hood.
As a replacement for the S6, the 5 series wagon hit all the right notes. While 40 hp down on the big Audi, the BMW turbo engine does a very reasonable imitation of a v8. The 535 actually feels a bit faster than the S6 mainly because of it's more modern and superior 6 speed transmission. I chose the automatic, this is after all the family car and it makes more sense. With that said, this 6 speed is great and for the life of me I cannot understand all those who complained about the new BMW electronic shift knob! It's a great, I love the way it works.
Same goes for iDrive, ok the new iDrive anyway. The 2010 models come with the latest hard disk based idrive and navigation and having spent a bit of time with a previous version, well there is no comparison. There is very little to complain about these units, they are fast, they do navigation, telephone and ipod integration seamlessly and extremely easily. Even voice commands work surprisingly well and, as an added bonus, it looks very slick. Basically if you use one of these systems, you will never want to use one of the old ones ever again!
The suspension on the BMW is a winner, it is softer and without Audi's characteristic crashiness yet is somehow delivers very similar grip.
Did I mention the price? Put it this way, it was an offer you can't refuse. For 2010, BMW added as standard many features that were previously options in what they call the "Value Package". Basically what used to be the Cold Weather Package is now standard along with leather seats and more.
The upshot is that a 2010 5 series costs substantially less than an equally equipped 2009 model. This more so if you add the M-Sport package which includes the previously optional and very expensive M-Aero kit. Parts alone for that are over $3000 without painting and installation!
The M-Sport Package for the wagon, while only cosmetic as Xdrive cars don't get the active roll bars, costs $3000 and includes a bunch of other goodies like a black headliner and, finally, an alternative to imitation furniture finish for the trim! You do the math.
The best I can sum up at this point is that it's and fantastically well though out car, with many small details that are just cool, proximity sensors in the preset buttons for example. A huge panoramic sunroof, fantastic seats with 20 adjustments including side-bolsters. Love the window that opens separately from the rear hatch, perfect in my case to put things in the trunk without having the dogs make a run for it.
Now I will have to find an excuse to take this battleship to the track and see if we can chase down some cars we have no business chasing down!
In the market for a BMW? I would suggest you give Chris Chang at BMW of Greenwich a call, he's a fellow tracktard and he'll set you up right.