By Travis Persaud
Cinnamon brown Dakota leather — it’s as inviting and comforting as it sounds.
Stepping into the 2011 BMW 535i Gran Turismo (GT) for the first time, this sweet, calming bovine-derived material played the role of welcoming committee to perfection. Its rich colour and newborn softness swaddled me with maternal instinct.
Inside, beautiful materials highlight the interior (wood, aluminum and of course the aforementioned leather), a head-up display projects pertinent info such as speed on the windshield and an around-view parking monitor allows you to see all around the vehicle when in reverse. Zoomer friendly attributes at their best.
And the iDrive control system (made up of a dial and seven surrounding buttons next to the gear shifter), after a short learning curve, allows you to very simply navigate everything from maps to audio options without needing to look down. It’s not new, but it’s still a brilliant design none-the-less.
I was singing this BMW’s praises – and I hadn’t even stepped on the gas yet.
When I did though, the TwinPower Turbo I-6 engine with 300 HP unleashed a burst of speed without disturbing the peace created by the expertly designed interior. Although it’s not a rocket launcher — it’s tuned for comfort not race track performance — flipping the Sport or Sport+ switch lets it showoff the muscle hidden underneath its bulky body.
Although it does drink premium suds, the direct-injection engine and eight-speed automatic kept the fill-up at a reasonable price. I averaged 10.4 L/100 km after a week of mainly city driving.
The 535i GT works so well on these levels that I can disregard the less than favourable exterior design — I’m not a big fan of the humpback, ambiguous shape that blends a sedan with a crossover and hatchback.
Perhaps the biggest drawback is its price. Starting at $69,900 the 535i GT places itself out of reach for most. And that’s unfortunate, because BMW has combined practicality, performance, beauty (at least inside) and useful technology in one impressive vehicle. Perhaps it’s time to start saving?
And, if for some reason you’re not a fan of cinnamon brown (how could you not be?), other options are available.
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