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First Drive: 2011 BMW 535i

Balancing performance and fuel efficiency.

by on Jan.25, 2010

Taking the new 2011 BMW 535i for a drive along the Portugese coast.

While the 3-Series may be BMW’s “bread-and-butter” car, accounting for the lion’s share of its sales, the 5-Series is the brand’s soul, the fulcrum of the Bavarian’s balancing act of passionate performance and luxury.  So, we jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel of an all-new 2011 BMW 5-Series in Portugal, this week.

The 5-er has been around since 1972 and hasn’t done badly for BMW, selling more than 5.5 million copies, over nearly four decades.  The outgoing model launched in 2003, and has been the most successful yet to display the 5-Series badge.  So developing a replacement has been a challenge, to say the least.

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The 2011 BMW 5-Series moves away from the edgy extremes developed by former BMW Design Director Chris Bangle — who left the company a year ago, but still played a critical role in its development.  Bangle’s approach was to stage a styling competition between 120 of BMW’s designers.  Set in motion three years ago, the first round of the battle resulted in five initial exterior designs and four interiors.  Eventually, after a series of shoot-outs,