I still remember vividly the first time I travelled business class. From the moment I set foot in the airport, I knew it was going to be something special.
The superstar treatment begins at the check-in counter. Instead of joining the ever-growing queue of weary eyed, t-shirt wearing crowd snaking through the check-in area, I head straight for the red carpet, literally – watched on with envy by a haggard-looking mother travelling with her hyperactive boys of around eight and ten.
Once the “Priority” tags have been attached to my Samsonite’s by the pleasant-looking, if a tad over-powered check-in clerk, I was told that I could board at my leisure and, if I so wish, to enjoy a complimentary snack at the Business Lounge.
After helping myself to a vast selection of canapés, washed down with a satisfying glass of one of Australia’s finest reds, my flight is ready to board. Damn! No time for a quick shower to freshen up. Oh well, next time!
I made my way to the boarding gate and again, instead of joining the regular queue, I breezed through the crowd and headed straight for the “Priority” lane which was empty – watched on with increasing envy by the mother of the hyperactive boys.
“Good evening, Mr Lee. Welcome aboard. I’ll show you to your seat,” greeted the pleasant-looking cabin crew once on board. Yes, you get greeted by name all the way through if you are travelling by Business or First Class!
“Would you like a glass of champagne, Mr Lee?” she enquired politely. How could I resist.
Not a moment later, she was back with my glass of bubbly together with a menu prepared by one of Australia’s leading chefs. I was told I could dine at a time of my choosing and when I’m ready for bed, they will come and turn my seat into a lie-flat bed, complete with duvet and a pillow.
Needless to say, that eight hours in the sky was the shortest I’ve ever experienced and on top of that, I was one of the first to walked off the aircraft once we arrived at our destination – feeling fresh and well rested!
That’s exactly what it feels like when you settle into the large, ultra-comfortable, leather-wrapped and electrically adjustable seats of the updated 2014 BMW 535d LCI. You know you are in for something special.
There are acres of beautiful soft-touch plastic. Not just to the top of the dash, as with most cars, but throughout the lower parts as well. Everything screams quality and class, from the tablet-like high-definition centre display to the digital instruments and iDrive.
Hit the little starter button that fires up the brilliant twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six diesel and all is confirmed. The engine rumbles into life rather un-diesel like. From the inside, there is hardly a hint that you in an oil-burner, with the big lump ticking over without much fanfare. Its luxurious and refined feel continues on the road with a cabin that is whisper quiet.
Producing a healthy 230kW @ 4,400rpm and 630Nm of torque from 1,500-2,500rpm, the 535d launches from 0-100km/h in just 6.12 seconds (tested). Under ideal conditions, BMW claims it will do it in a mere 5.3 seconds, which is highly achievable. Not bad for a four-door sedan weighing 1,735kg.
What’s more, its in gear acceleration is phenomenal, requiring seemingly hardly any effort from the engine to push from 70-110km/h in less time than it takes finish saying “Oh my GOD!”
Boasting ZF’s brilliant 8-speed sport automatic transmission, the 535d always has the right gear for the occasion and is twin-clutch quick in its action.
However, you soon realised the Business Class feel comes at a price – if you are a keen driver.
Our test car is equipped with the retiree-spec Modern Line trim. That means it lacks the firmer and sportier set up of the M Sport kit that is more suited to the character of the car. Crucially, it lacks the adjustable dampers that makes all the difference in the 535d’s handling.
While it feels very composed cruising on straight motorways, with a smooth magic carpet ride, its chassis isn’t as sharp as a sports sedan should be around he bends. Sure, you can flick the throttle, steering and gearbox mapping into Sport or Sport+, the softer suspension means you can never truly unleash the car’s full dynamic repertoire.
Its steering may be direct, yet I find I’m constantly yearning for a quicker steering, less body roll, and better turn in that an M Sport package brings. On fast corners, you can feel the rear end starting to unsettle and shift a little, taking away a slight bit of confidence in its handling.
Don’t get me wrong, the 535d is still a capable and engaging sedan to drive, it just needs an M Sport kit to unleash its true potential. The growly engine is constantly edging you on, but the chassis just couldn’t keep up. While that may be fine if you are 70, but for everyone else, the 535d should come standard with the M Sport kit.
Did I mention the M Sport kit?
So, like travelling Business Class, you will not get to your destination any quicker than those travelling in Economy, but you sure get there more comfortably and feeling slightly pampered.
Make sure you tick the M Sport pack option if you are a keen driver, it’s the best money you’ll ever spend.
|Price (Excl. On-Roads):||From $121,900|
|Warranty:||3-year or 100,000km|
|Engine:||3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel (RWD)|
230kW @ 4,400rpm, 630Nm @ 1,500-2,500rpm
|Transmission||8-speed sports automatic|
|0-100km/h||Claimed: 5.3s; Tested: 6.12s|
|Fuel Consumption (Combined):||Claimed: 5.6L/100km; Tested: 8.2L/100km|
|Body:||4-door sedan; 5-seat|
|Dimensions:||Length: 4899mm, Width: 1860mm, Height: 1464mm, Wheelbase: 2968mm|