COAL: 2016 BMW 535i xDrive M Sport – Eh

I had just closed on my house and needed a new daily driver, having sold the 2019 Tiguan SEL Premium beforehand. The 2004 XJ Vanden Plas was thoroughly unsuited to the task, as was the 2006 Range Rover Supercharged. This occurred in March of 2020, that wonderful era before COVID pricing took over the market and had people overpaying for new and especially lightly used cars. So, you could still find a great deal on a lightly used car.

I can’t remember what caused me to look at another BMW and specifically the 5 Series, but there we were. I’ve always liked the design of the F10-generation 5 Series. Sold from 2011 through 2016, it was among the last of an era of BMW cars that weren’t as good as the earlier models in terms of driving engagement, but that were still sporty and that were certainly palatably styled. The 5 Series (excluding the Active5 Hybrid) had five engine options in the US, though not all were available simultaneously:

  • 528i (2011-only) – 3.0-liter “N52” I6 with 240 hp and 230 lb-ft; carried over from the prior E60 528i
  • 528i (2012+) – 2.0-liter turbocharged “N20” I4 with 240 hp and 255 lb-ft
  • 535i – 3.0-liter twin-scroll-turbocharged “N55” I6 with 300 hp and 300 lb-ft
  • 535d – 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel “N57” I6 with 255 hp and 413 lb-ft
  • 550i – 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged “N63” V8 with 400 hp and 450 lb-ft

I remember the F10 5 Series looking pretty fresh when it debuted in MY2010 as a 2011.


Of those, the 528i with the I6 was too old and the later 528i with the turbo I4 wouldn’t interest me in such a large car. The 535d was only sold from 2014-2016 and was as rare as hens’ teeth. And still is; there are fewer than 20 for sale nationwide as of this writing. As for the 550i…well, a 400-hp V8 (same as the Range Rover) would have been nice, but the N63 was infamous for being a basket case. It was the first hot-vee engine in a production car, and BMW apparently hadn’t realized just how much heat that layout generates, causing the earlier ones to have all manner of seals and gaskets dry out and weep oil. The later N63TU engines were supposedly more robust, but frankly, I wouldn’t touch any N63. So, the 550i was out.

That left the 535i. It was a lovely middle-ground. The N55 I6 and basic ZF 8-speed automatic were the same engine and transmission I’d had in my 2011 X5 xDrive35i, and while that car had a whole host of issues, the engine and transmission didn’t seem to be part of them. The N55 had a few known trouble spots, but they were in no way ruinous and typically happened at higher mileages. And…it just so happened that the local BMW dealer had an off-lease 2016 535i with 30,000 miles and a year of the original warranty left.

This particular 535i was well-equipped. It had my biggest requirements, which were the M Sport Package, the full iDrive screen with navigation, keyless access, and the Multi-Contour seats. It even had some extras I wasn’t necessarily looking for, such as blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, the full-LED headlights and AWD. The only thing it didn’t have that I wanted was adaptive cruise, but that was hard to find on the F10s, especially the non-550i models. And it was Alpine White, which is a straight-up white color; I’d have rather had the prettier Mineral White Metallic. But the asking price was good, just $26,000.

My new car!


I made an appointment, and Jackie Cooper BMW had it ready to go when I got there. Interestingly enough, the MINI sales department also handled the used cars, and so I was paired with a MINI sales rep that I actually remembered before. When I got the car onto the road, I realized that it felt every bit like a large car, in part because it shared its architecture with the contemporary F01/F02 7 Series. But that sort of solidity was exactly what I was looking for in a new daily.

After a bit of back-and-forth with the salesperson and her Liverpudlian sales manager, we arrived at $24,500 as a final price, and I wound up driving it home.

It was but a week later when it had its first unscheduled service appointment at the dealership. There was a blown speaker in the rear, and I hadn’t noticed it until I’d stopped listening to my audiobooks and started listening to music. Fortunately, the dealership didn’t fight me on that one, and it was repaired under warranty. In the meantime, I had a 2020 X7 as a loaner, which just barely fit in my garage.

The X7 in question


Next came an incessant rattle at 35,000 miles. And don’t ask me how I was putting so many miles on this car while working from home; I don’t even remember. I ended up taking it into the dealership, which had a hard time replicating it, so they kept it for almost three weeks. I had a cute little 2020 or 2021 230i Coupe M Sport with red leather that whole time. Somehow, the dealership determined that my transmission was leaking, and went ahead and swapped the whole unit. I’m not sure that was the case; I feel like they just wanted a large warranty claim to justify all the time spent on it, but it’s no skin off my nose.

The 2 Series in question.


Shortly after getting it back, I discovered it rattling again, and ended up banging on the front center vents in frustration, only to have them completely fall apart; the vanes broke all at once. Yikes. I knew BMW wouldn’t cover the cost for that, so I just ponied up and bought a new assembly for a couple hundred bucks off FCP Euro, and swapped it myself.

Honey enjoyed this one about as much as she did the others. One thing I always thought was weird about the later F10 was that stitching pattern over the front seats. It looked a bit too “western” for a buttoned-down German sedan, but I think it was meant to evoke a road pattern


One of the things I did do was play around a bit with my new Carly diagnostic tool, which would let me code different software options onto my car. I’ve always been a chime nerd, and BMW’s chimes were generated by the iDrive infotainment system or by the radio for cars that didn’t have iDrive. BMW’s “gong” chime suite debuted in MY2002 on the E65 7 Series, and in MY2003 on the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Both of those effectively had iDrive 1. MINI had its own chime suite as early as MY2007 on the R56. But Rolls-Royce continued to use the standard BMW chime. In MY2013/2014, iDrive 4 (aka NBT) came out, and at that point, the brand chimes were formally separated. You had:

  • BMW
  • BMW i (referring to the then-new i3 and i8)
  • Rolls-Royce
  • MINI

However, the interesting part was that all brands’ versions of iDrive included all of the chimes. So you could put MINI chimes on your i3, or whatever you wanted. I thought Rolls-Royce’s harp chimes sounded pretty, and so set my 535i to do the Rolls-Royce ones.


Fast forward to October 2020. I was on my way home from a relative’s house the next state over with my partner. As we entered Oklahoma from the east side, we caught a sudden, unseasonably cold stormfront that was putting out tons of sleet. I recall the 535i handling well on all-seasons; the xDrive AWD system definitely helped keep me from losing traction a time or six on the slick roads. The problem with that ice storm, unofficially named Billy, was that it came too early, when there were still leaves on the trees. The trees, weighed down by their ice-covered foliage, then dropped entire branches or fell onto power lines, roofs, roads, etc, and doing $125MM in damage across the region. I didn’t lose power, but spent an entire week with a chainsaw cleaning up tree debris. Thankfully, the 535i got me home without incident.

Believe it or not, the weather was nice and warm days later! Here’s the 5er in a parking garage


Overall, the car was unmemorable, apart from a few annoyances. I just recall being ready for something different by the end of the year, and so the 535i was summarily replaced with something else in mid-December of 2020. That said, I left it at the dealership where I purchased the new car over a weekend, during which time several inches of snow got dumped onto the city. When I came to pick it back up, I discovered that the driver’s door handles were inoperable from both the inside and outside, rendering that door unusable. I had to crawl in from the passenger side door. So there was one final warranty claim: a replacement actuator.

The car, freshly unthawed and at the service department for an inoperable door


After that, I sold it to Vroom for about what I paid and with 10K more miles on it. Vroom did not get around to sending a transport truck to pick it up until early January, so it sat around unused for a month. It would not, however, be my last BMW.