BMW 535d is elegant way to save fuel, have fun

2014 BMW 535d
2014 BMW 535d

OK, I’m hooked and I admit it. Yes, I love diesel cars.

Hybrids are fine but they cost a bit more and don’t deliver quite the fuel economy claimed, at lest some don’t. Every diesel, however, has met or even exceeded claimed gas mileage. Yep, Each one I’ve tested.

One of my favorites is the BMW 535. It’s already a car to long for, but add diesel technology and it’s nearly irresistible.

The 535d has the same equipment as the 535i except the six cylinder engine is a turbocharged diesel which makes a so-so 255 horsepower, but – wait for it – 413 pounds-feet of torque. Yes, you could pull stumps out of the ground if this were a truck. It’s not. It is a luxury sedan that can hit 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds and achieve 26 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. That’s 30 mpg overall. Oh, and it has x-Drive, BMW’s all wheel drive system.

The engine is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission that can shifted like a manual from the steering wheel. It is buttery smooth, acting as if it’s not there at times. You can downshift quickly if you need to pass or cruise effortlessly in eighth gear. Yes, it’s quick for its size, but BMW has taken a bit of the sport out of the 5-series. It’s more comfortable and luxurious than before, but not as attitudinal. You can get that in the M or even the 550i with a V8, but I still think this 5 strikes a great balance between sport and comfort.

Driving this automobile is really a pleasure. There is enough feedback from steering and the road feel from the tires to know what’s going on. You can still find twisty roads to conquer but a tad bit more care is necessary. Don’t worry, this is still a sports sedan, despite the fact it’s as quite as Grant’s tomb.

Can’t say enough about the car’s iconic styling. The double kidney grill still screams BMW. The overall shape is sleek and eye pleasing. Still one of the best looking cars on the road.

There’s plenty of technology, some optional. Intelligent cruise control, blind spot detection, antilock brakes, LED headlights, bunches of air bags, stability and traction control and navigation were present. The ubiquitous high end stereo with terrestrial and satellite radio was also present.

My turn in the Bimmer didn’t allow me to test the x-Drive system. The weather was perfect. I’m still not sure if I’m sold on i-Drive, although it gets better with every new update. X-drive controls most of the car’s functions with a single knob. I’m not bothered by many buttons so long as each feels good to the touch or offers an easily definable function.

How much for the goodies. Well, my test car was around $60,000 with options and destination. That’s about average for cars in this class. Love the gas mileage with the diesel engine (which of course does not smoke nor makes much noise per diesels of old). Couldn’t ask for much more.

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Best Android smartphone you can buy? Sorry Samsung, it’s HTC M8

HTC's M8 One Smartphone
HTC’s M8 One smartphone

The folks at Verizon were nice enough to send us the latest HTC smartphone for review and the M8 doesn’t disappoint. In fact, we find it to be the best Android smartphone your money can buy.

The phone was launched last spring as the successor the HTC One, which was the best selling smartphone in the company’s history.  It combined gorgeous good looks with quality build design and the new version picks up where the original left off.

Aesthetically, you won’t find a better-looking phone. It is a touch slippery but has a nice aluminum body and rounded back. It’s pretty. It feels good in the hand and the 5-inch display is bright, clear and, frankly, breathtaking. It’s among the best in class.IMG_0623

Battery life? Pretty good. Putting the phone through its paces, pretty hard, we were consistently able to get 7-8 hours of use. We love the ability to use the phone’s radio frequency chip to use as a remote control for your home theater, and the set-up screen is simple to use and something that dedicated universal remote makers should take a long look at.

The phone has a very fast  processor that can handle everything you throw at it, graphic intensive games or multi-tasking and those games look great on this screen. Verizon also has a cool NFL app that allows you to watch NFL Network or even live games (for a fee, of course).

HTC M8 beside iPhone 6 Plus
HTC M8 beside iPhone 6 Plus

Taking the NFL with you is kind of neat, although it may run up your data bill quite a bit if you’re not on WiFi, but Verizon’s network delivered stutter free Peyton Manning and we were able to watch the game while in the grocery, at the mall and visiting a friend. Honey-do Sundays take on new meaning with a phone like this.

We tested the Android version of this phone, but Windows fans can pick up a version that will display those live tiles very, very well.

This phone has a lot of cool stuff built in. Let’s see:

1. You can answer a phone call by just raising phone to your ear.

2. You can activate the screen with a swipe downward.

3. The sound from this thing is better than any other phone we’ve ever tested. The front-facing speakers at the top and bottom of the phone will have you skipping those speaker add-on thingies at the local Wal-Mart.

4. The camera is really good. It’s got dual flash and really good auto-focus, so even Captain Shaky Hands can get a good shot almost every time. Ditto the video camera.

Call quality on Verizon’s network where we tested it — in our home base of beautiful Charlotte and on a field trip to Tennessee — was solid and voice calls were clear.

There’s just not much to dislike.

If you’re an Android or Windows type of phone lover, this is definitely one you should look at. For us, it’s the best Android smartphone money can buy.

The folks at Verizon also sent five cases to help promote Verizon’s NFL partnership. We’ve got five Otterbox defenders: two iPhone 5/5C cases. One is adorned with a Dolphins logo. The other with the Panthers.

We’ve also got three Samsung Galaxy S5 cases: two with Panthers logos and one with the Patriots.

We’re giving away all five. Send an email to with your case preference and we’ll randomly select a winner.


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