2011 BMW 535i

Manual or automatic? Well nigh perfect either way.


There are few cars for which the choice of manual or automatic transmission is really a choice. Either you feel compelled to stir a particular car's gears—or feel downright redundant doing so.

But based on recent drives, I believe the (price range, $50K–$60K) is exemplary of its sports sedan genre regardless of gearbox specification.

Its 6-speed manual operates crisply albeit with BMW-characteristically long throws. Ratios offer rapid acceleration as well as comfortable cruising.

The new Sport automatic transmission (a $500 option) has eight speeds, paddle or shifter actuation, dry-sump lubrication and is accompanied by start-stop feature. Its top two cogs prove their efficacy in the car's EPA highway 29 mpg. The other six ensure its twin-scroll single turbo 3.0-liter is never caught out.

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