Class: Premium Midsize Car
Miles driven: 253
Fuel used: 12.8 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 19.8 mpg
Driving mix: 75% city, 25% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 20/30/24 (city, highway, combined)
Base price: $56,450 (not including $995 destination charge)
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||B+|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||A+|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Options on test car: Mocha Nappa Leather ($1000), Cold Weather Package ($800), Driving Assistance Package ($1800), Driver Assistance Plus ($1400), Dynamic Handling Package ($3200), Driver Assistance Plus II ($1700), Luxury Seating Package ($1600), M Sport Package ($2600), Premium Package ($1950), M Sport Brakes ($650), power tailgate ($500), soft-close automatic doors ($600), ceramic controls ($650), power rear sunshade ($575), remote-control parking ($750), Apple CarPlay ($300), Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system ($4200), Gesture Control ($190)
Price as tested: $81,910
The great: Power and performance, cabin appointments
The good: Front-row comfort
The not so good: Too many pricey options–many of which should be standard equipment
The BMW 5-Series has long been an aspirational vehicle for its combination of adult-sized passenger room, engaging handling, and noble inline 6-cylinder engine. In recent years the company has shifted to turbocharged fours for base power but the good news is, with the 540i, BMW still builds ’em like it used to.
Twenty seventeen sees the debut of the seventh-generation 5-Series, initially in 4-cylinder 530i and 6-cylinder 540i guises—both with a choice of rear-wheel drive or xDrive all-wheel drive. Some weeks after a test of a 530i xDrive, Consumer Guide® editors got a crack at a rear-drive 540i.
Both tiers of the 5-Series are similarly equipped and offer roughly the same options, so the thing that primarily makes the 540 sell for $5250 more than a comparable 530 is the former’s 335-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter straight six. It’s a refined yet gutty powerplant that’s smooth at idle or on the run, and eager to get the slimmed-down new 5 going with 332 lb-ft of torque that peaks quickly. As in the 530i, there’s an 8-speed automatic transmission and “Driving Dynamics Control” with racier “Sport” modes and a more frugal “ECO PRO” setting as alternatives to the base “Comfort” format. Configuration choices within Sport and Sport+ impact steering precision and suspension firmness, and alter throttle responsiveness. Simply clicking over from Comfort to Sport comes with an instant change in responsiveness. Indeed, this driver found it better to stay in Comfort mode when stuck in stop-and-go situations because even little taps of the accelerator in Sport were met with eager leaps that can start to feel jerky when repeated every few feet.
This reviewer got 19.35 mpg from the test car after a stint of 108.4 miles, 70 percent of which was in city-style driving. The EPA projects that the rear-drive 540 will get 20 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway, and 24 combined, so my mileage was frankly a little underwhelming.
Aside from its easier power production and thirstier fuel consumption, the 540i isn’t much different from the 530—provided comparisons are between similarly optioned cars. Standard comfort, convenience, and safety equipment is comparable. They have identical personal-storage capability, and they share a trunk configuration—both of which have shortcomings. Passenger room is very good in front, and rear legroom for two adults is pretty good too, although someone seated behind a driver at least 6 feet tall might have to tuck knees and shins. Otherwise, headroom is ample and drivers will find that they can see well to most points. Copious use of padded and soft-surface materials mixes with wood (or other available trim) to project an unmistakably luxurious image.
Standard within the 540i’s $56,450 base price are adaptive LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, BMW apps and remote services, front sport seats with 16-way adjustment and memory settings, BMW’s Fatigue and Focus Alert system, automatic climate control, navigation, and a 10.2-inch touchscreen. Also present is the iDrive 6.0 system that governs navigation, audio, and the like from a central controller on the console. Voice commands can be used to carry out some of the attention-intensive functions ordinarily handled through iDrive.
However, turning this premium-brand midsize sedan into a genuine luxury car takes some extra cash. The test car’s Mocha Nappa leather upholstery that replaced the standard “SensaTec” material cost $1000. A power trunklid, power rear-window sunshade, and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility are stand-alone extras. You don’t need the excellent Bowers & Wilkins audio system—an AM/FM/CD/MP3 system with HD radio is standard—but if you want it, be ready to part with $4200. (At that figure, BMW’s “abracadabra” Gesture Control for no-touch audio management is practically a stocking-stuffer at just $190.)
CG’s tester was packed with eight option packages—probably more than most buyers will want—that raised the as-delivered price to an almost-unbelievable $81,910. However, depending on a shopper’s needs or wants, it’s these packages that are going to deliver things like heated seats and steering wheel (Cold Weather Package); wireless phone charging, satellite radio, Wi-Fi, and keyless entry and starting (Premium Package); various suspension enhancements (Dynamic Handling Package); and a rearview camera, lane-departure and rear cross-traffic alerts, and other electronic safety features (various Driver Assistance packages).
Ultimately, though, however 540i buyers elect to outfit their cars, they are in for a rewarding driving experience.