The incoming 7th generation 5-Series is high-tech as ever, but is it the sports sedan it once was? Check out our BMW 540i review!
The German manufacturer with the coveted three letters, BMW were once were known to build the best sports sedans, now they focus on SUVs and some pseudo classes. But we think there is some glimmer of hope, with the newly restyled and reengineered venerable 5-Series. We got to drive one, a 2017 BMW 540i and here is our word.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
Let’s get right to it, as the Germans would do! This 7th generation sedan is a bigger car in all directions…its 4,935 mm length is 36 mm longer, 1,868 mm width is 6 mm wider, 1,466 mm height is 2 mm taller and 2,975 wheelbase is 7 mm longer.
It is also more impressionable! The familiar silhouette remains but it’s the new details that give it a little extra…starting with the signature kidney grille that has been stretched out to meet the headlights. It gets Active Air Stream shutters that operates to the cars advantage, closing to reduce drag coefficient to a class-leading 0.22 and opening when cooling is required. The standard LED headlights with the anti-dazzle high beam has a range of up to half a kilometre! And the peculiar hexagonal pattern of the LED daytime driving lights that cradle the headlamps in a real eye catcher.
Although, not much can be said about the profile, I must mention that the doors – of a car that itself weighs 100 km lighter – weighs only 6 kilograms, making them the lightest in its segment thanks to generous use of high-strength steel, magnesium etc. As for wheels, you have 17-inch diameter rims to begin with, but 19- and 20-inch is the way to go. At the rear, the LED bars create a slim interpretation of the hallmark BMW “L” shape and emphasize the width, but I prefer the wing-like light setting of its predecessor- this one looks a bit like a 3-Series.
If the last-gen 5-Series is that cute guy or girl next door, you can imagine this one to be the same person, except this time, he/she dressed is to impress at a formal dinner party.
Also note, you can have the 5-Series with either the Sport or Luxury line, but we suggest getting the M Sport pack which lets the car sit lower, adds larger M5-style intakes, side skirts, diffusor-style rear apron and two rectangular tailpipes.
As we made our way into the cabin, we noticed that they’ve worked on the door cutouts. Getting in and out is much easier…certainly more than the Mercedes E-Class. Once seated you’ll find that very Germanic interior, filled with signature BMW architecture is not the most awe-inspiring – you could be seated in a 5-Series from 2014 and you’d wouldn’t notice the difference. In anycase, the high-quality trims and ergonomics make it a great place to reside, otherwise. The few changes include a sporty new steering wheel with more satin highlights and a smaller, rounder wheel centre. The infotainment screen has also been popped out from the dashboard and has been made a 10.25-inch free-standing unit, seen in the Beemers of ‘now’. Again, with the M Sport pack, you get exclusive steering wheel, floor mats, interior trims and aluminium pedals.
While the front seats with its many power adjustments and massage programmes lets you relax your muscles and spine, the real reason to rejoice is the more accommodating rear cabin – a welcome improvement over the namesake mid-size sedan it was. And now, the door pockets can now actually hold 1-litre bottles!
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
Our 540i test car – which traditionally would have been powered by an engine with a 4.0-litre displacement or there abouts in the days of yester – is a 3.0-litre 6-cylinder with TwinScroll turbocharging, High Precision Injection, Double-VANOS variable camshaft control and Valvetronic fully variable valve timing. Yes that is a mouthful!
Before we talk numbers, let me state that from our drives, we’ve found this to be a true boulevard cruiser. It’s gives you that 20 minutes of solace when you drive from work and vice versa thanks to exceptional acoustic management. And it rides good too. You wouldn’t hurt a muscle or a joint over the long haul!
This 540i makes a healthy 340 bhp and 450 Nm of torque…up from last year’s 306 and 400 respectively. And without question, it moves with enthusiasm, eclipsing the 100 km/h mark in a claimed 5.1 seconds. But thing is, it doesn’t feel as quick as the numbers suggest. I was expecting some fireworks! Maybe a little rumble as the wheels tumble, but the exhaust was muted! Some sudden surge of torque that would pin you to your seat…but it wasn’t quite like that! Guess the 5-Series remains the car that transitioned from sporty sedan to a SWB limousine….making it more like the E-Class.
If you want more power but want to keep the subtlety, get the 440 bhp 550i, which gets to a ton in just 4 seconds flat. But if you choose value for “rainy days” like these, you can have the 530i that makes an adequate 252 bhp and gets to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds. And if Elon Musk and company inspire you to but you still want to keep that BMW badge, get the newly introduced 530e iPerformance hybrid. Either way, you don’t have to worry about the environmental impact of this 540i – it doesn’t carry around a smoky tail pipe. It puts out only about 150 grams/km of C02, while averaging just under 7l/100km. It achieves this using a new Intelligent stop/start function, that only switches off the engine over longer stops. This makes it less obtrusive…and an ECO Pro mode that will dampen performance and gas guzzling habits.
Alternatively you can also switch to SPORT Mode to get, more torque out of holding lower gears, stiffer suspension …and more weight added to the slightly numb feel of the electromechanical unit. Where it lacks in feel, it makes up in dynamics, going the direction you point without fuss. Much thanks to the Integral Active Steering system, with steering rear wheels for extra agility. You can avail extra grip by opting for the optional xDrive all-wheel drive variants, which are also quicker off the blocks.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
The 5-Series just received the “Goldener Computer” making it the most connected car in the world and for good reason. It comes with a multitude of connectivity options like a wireless charging dock, USB ports, Bluetooth system that can connect 2 mobile phones and an audio player all at once and hotspot. The Dubai-only Concierge Service can connect the driver to a BMW Call Centre agent at the push of a button, who can then locate restaurants, ATMs etc and can send the address directly to the navigation system. Then there’s gesture control which – like we saw on the 7-Series – by simple movements of the fingers, can accept phone calls, reject calls, adjust volume etc. If you’re feel lazy to lift a finger, do it via voice commands that recognizes French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese depending on region.
Then there’s a 800 x 400 pixel head-up display with a 70 percent larger projection area than before. And a chargeable smart key includes a colour display with touch control can check operate ventilation, windows and doors. It even shows fuel level and range. TheRemote Control Parking function can be used to park the car into a tight spot using the key from the outside. Else you can use the crystal-clear bird eye view and do it yourself!
Besides sensors and radar you also have a stereo camera that reads traffic signs and incorporates it into the adaptive cruise control system. This car certainly has as many senses as you do or more! And speaking of senses, the Bowers & Wilkins with its Fibonacci-patterned perforated aluminium 16 speaker covers and 1400 Watt amplifier gives you the aural boost for that bad day.
As for the big P – Practicality – the 530-litre boot is not only bigger than before but has a larger opening too. And the rear seats can be split, folded in a more versatile 40:20:40 manner.
Until recently, BMW held the formula for the complete executive sedan. The new 5-Series gains some of the lost turf by keeping that unparalleled build quality and comfortable cabin …and then adding a degree of that quintessential BMW dynamics albeit leaving out bits of that complete driver’s car feel. It isn’t cheap, but you do get high-tech features, connectivity, a larger rear cabin and a great music system. In all probability it shall continue to be the staple for white-collar individuals and their families.
Like all previous generations, since 1973, the new 5-Series will be built at BMW’s Dingolfing plant in Bavaria.
Body type: 5-seater; 4-door premium full-size sedan
Engine: Front-engine; turbocharged 3.0-litre inline 6-cylinder; rear-wheel drive
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Peak output: 335 bhp @ 5,500 – 6,500 rpm; 450 Nm @ 1,380 – 5,000 rpm
0 to 100km/h: 5.1 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 250 km/h (electronically limited; claimed)
Price: Starting at Dh250,000
Good: Looks upgrade; smooth ride; tech overkill; great audio
Bad: Repeat interior design; muted exhaust; pricey
Author’s rating: 7.5/10