2017 BMW 540i REVIEW

The new BMW 5 Series, the seventh generation of the midsize range from the German specialist in sporting vehicles, is a technological tour de force. It’s as sporty as ever, though there’s a slight leaning to the luxurious side as the ‘5 is almost being seen as a smaller version of the super-luxury 7 Series.

New drive modes alter steering, suspension, gearshift and throttle settings to suit the driver’s mood. The previous Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport modes on offer are now joined by a new Adaptive Mode. This system uses sensor inputs and navigation data and varies the vehicle’s responses to fit.

To permit new owners to come to grips with the intricacies of what’s on offer in their new car, each BMW dealer now employs a BMW Genius to run through the various systems. Thankfully without the noisy mayhem when talking to the Apple Genius folks in their stores.

The stylists have worked hard to present the new 5 Series as a luxury sports sedan, with relatively restrained lines and high quality details.

Radiator grilles are very much back in vogue with most car marques these days and the BMW’s latest unit is pretty imposing.

BMW’s distinctive ‘Hofmeister’ kink in the C-pillar is obviously part of the package, however the side bead line has been linked for the first time to the kink. The lower rear wheel arches feature distinctive slats to extract air.

The impressibly low 0.24 drag co-efficient of Australian 5 Series models is due to an Active Air System that can close the radiator grilles to alter airflow around the vehicle.

As you would expect the 540i rides on big-diameter, 20-inch, Individual light alloy wheels.

BMW’s sporting interior is impressive, with a high quality of finish and detail. We particularly enjoyed the various ways the interior lighting can be tailored to suit our moods and the external conditions.


The top-of-the-range BMW 540i sedan has a new-design 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-petrol unit that pumps out 250 kW and 450 Nm. BMW says this allows the sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds. The well-selected ratios on the sports version of the eight-speed automatic transmissions certainly play their part.

There are also four- and six-cylinder petrol engines and a lower power diesel. As is becoming increasingly common in European cars these days all engines are turbocharged.

The iDrive 6 infotainment system makes the new 5 Series the most connected BMW ever. Access is via a 10.25-inch colour touchscreen and the once-infamous BMW iDrive controller. The latter has been greatly improved since its early years and even features a touchpad to handwrite commands, and also has console-mounted buttons.

It can also be used with a voice system that uses natural language recognition software that, while better than many of its type, still has a fair way to go in practicality.

Wireless phone charging and wireless connectivity to Apple CarPlay works well and the extended Bluetooth system can connect to two smartphones at the same time.

BMW 540i has a 12.3-inch multifunctional screen. The screen adapts to the selected drive mode. Eco Pro, for example, offers blue-lit displays that focus on efficient driving, while Sport brings in red dials and a focus on revs and speed.


Safety systems include standard stability control, dynamic stability control, anti-lock braking with brake assist, cornering brake control and dynamic traction control.

Fully autonomous driving is getting closer by the day. In something like the 540i you would like to think that all owners are paying full attention to their driving, but just in case there are plenty of features to save the inattentive.

The Driving Assistant Plus package brings next-generation driving assistance to today’s Bimmers. Four side-mounted radar systems work with the front one to give a continuous picture of what’s going on all around the vehicle. Steering and Lane Control assistant gives the ability to drive hands free for periods up to 30 seconds.

The Active Cruise Control, with stop-go function, brakes and accelerates according to traffic flow, a relaxing way to survive major traffic jams. It works right down to zero km/h.

There are also front cross-traffic warning, lane keeping assist, evasion aid and crossroads warning.

Parking Assistant Plus offers Active Park Distance Control to the rear, with Surround View and Panorama View providing virtual imaging of the vehicle’s surroundings.

About 95 kg in weight has been shed over the previous equivalent models by use of aluminium in the body and suspension, as well as high-strength steel to maintain rigidity, as well as dynamic handling.

Despite the gentle leaning in the luxury direction, there’s still plenty of fun in this 5 Series Bimmer’s driving equation and on more than one occasion we stepped out of the hot sedan with a big smiles on our faces.

The front seats are large and comfortable. They have a fair degree of side support but are aimed more at arriving in comfort than setting new lap records on your favourite stretch of road.

The rear area can cope with three adults without too much hip and shouldering, but really is intended for two adults with a child between them.

Engine performance is excellent, but it’s slower than we like for the first few metres during standing starts.

Okay, so the engine is smaller than the old 335 sixes that we so loved in the past, and it has to wind up the turbos to really get to its best, but the near-instant power from non-blown engine is just not there.

Get past that initial windup and the quickest ‘5 really comes alive. There’s a huge push in the back and the eight gears in the sporting auto seem to almost read your mind when overtaking or hillclimbing.

BMW 540i takes the lead in the sporting setup in a range that already leans in that direction with every model. It has an Adaptive Drive system with active anti-roll bars. This uses Dynamic Damper Control system with electrically-controlled roll stabilisation to ensure flatter cornering.

Integral Active Steering, which has a degree of rear-wheel steering, makes for cornering agility and reduced steering effort at slower speeds. interestingly, this is available across the new 5 Series range.

The Bimmer really will get around corners at speeds that would have seemed impossible in a family sedan a couple of decades back. You can feel it helping itself to set up the correct course by way of the electronic aids and four-wheel steering. But thankfully it still provides plenty of driver involvement by way of feedback through the wheel.

BMW’s latest 5 Series is a high-tech luxury-sports sedan that cries out for drivers who want to get the best from it. If that’s how you see yourself then a quick phone call to your favourite BMW dealer makes a lot of sense.


520i: $92,200 (automatic)
520d: $95,200 (automatic)
530i: $110,500 (automatic)
530e: $110,500 (automatic)
530d: $121,600 (automatic)
540i: $138,610 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local BMW dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (BMW 540i 3.0-litre turbo-petrol four-door sedan)

Capacity: 2.998 litres
Configuration: Six cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 250 kW @ 6500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 450 Nm @ 1380 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98ROM
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 164 g/km

Eight-speed automatic

Length: 4936 mm
Wheelbase: 2975 mm
Width: 1868 mm
Height: 1479 mm
Turning Circle: 12.1 metres
Kerb Mass: 1551 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 68 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Three years / unlimited km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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