2021 BMW 540i xDrive evaluation: Driving the road between sharp and delicate

Alpine White makes every thing higher.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

For almost 50 years, the BMW 5 Sequence has stood as a midsize sedan that does not scrimp on luxurious whereas providing a fairly participating drive alongside the way in which. Latest generations have maybe pushed a bit additional into luxurious than “Final Driving Machine” nerds may need, however taking a spin within the 2021 BMW 540i reveals me that BMW continues to be emphasizing each elements of the equation.

LikeSmooth mild-hybrid systemComfy, spacious interiorHides some respectable hustle

Do not LikePlain inside and exterior designGesture management nonetheless uselessPriced for princes

Informal outdoors, snug inside

The most recent technology of BMW 5 Sequence appears a bit nameless, however I might levy that judgment to each sedan the automaker produces — if you do not have a way of scale useful, they may simply be confused for each other. I am all for model recognition, and I will admit that my 540i tester appears a bit dressier than your common Fiver because of a vibrant Alpine White paint job, however the entire shebang is not precisely what I might name evocative. It lacks the dramatics of the Genesis G80 or the Audi A6, however it’s not an issue unique to BMW — Mercedes is at present affected by the identical cookie-cutter design trappings.

The inside is on the snooze-button aspect of inspiring, as nicely, rocking the identical design it is had for years, save for a number of tweaks right here and there. However the true luxurious does not come from how every thing’s laid out. As a substitute, I am smitten with the 2021 540i’s cabin as a result of it is simply so rattling snug. The ventilated, massaging entrance seats ($1,000) are wrapped in darkish brown Nappa leather-based ($2,500), which is delicate to the contact and immensely soft on longer drives. Mixed with ample headroom and legroom in each rows, the 5 Sequence is clearly pushing a comfort-first agenda.

There’s some perform to again up the shape, too. The doorways have suitably sized cubbies for holding straw wrappers and different random detritus, and whereas the middle console’s under-armrest cubby is on the small aspect, having a wi-fi system charger (a part of an $1,850 Premium Bundle) forward of the cup holders implies that house will be devoted solely to masks, wallets, keys and no matter else is in my pockets. With 14 cubic toes of house, the 540i’s trunk is roomier than what the A6 or E-Class provide up.

Optioned for curves

There’s clearly a lean towards luxurious relating to how the 2021 BMW 540i drives, however that does not imply BMW has utterly deserted its rowdier roots. For essentially the most half, although, my tester is most rewarding when the automobile’s myriad settings are positioned in the usual Consolation mode. The adaptive dampers (a part of a $3,200 bundle with lively roll bars) do an important job absorbing Michigan’s manifold crappy roads whereas returning little or no to the cabin. There’s an inherent feeling of solidity coming from the chassis — the experience is delicate, however that does not imply the entire thing is so loosey-goosey that the metaphors begin transferring nautical. It is simply very nice taking delicate activates lengthy roads out within the sticks.

Must you be moved by a necessity for velocity, I might most likely advocate transferring to one thing extra devoted to that temper just like the M550i, however there’s nonetheless a great little bit of enjoyable available within the 540i. Tapping the Sport button on the middle console sharpens issues up significantly. The variable steering ($3,300!) will get heavier, the adaptive dampers stiffen and the throttle response ratchets up. Physique roll in corners dissipates, making it a surprisingly enjoyable automobile to throw into corners, regardless that it is actually not a lithe little factor. It is value noting, although, that the enjoyable I am having instructions at the very least $6,000 in choices, so I can see why some of us may criticize the 5 Sequence for being a bit of too luxurious earlier than bins begin getting checked off.

Underneath the hood is a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 producing 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, sufficient to push my all-wheel-drive tester to 60 mph in simply 4.6 seconds. At most factors on the tachometer, a squeeze of the throttle elicits a bit of further exhaust noise and a complete bunch o’ torque, giving me the agility to do absolutely anything I must do on a public street. The eight-speed computerized transmission is equally clean, swapping gears in each instructions with minimal fuss or motion within the cabin.

There is a trace of electrification within the 2021 BMW 5 Sequence, too. Six-cylinder fashions like this one carry a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. Its starter-generator can present a further 11 hp to assist fill gaps in energy supply as wanted, however its prime directive is effectivity. Cease-start classes are longer and barely really feel like something in any respect when the motor kicks over, even when it shuts every thing down under 9 mph. Brake regeneration is on the delicate aspect, though it will get a bit of extra aggressive in Sport mode; to be sincere, I am unable to actually really feel the purpose at which the regenerative and friction brakes begin to mingle, which is an excellent factor. All that efficiency-boosting goodness occurs within the background with little for the driving force to notice.

These further electrons make the 2021 540i xDrive decently environment friendly, with the EPA estimating its gas economic system at 23 miles per gallon metropolis and 31 mpg freeway. As normal, I development barely decrease within the metropolis, however the 540i is a champ on the freeway, returning 31 mpg (or extra) with little or no aware footwork on my finish.

The 540i xDrive’s cabin is snug sufficient for lengthy stretches, no breaks crucial.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow
Tech aplenty

Sitting down within the 2021 BMW 5 Sequence feels simply as technologically superior as every other fashionable luxurious automobile. Better of all, most every thing seen on my tester is normal, from the 12.3-inch touchscreen to the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster.

The primary infotainment display, which has grown from 10.Three inches up to now 12 months, will be manipulated by means of its touchscreen or through the use of the iDrive dial on the middle console. The system is simple on the eyes, impressively responsive (it boots in a short time from a chilly begin) and loaded with options like embedded navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, over-the-air updates and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. The gauge cluster reveals a everlasting map freed from road names, so it is actually solely helpful when you’ve got turn-by-turn instructions on. The left and proper sides of the gauge cluster can present what’s enjoying on the radio and varied different bits of knowledge. Plunk down $1,850 for the Premium Bundle and also you additionally get wi-fi system charging and a head-up show that additional reduces distractions. It additionally provides iDrive’s gesture management, which is basically ineffective and distracting, particularly once I make a hand movement that unknowingly adjustments the station or stops the music totally.

On the protection entrance, everyone needs to be happy. Each Fiver comes normal with ahead collision warning, computerized emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, computerized excessive beams and speed-limit data. This particular 540i additionally consists of the $1,700 Driving Help Plus bundle, which provides adaptive cruise management with stop-and-go performance, lane-keep help and one thing known as Prolonged Visitors Jam Help. That final bit is fascinating in that it is an sincere hands-off function, albeit one that’s solely supposed for use in visitors jams on limited-access highways as a way to scale back tedium. It really works nicely, creeping together with visitors whereas I nervously scan each automobile in a half-mile radius to make sure no person’s doing something which may catch the system off guard.

Cease attempting to make fetch (or, on this case, gesture management) occur. It is not going to occur.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow
Right down to brass tacks

A lot of the main gamers within the 2021 BMW 5 Sequence’ phase are well-known. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class leans a bit more durable on the luxurious angle, whereas these searching for extra expertise and a extra distinctive look may wish to think about the hard-edged Audi A6. Nevertheless, there is a new participant on the town: the 2021 Genesis G80. This Korean sedan is completely beautiful as a pure luxurious automobile, and it completely mollywhops the Bimmer on worth, with totally loaded examples commanding about $69,000 (good). It lacks the cachet of a Roundel on the hood, positive, however do not throw the newborn out with the bathwater simply because its provenance is not Teutonic.

The 2021 BMW 540i xDrive is not only a luxurious automobile. I imply, positive, that is what it’s — and relating to being luxurious, it excels — however it is a bit greater than a one-dimensional qualifier like that. With a number of button presses, this straight-six sedan picks up a sportier nature that makes for fairly an attractive expertise if there are a number of curves between Factors A and B. 

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