The luxury German automakers love to pack their midsize sedans with cutting edge technology. So with this all-new 5 Series, BMW includes features I’m seeing for the first time, including remote control parking and wireless CarPlay and others like gesture control that have trickled down from the 7 Series.
Though SUVs are enjoying their resurgence, the midsize business sedan still has a heartbeat. Cars like the BMW 5 Series are iconic in a way that partly insulates them from market trends. So what has BMW done here to preserve its relevance?
Well, it’s slightly larger yet lighter. There’s more rear seat room and a trunk capable of carrying 4 golf bags. From a design standpoint, it’s clean but in no way advertises newness.
Now some will certainly appreciate this sort of evolutionary approach but if you ask me, BMW’s styling is getting a bit dusty.
Where the freshness is most tangible is inside. Tell me this Ivory Nappa Leather interior isn’t handsome? And the ergonomics take an exponential leap forward with the introduction of iDrive 6.0. You can touch and swipe now and no longer need to twirl dials and push buttons.
The voice commands truly allow for natural speech and though it’s a bit gimmicky, Gesture Control lets you do things like change the volume with simple hand motions. Manipulating and saving seat settings is easier, there’s a big, bright head-up display, an absolutely incredible 3D surround vision camera, and get a load of this; remote control parking. You no longer need to be afraid of that tight space at the mall.
Using the small computer that is the key fob, you can drive this car straight into or out of a spot without being in it. It take a little time to initiate so if you’re hogging up the lane with people waiting it can be a bit nerve-racking but it’s guaranteed to blow the minds of those watching.
I love the added convenience of integrating my iPhone into the car via Apple CarPlay but BMW just made it better by allowing you to unplug.
No USB cable no problem, wireless is better and BMW is the first to take us there. There’s wireless device charging too, but not for iPhone. Note however that I could find only 1 USB port in the front and none in the rear. A WiFi hotspot is offered and powered by AT&T.
Currently, the 5 Series Sedan is offered in 4 flavors with this 540i being the sole 6-cylinder model. Its 3.0-liter engine fed by a twin-scroll turbocharger now generates 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of near instantaneous torque, working through an 8-speed automatic with Launch Control. That’ll take you to 60mph in a very quick 4.9 seconds all the way to a top speed of 155 mph when equipped with the M Sport Package.
That $2,600 option includes upsized 19”wheels fitted with ultra-expensive, staggered width Michelin Primacy 3 ZP Grand Touring Summer tires, unique exhaust design, aero kit and a lowered sport suspension.
My car is also equipped with the $3,200 Dynamic Handling Package bundling a trifecta of chassis and suspension systems designed to adjust the car to specific road conditions and to reduce body roll.
Gas mileage improves a tad to 24mpg in combined driving, premium of course.
I admit; the 540’s drive has been a bit perplexing. Each time you start it defaults to comfort mode which lacks the hallmark BMW sense of connectedness. The steering is a bit aloof and the handling has front drive tendencies that are unbecoming of a BMW. But then I discovered Adaptive and Sport modes and that’s when the page turned, providing tighter steering and erasing the slop.
These all new grand touring summer Michelins are uncharacteristically noisy however and don’t impress in sporty driving. The engine is as sweet as can be however – a perfect fit. Still, this 540 equipped with the M Sport package is more luxury sedan than anything else.
Expecting an even greater dynamic range, instead I discovered a smaller 7 Series; wonderfully composed even when pushed too far but never overtly sporty in its persona. It’s a balance 5 Series drivers will either love or bemoan for not taking them farther into BMW’s organic driving world. Keep in mind that there is an M550i V8 model which may be more dynamically expressive.
I love the massaging seats, to die-for Bowers and Wilkins surround sound system and super smooth adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go. You can drive hands-free for short periods of time as well but I’ve yet to find a semi-autonomous system as smart as the one in the Mercedes E-Class.
The electronics are amazing with a navigation system capable of learning your routes, Amazon Alexa connectivity and the ParkNow service which helps in locating, reserving and paying for parking spaces. With a starting MSRP of $57,445, it’s hard to imagine many 540is roll out like this one priced at $82,610. xDrive is of course more. But this is the full-flavored 5 Series, capable of flagship car status in a smaller, more agile package.
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