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2017 BMW 540i Review By Larry Nutson

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2017 BMW 540i
Refined sport

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

As my wife got settled into the front passenger seat of the 540i for the first time, she paused, looked around and commented, “This is the nicest car you’ve driven in a long time.”

I was in agreement. The all-new BMW 5-series, now in its seventh generation is indeed quite nice.

We both prefer cars. We’ve had our share of SUVs and CUVs necessitated by two children, two dogs and lots of family activity. When the children moved on (or out), we still had two dogs. Contrary to the SUV trend, station wagons were in the mix of the household fleet.

I enjoyed driving this 540i for its comfort and refinement combined with its sporty nature and responsive driving dynamics. I happen to also like that you don’t see yourself coming and going with the exclusivity this premium midsize sedan brings.

Some may argue that the new 5-series is not as sporty as it once was. Well, with all the variable settings and functions it can be tailored to the individual tastes and needs of its driver. An optional M-Sport Package, which was equipped on the 540i I drove, adds more sport.

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Clearly recognizable as a BMW with its kidney grille, short overhangs and the overall exterior design, the 2017 5-Series has been newly developed from the ground up. Light-weighting the overall structure has brought about a weight loss of up to 137 lbs. with the use of magnesium, aluminum and high-strength steel.

The new BMW 540i’s engine has a 35 horsepower increase, with 335 HP coming from the 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder. With 332 lb-ft of torque pushing through the 8-speed automatic, zero to 60 mph is in just 4.9 seconds. Top speed is electronically-limited to 130 mph and 155 mph with M Sport Package and 19-inch M Double-Spoke Wheels with Mixed Performance Run-Flat Tires.

I’ve repeatedly been impressed with the combination of performance and low fuel consumption that BMWs deliver. Of course this is all relative. I’ve done long road trips cruising in the mid-70mph range and gotten fuel economy in the range of 30 to 35 mpg in various BMW sedans and coupes. My drives with this 540i were mostly on the city streets of Chicago and I averaged around 20 mpg. EPA test-cycle ratings for the 540i are 20 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.

The 540i is equipped with an engine idle stop/start feature, the intent of which is to both save fuel and reduce emissions while stopped. Many vehicles have this feature today and many drivers don’t like it. While most vehicles allow you to switch the feature off, they reset to on when you restart. With the 540i, BMW has programmed the stop/start system to stay off. The thought must be to provide the feature but not force you to use it.

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With a base MSRP of $56,450, standard equipment includes adaptive LED headlights, front sport seats with 16-way adjustment, 18-inch alloy wheels, a two-way power moonroof, automatic climate control, navigation, and a free-standing 10.2-inch touchscreen. The iDrive 6.0 system used to control navigation, audio, and some other features from a central controller on the console is easy to use. Entering a destination for the nav system was easy and intuitive. Voice commands can also be used.

My media-loan test car was really loaded-up with options pushing the bottom line to $82.910. The listing, right from the price label, is: 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), and Gesture Control ($190).

I’m not sure if I would opt for many of these if I were buying. I would choose all the driving assistance tech and the leather seats. I could do without the M Sport Package. Two items of interest jumped out at me, namely remote-control parking and gesture control.

I tested the parking feature that allows you to park the car in a tight perpendicular parking space while standing alongside the car controlling things from the key fob. It works. I could possibly imagine a 540i owner who has a very crowded garage using this feature. I have difficulty seeing the benefit in a public parking lot, since the two vehicles on either side would then be really jammed in.

Gesture control was fun, allowing me to change audio volume using a rotating motion of my pointed index finger held in front of the touch screen. This motion is detected by an overhead camera.

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The 540i’s cockpit is quite nice. There’s plenty of room up front and in the back too. The seat massage feature was entertaining to say the least while driving around town but I am sure it would come in to good use on a long road trip. Steering effort, the ease of using the transmission gear selector, good outward visibility and good seat position all made for lots of pleasantry. The BMW ConnectedDrive Services makes staying in touch easy.

For the slightly lower price of $51,200 the 530I is available powered by a 248 HP turbo four cylinder and offered with the optional xDrive. This might be a good choice to achieve lower fuel consumption with basically all the same features and amenities as the 540i.

Should you have a need for more performance while still enjoying the roomy 5-series cabin there’s also the 456 HP BMW M550i xDrive for $73,400. BMW has just announced the coming of the 2018 M5 powered by 600HP 4.4-L V8. The twin-turbo V8 will propel the M5 via a new 8-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic teamed up with a new M-specific xDrive system. It’ll put the power to the road for a 0–60 mph acceleration in a very quick 3.2 seconds. M5 pricing will be announced in spring 2018 when the car hits the market.

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This “Ultimate Driving Machine” should have broad appeal with its high level of refinement and comfort.

More model information and specs can be found at: The 2017 BMW 540i is one of the candidates for the North American Car of the Year award.

© 2017 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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