TEST DRIVE: 2017 BMW 540i M Sport

Test Drives | December 14th, 2016 by 16
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We recently spent some time in Lisbon, Portugal, avoiding the cold, snowy winter weather of the American Midwest. But we didn’t spend out time in …

We recently spent some time in Lisbon, Portugal, avoiding the cold, snowy winter weather of the American Midwest. But we didn’t spend out time in the beautiful Portugal relaxing and sipping cocktails, as we spent our time driving the new G30-generation BMW 5 Series. More specifically, the BMW 540i M Sport.

BMW’s seventh-generation 5 Series has a massive reputation to uphold. With the 5 Series being BMW’s second-best selling car and second most poplar car, this new one needs to be a knockout to live up to the standards of its forebears. If this new 540i M Sport is anything to go by, it seems like it has.

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The current middle child in the new 5 Series range, the 540i packs a 3.0 liter turbocharged inline-six engine, internally known as the B58 engine. It’s one of BMW’s best and could be the Goldilocks engine of the model range. With 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, the BMW 540i is capable of getting from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds. That’s very quick for the segment and it feels every bit as fast as that sounds, especially with the quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.

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Our test car was a 2017 BMW 540i M Sport sDrive. That means it has the M Sport package and rear-wheel drive, which makes it the sportiest version of the 540i you can get. And the M Sport pack really does favor sporty driving rather than comfort or luxury. It lowers the suspension a bit as well as stiffens it up, making the ride a bit firmer than the other 5 Series’ we tested but definitely more fun and planted. Though it was never uncomfortable. But with the M Sport package, the 540i is definitely more driver-oriented, something many fans will be happy to hear.

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Speaking of making fans happy, the steering on the new G30 5 Series is much better than the F10-gen 5 Series it replaces. The BMW 540i M Sport models we tested had BMW’s new variable steering system equipped. On previous generations of the BMW’s variable steering, it would use several different factors to judge what sort of steering ratio to use. This made it somewhat unpredictable and many fans simply disliked it, preferring the car’s standard fixed setup.

The steering is right where it needs to be for this segment.

However, this new system is much simpler and much better. It simply increases the steering speed as steering input increases. So the more you turn the wheel, the faster the steering gets. It’s simple, predictable and very effective.

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The steering also has nice weight to it for a 5 Series. It’s still fairly light compared to the mechanical ones, but those times are history anyway. That being said, it’s very sharp and very accurate and more than sporty enough for this class. BMW customers don’t want steering feel anymore, they want smooth and comfortable steering with nice weighting and accurate inputs. That’s what BMW’s heard from its customers and that’s what it’s delivered here with the 5 Series. You can be critical of the steering feedback if you compare it to a BMW M2, or worse the BMW 1M, but that’s not fair for a 5 Series. The steering is right where it needs to be for this segment.

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The previous-generation 5 Series, the F10, was also loved by its customers, being one of BMW’s best-selling models. But it wasn’t loved by journalists and car enthusiasts who felt that its weight, size and lack of dynamics made it too boring and too luxury-oriented. This new car is much better, especially the 540i M Sport. You really can toss it around and have fun in it. Its dynamics are much improved over the last car and it’s much more fun. It isn’t a BMW M2, or even a 340i, but it’s definitely a great handling car for this class. It also shows that this car is a great base for the upcoming BMW M5.

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It still rolls a bit through corners in Comfort mode, but that’s to be expected in Comfort and it wasn’t bad at all. It does make it nice and easy to drive calmly, though. The ride is better than the previous-generation 5 Series’ and it’s more comfortable. With a calm, quiet and luxurious interior, the new BMW 540i M Sport is still a great luxury car and daily driver, even with its sportier intentions. In fact, it’s so quiet that you can barely hear the B58 engine, which is a shame because it’s such a good sounding engine.

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But that quietness allows the driver and passengers to enjoy the new interior. The cabin of the new 5 Series is very similar to the 7 Series’, but with some small changes. But being so similar to the 7 Series, the 5er now has an interior that feels more upscale than you’d expect from this class of car. The materials are much better than before and the technology is really impressive.

With 26 sensors and 4 cameras, the 5 Series is more capable than the 7 Series at driving itself.

The new 5 Series has the same iDrive as in the 7 Series, with Gesture Control, touchscreen capability and natural voice recognition, just with some added updates. For instance, there are more gestures that register with the system now. But these are things that will make their way to the 7 Series in time.

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You even get the autonomous driving aids from the 7 Series as well, except with more capabilities. With 26 sensors and 4 cameras, the 5 Series is more capable than the 7 Series at driving itself. While the system is basically the same, as it will just keep itself in lanes and drive on the highway on its own, it can do it for longer without human interaction and it’s a bit better at keeping in its lane. It has more sensors than the 7 Series, so it’s a bit better at tracking other cars and keeping itself in check. But it also lets you take your hands off the wheel for longer. In just five seconds, the 7 Series starts telling you to put your hands back on the wheel and in ten seconds starts yelling at you to do so (with yellow and red steering wheel icons, respectively). The new 5 Series lets you keep your hands off for much longer without intrusion.

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BMW has also worked hard on natural voice recognition. This means you don’t have to give exact phrases to command the iDrive system. Simply saying something like “I’m hungry” will prompt the car to search the navigation for local restaurants. It makes communicating with the navigation system far easier while driving.

Overall, the BMW 540i M Sport might be the best 5 Series for enthusiasts to buy, currently. It offers great handling, sharp steering, a fast engine and cool looks to go with its luxuries and comfort. The new 5 Series a very competent car and does exactly what it’s supposed to do, but the 540i M Sport allows it to have some fun as well.

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