Mercedes has hogged quite enough of the limelight with its E-Class lately, BMW has decided. And so the new, ground-up-redesigned, seventh-generation 5 Series is here – and we’ve driven it.
Until the Teutonic next-gen M5 arrives late this year the 540i will be the quickest G30 5 Series Australia gets, the storming 4.1sec 0-100km/h all-paw V8 550i sadly off the radar of BMW Australia (for now). That also includes BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system, the 540i available with all-corner traction in Europe and the USA but only rear-drive for Oz.
As with all new 5 Series the BMW 540i is bigger than its predecessor – 36mm longer, 6mm wider and 2mm taller – but although the 5 Series dodges the expensive carbonfibre structural elements of its larger 7 Series sibling, it also gains a greater percentage of aluminium and hot formed high strength structural steel to slash 95kg compared to the older 535i, bringing the new, rear-drive 540i in at an relatively svelte 1595kg.
Under the bonnet a brand new 3.0-litre turbo straight six belts out 250kW/450Nm, which hustles the 540i to 100km/h in 5.1sec – some 0.7sec quicker than the old 535i.
Performance aside, what actually strikes you most is the 540i’s refinement. It’s outstanding – whisper quiet on the move, the ride supple and the interior as good as they come, a truly luxurious place to sit.
Switch the 540i into Sport mode and it really perks up. Throttle, engine, gearbox, steering and suspension enter their most athletic settings, providing the 540i with pleasantly precise, engaging and entertaining traits. It satisfies in the snot department, too.
Its impressive pace has much to do with the engine and gearbox working so well together. Power delivery is linear with little noticeable turbo lag and there’s torque just about everywhere. The engine’s flexibility is perfectly complemented by the satisfyingly rapid and smooth shifts of the eight-speed ZF auto.
While weighty in the sportier modes the steering is satisfyingly direct. But mostly it’s the rear-wheel steering that makes the 540i feel as nimble and chuckable as a 340i. The 540i is truly engaging when pushed hard along a challenging back road.
The crowning achievement here for BMW has been to broaden the ability of the 5 Series to a point where it is now every bit as capable, if not more so, than the talented Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
As well as offering a much higher level of perceived quality and greater accommodation, it is also vastly more mature in terms of comfort and refinement – areas that are absolutely crucial to success in the executive sedan ranks.
The new 5 Series arrives in Oz in March and it’s clear it has taken a big step forward.
4.0 OUT OF 5 STARS
The driver’s choice; superb refinement; smooth drivetrain
Some of its gadgets a bit naff; where’s our 550i?
Engine: 2998cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 250kW @ 5500-6500rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 1380-5200rpm
0-100km/h: 5.1sec (claimed)