With the F10 M5 now sadly no longer in production and the next, all-new M5 still in the ‘rampant pre-reveal speculation’ phase of its roll-out (due for reveal later this year) the 250kW rear-drive BMW 540i is our first local glimpse at what the new G30 5 Series is capable of from a performance perspective.
While the brand new 5 Series is overflowing with new gadgets like semi-autonomous cruise control, new generation iDrive with gesture control and a bigger screen – as well as a beautiful new interior; you feel like you’re sitting in a 7 Series, basically – you’d be forgiven for going straight for the bonnet latch. That’s because you’ll find BMW’s new B58 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six, on performance duty in BMW’s baby M140i and M240i, but tuned differently for the 540i.
And don’t think this is too much car for the engine, as BMW’s worked hard to cut weight, using materials like magnesium and aluminium in clever ways to keep weight down to just 1595kg – 95kg lighter than the old 535i (despite being 37mm longer and of course safer, faster, and just all-round better). So there’s not as much car for that 250kW/450Nm to shift as you might first think.
But after a hard drive up your favourite road you’ll be left impressed and full of respect for the 540i – but completely content to take the freeway home, rather than retrace the twisties from where you came.
That’s because this is a superb luxury car with a solid amount of grunt, but it’s not a particularly inspiring performance machine, even with the standard adaptive swaybars, M Sport package and M Sport brakes.
The engine, while belting out impressive grunt with fantastic turbocharged mid-range muscle, doesn’t provide the soundtrack to match the oomph, staying muted and subdued even as you’ve got the accelerator pedal buried in the carpet. Which is unexpected, as it has a nice burble outside the car at idle.
This is all not to say the 540i doesn’t get in the mood. In Sport Plus the TFT instruments turn red, the throttle gets more sensitive, the eight-speed auto shifts with more anger and the steering gets a bit heavier. It’s just not really enough to inspire driving for driving’s sake.
The 540i is fast, though, with surprising balls in a straight line and awesome overtaking ability.
Mostly, though, this is a mature luxury car with subtle styling to match the subtly potent performance. It has a beautiful interior, drives nice and smoothly, rides well, is all-round comfortable and quiet. It has us excited for someone to bolt in a 450kW twin-turbo V8 and all-wheel drive. Or was that a new atmo V10?
Engine: 2998cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 250kW @ 5500-6500rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 1380-5200rpm
0-100km/h: 5.1sec (claimed)
Star Rating: 3.5/5
LIKE: Grunt; awesome interior; handling
DISLIKE: Lacks emotion; dull steering; engine too quiet