2018 540 New Car Test Drive
The BMW 5 Series has been re-engineered. The 530i and 540i got a new chassis for 2017 that was longer by 1.2 inches for more rear legroom, lighter by 120 pounds by using more aluminum, and stiffer for better handling by using more high-strength steel. For 2018, the upgrade of the line continues with two new models: the 530e iPerformance, a plug-in hybrid, and the all-wheel-drive M550i xDrive, approaching the performance of the vaunted M5.
The BMW 530i is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four with direct injection, making 248 horsepower, while the 540i is powered by a 3.0-liter inline six with direct injection, making 335 hp. Direct injection, which sprays fuel mixed with oxygen into the combustion chambers for efficiency, came with the engines in 2017.
The four-cylinder in the 530i is refined and rarely feels pressed, capable of accelerating from zero to sixty in about six seconds, about the same as a Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6, or Volvo S90.
The turbo six in the 540i shoots it from zero to sixty in less than five seconds.
Thanks to the torque of its electric powertrain, the new 530e is as quick in a straight line as the 530i; but it's 600 pounds heavier, weight that can be felt in the handling. It's powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder that's mated to a 9.2-kilowatt-hour battery and electric motor, making a combined 248 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. We got some seat time in a 530e around Chicago, and found that it got about 16 miles of all-electric range. The transitions between electric and gas power are seamless.
There's one transmission for these models, an excellent eight-speed automatic.
BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive is available with all three models.
The new M550i xDrive is powered by a turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 making 456 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque, and can accelerate from zero to sixty in less than four seconds.
The 5 Series models' active safety systems, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and self-steering, work well, but cost about five grand. It will steer itself down the highway for 30 seconds. It will also veer and correct itself, when the sensors misjudge something, a problem with most cars that steer themselves.
The 530i is EPA-rated at 24/34 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined, on Premium gasoline. 530i xDrive gets the same Combined mileage. The 540i is rated 20/30/24 mpg. Even the M550i xDrive is expected to get 19 mpg Combined.
The 530e is rated at 29 mpg Combined, or 72 MPGe, using the range of a full battery, in electric mode. The battery can be recharged in under three hours using the 7.2-kw onboard charger.
The 530i and 530e plug-in hybrid are priced the same ($52,400), and with government incentives the hybrid would be less. The 540i is $57,500, and the M550i xDrive is $73,400. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.) xDrive raises the price by $2300.
Standard equipment in the 530i and 540i includes leatherette upholstery, automatic climate control, a 10.2-inch touchscreen, navigation, Bluetooth, 18-inch wheels with run-flat tires.
BMW's options, now called tiers, drive the price up dramatically. A rearview camera is optional, part of a driver assistance package that includes a head-up display. Adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking are optional. As are Bowers & Wilkins audio, Apple CarPlay wireless, smart cold weather package with heated seats front and rear, surround-view camera, touchscreen key, and remote parking feature.