Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: May 24, 2017
Here comes the middle-child, or what I like to call, the BMW 7 Series-lite. I’ll explain why in just a second, but let me introduce to you the 7th generation BMW 5 Series, with codename chassis G30. It’s brand new for the 2017 model year, and offers “up to” 100 kg in weight savings (much less if you opt for all the added and heavy tech features) from the utilization of lighter materials, a redesigned chassis, new modular engines, and the benefit of 7 Series technology.
The 5 Series is also 36 mm longer, 6 mm wider, and 2 mm taller than before, and BMW tells us that the trunk is slightly larger and that there is more rear passenger legroom. Looks like a good start, but let’s get to the question that we’re all asking.
Is the new 5 Series still the quintessential mid-size sport sedan we’re looking for? Or has it lost its way in translation with too much tech and not enough feel?
Our first impressions was that the 5 Series was literally a 7 Series squeezed and compressed into a smaller package. All the technology, safety equipment, and nick nack gizmos are still there, making us question why the 7 is still relevant when its younger brother has stolen all of its party tricks. Well that’s what I thought at first, and hence called it a 7 Series-lite.
Just like the 7 Series, the new 5 can be equipped with an adaptive suspension, the same steering wheel, infotainment unit, gauges, gear shifter, multicontour seats, headrest adjustments, and massaging seats as the M760Li. It’s even got the same air fragrance features too, not to mention gesture control and that fancy display key where the user can remote control park the 5. Yes, your keyfob now acts as a PS4 controller for your $90,000 BMW. Oh, and soft closing doors have made their way in here too.
They’ve even updated the iDrive system to version 6.0, with a revised main menu layout that displays information a little more clearly. Don’t forget Wireless Apple CarPlay as well. In fact, I can’t think of a feature that I’ve found in the 7 that I cannot find in the 5, which is great news. Expensive technology that was innovated and launched in the halo car 7 Series has made its way downstream into the hands of people who can actually afford it. Hopefully it will be showcased in the next generation 3 Series too.
Has all this tech zapped away at driving emotion, though?
Not really. It’s safe to say the new 540i xDrive that we’re driving still has great emotional appeal. It’s sporty, sleek, and a carries a much more serious demeanor than the outgoing model. The 540i appears tauter, with a small button nose and a rather bulbous trunk lid that gives it a squatting stance. Subjective opinion, yes, but I think the Mercedes-Benz E Class looks a bit more sophisticated. The downside is that the E Class gets easily confused with the C Class, whereas the 5 looks distinctly like a 5. No confusion here with the 3 or 7, just a clever amalgamation of the two.
There are four powertrains on the Canadian market: a 530i xDrive ($61,500), a 530e xDrive plug-in model ($66,000 before rebates), an M550i xDrive M Performance model ($80,900), and the variant we’re currently testing, which is the 540i xDrive ($69,000).
Under the hood of it is a brand new 3.0-litre single-turbo straight-six, which we also tested in the 340i xDrive, and it delivers 335 hp @ 5,500 - 6,500 rpm and 332 lb-ft @ 1,380 - 5,200 rpm. For those keeping track, that’s a 35 hp and 32 lb-ft jump from the outgoing 535i. That’s good enough for 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, which is a whopping 1.2 seconds more than the 530i xDrive.
Every 5 Series can only be had with xDrive (all-wheel drive). Not even the upcoming M5 will escape the inevitability of four-wheel traction (though it will have a button to turn it off and stay rear-wheel drive).
Let’s talk about torque for a second, because it is what makes this 540i feel mind-bendingly quick. Though there’s nothing jaw dropping about “just” 332 lb-ft, but it’s where that torque is found, specifically from 1,380 rpm all the way up to 5,200 rpm. That means max torque is within the powerband that 99% of drivers spend 99% of their time in. Strictly speaking, that means 332 lb-ft is available all of the time. Torque is everywhere, and no one is complaining.
As long as you’re in the correct gear, you can swing around corners, floor it mid-corner, and be out of there before you can even say turbo lag. Power delivery is smooth, incredibly smooth. I can’t even imagine what the more powerful V8-equipped M550i xDrive will feel like.
It’s a beauty of a powertrain. The 8-speed automatic transmission is perhaps the star of the show too: smooth, refined, and cogs are swapped without any jerk or shudder to the occupants. Ride quality achieves a perfect score too, with adaptive dampers ($3,500) that can offer a laid back “Comfort” ride, or add a dash of adrenaline with “Sport Mode,” tightening up the shocks and offering sublime ride control for spirited driving. The thin profile 20-inch wheels don’t impact the ride quality too much, it’s still calm and collected.
There isn’t much of an exhaust note either. The 340i we had (with the same engine I might add) sounded blissfully aggressive, howling to its redline and pumping farts on every downshift. The 540i is a bit more muted, partly due to the better insulated cabin, and partly due to the clientele that the 5 Series is targetting. Not everyone wants an overwhelming exhaust, apparently.
One thing I would have appreciated would be a quicker steering rack. It takes a little too much rotation to take a 90-degree right hander, and not even Sport mode’s added steering weight remedies this. The 5 Series does come with an Integral Active Steering option ($2,000), which might have helped, but ours didn’t come with it. What this feature adds speed-sensitive power assistance to the wheel, as well as rear-wheel steering, which essentially tightens up the turning circle.
It’s really hard to describe in words the sensory calmness you get when riding or driving the new 5: your bottom gets massaged, olfactory lobes are getting a hit from the air fragrances, eardrums fast asleep from the church-silent cabin, and eyes cozied up to the colourful head-up display and digital gauges - it’s quite an experience.
The new interior aids in that sensory heaven, which is essentially a shrunken 7 Series cabin. The front seats are impressive as ever, swathed in a quilted Nappa Leather ($1,500 option) with multi-contour, ventilated, and heated functions. The side bolsters automatically tighten as well when you enter Sport Mode.
Storage areas are much more cleverly designed this time around. A wireless phone charging pad is slotted right behind the front cupholders (which can be used to charge the Display Key too), and a USB slot handily sits right in the middle of it all. The center glovebox is a little small, though, and doesn’t hold more than a glasses case with a wallet or two.
BMW says they added more legroom for rear passengers, but I’ve sat in compact sedans with my legroom than this. The 5 has tight rear quarters, much to my surprise. The E Class and even the Lexus GS has more space. Headroom is fine but if I’m sitting behind my six-foot self, my knees are pressed right into the seatback - not something I was expecting from a mid-size sedan. But hey, I guess I found at least one reason why the 7 Series is still relevant.
The new BMW 5 doesn’t come cheap, so don’t get carried away with the options list, as there are many tempting features to choose from, like nightvision ($2,500), larger M Sport brakes ($750), and remote control parking ($1,500). From experience, most of these are gimmicks that will get old after the first month of use. They’re party tricks that you introduce to your family and neighbours when they ask what new car you bought. The buttons slowly get dusty after that.
Some say that BMW played it safe with the 5 Series, and I agree. Yes, it can be quite the showstopper, but so could a Jaguar XF with its seductive body lines. The Maserati Ghibli with its jaw dropping exhaust note impresses too, and the Mercedes-Benz E 300 has a more impressive suite of autonomous driving technology.
Some say that BMW played it safe with the new 5 Series, and I agree. But what the 5’er does best is stay true to its sporting intentions and offer a powertrain masterpiece. It may not be game changing, but it’s still one of the best mid-size sedans on the lot.
型号 Model: 2017 BMW 540i xDrive
顏色 Paint Type: Bluestone Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $69,000
試車售價 Price as Tested: $90,400
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,975
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,943 / 1,868 / 1,479
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,823
引擎 Engine: 3.0-litre inline-six
最大馬力 Horsepower: 335 hp @ 5,500 - 6,500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 332 lb-ft @ 1,380 - 5,200 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.2
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Pirelli P Zero