2021 BMW 540i xDrive – Bottom Line Review

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: mid cycle update to 7th Generation executive Ultimate Driving machine middle child. MSRP for the tested Alpine White variant = $78k

EXECUTIVE ENTHUSIAST DECISION: Everything in transportation is not strictly about getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Were it so the world would have been moving around by egg-shaped pods already. Or at least boxy crossovers. Instead this competitive consumerist world lives by distinction and distinctiveness. Consider the objective of the luxury mid sized sedan. Less large and opulent than the flagship sedan it has been the traditional conveyance of choice for corporate managers rather than CEOs. Professionals rather than potentates, have the timidity to avoid the stately family SUV stigma.

SERIES FÜNF SEVENTH: From Bavaria, where the executive sport sedan was conceived, there has been a BMW 5-Series conveying executives with driving enthusiasm since 1972. At a time when taxi operators preferred the regality of cross state competitor Mercedes-Benz’ E-Class, German gendarmerie took a liking of 5 Series for Autobahn pursuit service. It was an era when a BMW 5-Series, airborne from an undulation at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, became an “Ultimate Driving Machine” advertising campaign star.

More recent times have brought greater choices for executive enthusiasts within and without the segment. Demand has grown for feature lading and personalization. The 2018 introduction of the M5 variant of the 7th incarnation of Bavarian executive sedan (G30) alone was enough to cause Bimmer devotees consternation. So, with a mid-cycle freshened and honed 2021 BMW 540i xDrive offered for Roadblazing.com consideration, the Ultimate Question remains whether the executive conveyance from Dingolfing ultimately pursues driving.

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WHAT: 2021 BMW 540i xDrive the seventh generation luxury executive sedan from the German carmaker. The current G30 designation replaced the F10 sixth generation 5-Series in 2018. The last time a 540 designation sat on the rump of any BMW was during the E39’s reign with a naturally aspirated M62 twin-cam DOHC V-8 engine.

Standard Power: B48B20O1 twin scroll longitudinal intercooled turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16V DI gas I-6, start/ stop = 248 hp/ 258 lb-ft @ 1450 rpm + 8-spd. ZF design torque converter planetary transmission w/ shift paddles + (OPTIONAL) viscous clutch differential all-wheel drive.

OPTIONAL Power (tested): B58B30M1 twin scroll longitudinal intercooled turbocharged 3.0L DOHC 24V DI gas I-6, start/ stop = 335 hp/ 330 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm + 8-spd. ZF design torque converter planetary transmission w/ shift paddles + viscous clutch differential all-wheel drive.

    • intake cooling and electronic wastegate control = faster turbo spool-up, imperceptible lag
    • 48 V mild hybrid motor generator = parasitic engine drag reduction
2021 BMW 540i xDrive: purple colored wiring harness on left side of engine intake cover betrays the 48 Volt mild hybrid regenerative generator motor which reduces parasitic losses

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE(S): The 2021 BMW 5-Series has undergone a Life Cycle Impulse facelift. Related to the G03 BMW X6 sport activity crossover utility coupe, the luxury executive sedan continues on BMW’s modular CLAR steel, aluminum and carbon fiber intensive architecture with 48 V electrical system.

Only Changes at the Front: Adopts some assertive I4 BEV cues without going G22 4-Series bonkers

Vertically slatted twin kidney grille, widened with outward arrow bezels, arch over hood line; Thinner swept back dual sequential rectangular LED headlamp housings segments each with “L” shaped angel-eyes DRLs underscoring; Lattice dark lower front fascia corners cut in open brow hectahedral;

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: segmented “L” underlined LED angel eyes DRLs & directionals and bolder lower corner simulated intake ducts round out the cosmetic updating
    • Sides Remain Same:

Long front axle to A-pillar distance relative to C-pillar to trunk’s edge for forward motion appearance; Twin crease hood flows into large fender wheel arches; Contrasting darkened fender louver; Tall beltline, sub cheat-line body creases + integrated side skirts; Sloped roofline to flared quarter panels for fastback silhouette.

    • So Does Posterior:

Looping hockey stick wrap around LED light bars drawn inboard mid trunk lid lip; Subtle integrated trunklid ducktail; Curved bumper cover flare; Dual trapezoid chrome exhaust housings; Bow-tie dark lower rear fascia w/ subtle diffuser.

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: Shadowline darkened accents complement the few changes to the sides and posterior of this handsome low slung roof fastback executive saloon

WHY: Selecting Middle Saloon among Ultimate Driving Machines is perfectly justifiable Executive Decision.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Autumn 2020

WHERE: BMW new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Dingolfing, Bavaria, Germany

WHERE TO: Pretty much anywhere the cold one blows or the sun sizzles on the road. Bias of the electronic coupling all-wheel drive is nominally 60% at the rear wheels. Demand can transfer 100% of torque fore or aft depending on traction and yaw inputs. (There is an available off-road package with air springs and e-torque vectoring rear differential.)

HOW ROADWORTHY: As witnessed by Roadblazing.com editors in an earlier stint with the related 2020 BMW X6 i40 xDrive, few other engines can match the inline six cylinder B58 for a level of smooth urgent propulsion. It has been made possible by a harmonious marriage of high compression smooth and on-demand cooled intake twin-scroll forced induction. The ZF 8 cog autobox is as efficient a torque converter transmission as exists, yet is hardly shy about maintaining a high gear and kicks down without breaking a sweat. This year introduces an 11 horsepower 48 Volt starter generator motor as a bow to more stringent global ICE emissions reduction mandates. The frenetic wallop of the 2021 540i xDrive at full gallop ought give pause to among the muscular naturally aspirated V-8s on the road.

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: selectable drive modes

Four drive modes = Comfort, Sport, Eco Pro, Adaptive

The 2021 BMW 540i xDrive’s big brake set and oversized wheels are M-Technik specific though the front strut, rear five-link chassis layout are suspended via standard issue coil springs and bushings. The extra magic of active roll stabilization, rather disengagement on straightaways, forgives the worst the road can throw its way. Yet when set to their stiffest Sport settings, the electronic adjusting dampers along with a helm devoid of surface sensation leave a taste of body control hesitancy at the limits. Brake pedal reaction gets off to a slow start but ends in absolute confidence with nary a hint of fade from repeated high speed slow downs.

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: the test vehicle included optional active roll stabilization, e-variable damping, variable sport steering, 19″ M alloy wheels and upgraded front multi-piston big brakes to improve driver to road connection and control

HOW FAR: 25 combined miles per gallon fuel economy; 560 highway miles range

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: 5 Occupant 2+3 seating. Rear seat = 2 adults + 1 more compact elder mid position.

– For Comparison’s Sake:

  • 117.1″-inch Wheelbase: 2.0″ > Audi A6 3.0T, 1.4″ > Mercedes-Benz E350
  • 2nd Row legroom: 0.9″ < Audi A6 3.0T, 0.8″ > Mercedes-Benz E350

HOW USEFUL: 40/20/40% split folding 2nd Row seat backs + dual cargo bay cable releases; Aluminum bumper load plate; Proximity power trunk lid; Mouse-fur lined, damped action glove box.

    • +1 Deep trunk w/ low load liftover; Clamshell access front center armrest bin, Glovebox content management
2021 BMW 540i xDrive: center console controls include by wire joystick shifter, Qi inductive wireless device charging; Felt lined glove box adds content management tray
    • -1 Trunk lid swing arms occupy space; –1 No overhead console retracting sunglass bin, -1 Center console front wireless charging bin lid won’t close with USB-A cable

For Comparison’s Sake:

Nominal trunk cargo capacity: +2% vs. Audi A6 3.0T, +6% vs. Mercedes-Benz E350

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: Par for class, intruded by large swing arms trunk with optional power proximity trunk lid

HOW SAFE: 8 airbags; IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (X5 tested); Surround view cameras; sonar front & rear Park Distance Control; Blind spot, rear cross traffic & lane departure warning; Auto parking brake hold; Auto high beam headlamps; Heads-Up display

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: autonomous lane change assist feature of adaptive cruise control

+1 Parking Assist Plus (opt.) executes precise active parallel & perpendicular parking maneuvers, assisted back-out, while surround camera estimates door swing zone.

+/- Driving Assistant Pro & Traffic Jam II Level 2.0 extended autonomy adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist includes autonomous lane change = Optional

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Inside the latest BMW 5-Series Münchener interior crafters celebrate with a premium junior executive office suite. High caliber materials and ample contrast flow forth emitting luxurious professionalism. Control switchgear exhibits meticulously sturdy craftmanship with nuances of delicate. The express elevator through the abyss of secondary vehicle control settings is a  streamlined 7th generation IDrive rotary console remote controller. As with the current trend traditional twin analog instrument panel gauges have been usurped by a full color TFT variable virtual cockpit cluster which looks plenty state of the art. Surface graining does its best to be authentic with seams so uniform. Ambient sound is comprehensively numbed.

Heated 16-way power front sport seats, torso & lumber adjust, manual knee extenders, 2-setting driver’s memory; 4 power windows, full express; 4-Zone auto climate control w/ 2nd Row controls; 2nd Row and aft dark tint privacy glass; Power panorama roof; Power folding wing mirrors; Comfort approach access keyless entry

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: optional Contour front power seating, with heating, cooling and power heated leather wrapped steering wheel
    • +1 Power heated tilt/ telescoping steering wheel;
    • -1 Rear seats not heated

Cool Gizmo(s): ♦ 12.3“-inch LCD Live Cockpit Pro w/ configurable LCD twin gauges & navigation map gridding; ♦ Gesture proximity media display control – clockwise finger rotation adjusts volume, palm up thumb signaling changes track; ♦ Caring Car with both Relax (Orange sunset) and Vitalize (Green forest) modes, provides 2:46 of mood music, varying climate settings, display image and varying intensity mood lighting; ♦ Heads up display w/ navigation map; ♦ LED puddle lamps

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: selectable vitalizing or relaxing Caring Car cabin mood lighting, music and climate modes

Details Done Right: Aluminum bezels and switchgear; Full exposed soft material surfaces; Elaborate pattern contrast stitched, pebbled Nappa leather seating & upper door panels; Rhombicle pattern soft material dash, door, center console inlays; Full dashboard & door panel ambient LEDs; Dense pile cabin, transmission tunnel & cargo area carpeting; Center console saddle padding matched to leather.

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Black mesh cloth headliner;

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 12.3″ iDrive 7 touch, remote & voice controlled LCD infotainment screen; iDrive 7 center console rotary controller, finger script touch pad & primary function buttons; Rotary audio volume dial, tuning & preset switches; Bluetooth, hands-free communications; Voice-to-text SMS messaging; Voice command/ guidance 3-D HDD GPS navigation; HD weather, traffic; Wireless Android Auto / Apple CarPlay; BMW Connected Apps using virtual cloud for appointments & vehicle settings; USB x 4, 12V x 3.

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: a bespoke yet restrained futuristic cockpit

Audibly: 16 speaker, 600 W Harman Kardon DTS 7.1 RDS HD radio = shallow bass, crisp highs, convincing sound stage

By Subscription: SiriusXM (90 days incl.); BMW Connected Services; 4G LTE by AT&T (90 days trial)

2021 BMW 540i xDrive: BMW apps include Weather, News, and Drive Record

-1 Not so fast with the wireless Android Auto. It is super laggy compared to wired versions of the smart phone OS app projection.

HOW MUCH: $77,935 = as tested 2021 BMW 540i xDrive suggested retail price

WHAT’S MISSING: An option list which gets less carried away; Massaging front seats at this price.

ANY COMPETITION: Audi A6 3.0T Quattro; Cadillac CT5-V; Genesis G80 3.3T Sport; Maserati GhibliMercedes Benz E450 4Matic; Porsche Panamera.

FINAL WORD: Veering towards greater autonomy and pampering, certain Ultimate qualities persist about this executive Driving Machine.

Contributing Editor: P. Stamatis

An automotive enthusiast since an orange toy VW Beetle ended up in his playpen and following him everywhere, George Straton has been chief editor at ChicagoNow.com/Drive-He-Said automotive lifestyle blog since 2010. In 2017 George established Roadblazing.com, dedicated to accurate and relevant automotive reviews, news and road trip stories. George is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Phoenix Automotive Press Association. George also happens to be an attorney and Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers fan.

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