Fastest, most powerful Five you can get. What’s it like?
We’ve been highly impressed at BMW’s brand new 5 Series saloon in 520d SE (diesel) guise, but how does it fare as a performance package? The 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol turbo-powered 540i is the fastest and most powerful Five available until the new M5 sports saloon arrives in early 2018, and we try it out.
The newcomer is a rival to the likes of the 396bhp Mercedes-AMG E43 and 375bhp Jaguar XF S, but it aces these otherwise more powerful rivals with superior engine response. An exciting exhaust note accompanies the explosive surge of acceleration, which sees the 540i sprint from 0-62mph in an incredible 4.8 seconds. Its eight-speed automatic gearbox is quick and smooth in Normal drive mode, and holds on to its lower ratios for longer in Sport. Steering wheel-mounted paddles allow fast manual shifting.
The 540i’s characteristically quick and engaging steering is perfect through corners, while the optional Variable Damper Control (VDC) glosses over bumps in Comfort mode, and tightens up in Sport. Standard-fit four-wheel drive gives better traction away from junctions and tight corners.
This near-£47,000 model’s cabin bears no real distinction from that in any other 5 Series, which means the same top-quality fittings and appointments as well as plenty of space for both passengers and their luggage. The iDrive infotainment boasts a crisp 10.2-inch screen, and is controlled via touch, hand gestures or rotary controller. Different data is displayed on the digital instrument cluster depending on the selected driving mode.
Whereas most 5 Series buyers will choose the efficient, fast yet still well equipped entry-level 520d SE, not everyone wants a diesel, and for them the 540i may appeal more from a performance point of view than the slightly disappointing 530i. It offers a more adept compromise between luxury and sportiness than the XF or E-Class.
Only the SE’s high price of £46,960 may put people off, especially compared with the similarly fast, environmentally friendlier and cheaper six-cylinder 530d diesel.