review: Colin Sharp | images: Carla Nunes | price from: R1 100 000

Back in the day – whatever that means – I owned a couple of BMW 5-Series; a 525 manual and a 528 A/T, this latter not the best of the model range. In those days the 540i was top of the range, there being no mighty M5. So what of the latest seventh-generation?

Firstly, it has to meet the established luxury sport sedan expectations. So styling is very much as per BMW’s chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk’s code: not too different from the preceding model and recognisably BMW. The new 540i squats low, its lines understated and aristocratic; not unlike the 7-series. The proportions are virtually perfect and the profile that extends from the front fender through the front and rear doors and on to the taillights is seamlessly linear. Between the LED headlights, the trademark kidney grille now has movable vanes that automatically open and close depending on engine cooling needs. When closed, these improve airflow, which helps contribute to an impressive 0.27 coefficient of drag.

Underneath the skin, the new 5-series is 62kg lighter depending on powertrain and options: magnesium, aluminium and high-strength steel being some of the materials responsible. BMW claims a stiffer structure, less unsprung mass and a lower centre of gravity. Good moves indeed.

With the new M5 still to arrive, the 540i has the honour of being the most powerful 5-Series. The bi-turbo 3.0l inline-six is good for a 250kW peak from 5 500 to 6 500rpm and delivers 450Nm of torque between 1 380 and 5 200rpm. When equipped with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system the sports saloon delivers a less than 5 second 0-100 km/h sprint via its smoothly changing eight-speed A/T.

The list of features and gadgets on-board the 540i would please the late Steve Jobs. Here’s just a few: Dynamic Damper Control with Adaptive Mode, Integral Active Steering, adaptive full LED headlights, multi-contour seats, Gesture Control and Intelligent Voice Control. This before a plethora of safety ‘Assistants’ and ‘Warnings’ are considered.

Press the start button on the dash and blip the accelerator, set the Driving Dynamics Control switch to sport and a tuned, deeply muscular note issues from the dual tailpipes. At take-off, the gearshifts snap in quick succession. The 540i is very rapid.

For the full article see Habitat #261 September / October 2017


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