At the moment’s BMW 5 Collection doesn’t have the identical mission assertion because it did a decade or two in the past. For years, the German automaker’s center sedan was designed to be absolutely the sharpest instrument within the luxurious automobile shed. Its steering was good, its experience was crisp and its engines had been punchy. Briefly, it was meant to be essentially the most rewarding sports activities sedan that cash might purchase. And for years — significantly over the course of the E39 glory days — that’s precisely what it was.
Someplace alongside the best way, the 5 Collection’ foremost goal shifted because the sedan morphed right into a rolling showcase of BMW’s technological know-how, even when that meant the precise driving expertise was numbed and dumbed to match the shifting tastes of luxurious automobile consumers. Factor is, as a lot as fans bemoan the results that cutting-edge know-how has had on the texture behind the wheel, the very fact of the matter is that the 2021 BMW 540i is a really pleasurable automobile to drive, and it’s measurably one of the best mainstream 5er that has ever rolled down the road.
The 2021 BMW 5 Collection represents a significant refresh on the final clean-sheet redesign that we first examined in 2017. The sharp ends have been restyled, making it slightly over an inch longer than earlier than. The kidney grille is now one conjoined piece as a substitute of two and extra outstanding for 2021, however fortunately not comically so like the newest 4 Collection. The headlights have additionally been pinched and pulled extra taut.
Our tester regarded stately in white, solely barely livened up with Y-spoke wheels with pink calipers. The 5 Collection stays distinguished, however not over-the-top, like a few of BMW’s crossovers.
Inside, the angles and varieties are a bit extra extreme than the earlier 5 Collection, however the general look is calmer than the decadent, and admittedly nicer, Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Most will say the Mercedes is extra luxurious in its presentation, whereas the Bimmer is extra refined.
Twin 12.3-inch shows dominate the dashboard, one immediately in entrance of the driving force delivering need-to-know information in between digital speedometer and tachometer gauges that change in design primarily based on the driving mode. The opposite is within the middle operating BMW’s newest iDrive 7 infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are commonplace, as is navigation. There are actual tactile buttons for the local weather management and audio system, together with the automaker’s well-known management knob on the middle console with accompanying menu buttons.
You possibly can learn all about iDrive 7 right here, however briefly, there are nonetheless lots of layers nevertheless it’s largely logical in structure and comparatively easy to be taught. We particularly admire that it may be managed by means of each the touchscreen and the wheel-shaped knob.
Moreover the primping and prodding inside and outside, the massive information for the 2021 540i is a mild-hybrid powertrain that includes a 48-volt electrical system. The little electrical motor provides slightly greater than 10 horsepower to the automobile’s ranking of 335 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque, so the overwhelming majority of thrust is offered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine. These ponies are despatched to the rear, or, as was the case with our 540i xDrive take a look at automobile, all 4 wheels by means of an eight-speed automated transmission.
BMW quotes a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds for the 2021 540i xDrive (three tenths faster than the rear-drive model), which is sort of good. That’s about the identical because the earlier non-hybridized model, however we discovered that the additional push from the electrical motor smoothed out the general really feel of the turbocharged powertrain, significantly proper off the road, and earlier than and after gearshifts. There are steering wheel shift paddles and a handbook mode for the transmission, however the digital brains are so good within the default and Sport modes that they aren’t actually wanted.
The delicate hybrid powertrain helps the 2021 540i xDrive’s gas financial system enhance to 23 mpg metropolis, 31 mpg freeway and 26 mpg mixed. In comparison with the non-hybrid 2020 mannequin, that’s 1 mpg higher within the metropolis and mixed rankings and two higher on the freeway. It’s additionally 1 mpg higher than the Mercedes-Benz E 450 4Matic’s freeway ranking and higher than a comparable Audi A6’s rankings throughout the board, making the BMW a phase chief in gas effectivity. It’s additionally price noting that the much less highly effective 530i xDrive’s EPA rankings of 23 metropolis and 32 freeway imply there’s no nice sacrifice to the additional energy of the 540i’s six-cylinder engine.
The 2021 5 Collection’ experience is clean and refined. We by no means hit a bump that upset the chassis, and it stays commendably flat by means of laborious corners. The sedan tackles corners and maintains bearing in a manner that may please fans, but received’t go away them or their passengers feeling queasy throughout aggressive maneuvers. Its steering provided correct, substantial suggestions that we discovered feels rewarding and interesting when hustled at pace however overly gentle the remainder of the time. It could not transfer its driver in the identical manner because the E39 or E60 vintages did, however in comparison with its present-day friends, the 2021 5 Collection’ manners are largely with out fault.
We did discover fault with the newest era of BMW’s driver help options, nevertheless. The automated cruise management system works nicely, protecting a very good (and adjustable) distance even down to a whole cease, however BMW’s Lively Lane Protecting Assistant trails that of its rivals. In our week-long expertise, the 5 Collection tended to pogo from one aspect of the lane to the opposite and oftentimes simply disengaged completely, even on comparatively straight roads with clear traces and markers. After a lot fiddling and irritation, we turned it off.
The 2021 540i xDrive begins at $62,745. That’s a $2,300 premium for all-wheel drive, and $5,250 greater than the lesser 530i xDrive. If we had been spending our personal cash, we’d be completely happy to scrimp on a number of choices to get the 540i over the 530i. There’s additionally the 523-horsepower M550i xDrive for $77,795 in addition to the 530e plug-in hybrid that begins at $58,195 or $60,495 with all-wheel drive. We have since examined that model as nicely, however apart from its spectacular gas effectivity, its added weight and complexity dim the driving expertise, and its trunk quantity is severely diminished. The 540i is certainly the higher 5er to spotlight.
Pricing for the comparable Mercedes-Benz E 450 4Matic sedan is principally equal to the 540i, and in step with historical past, the Audi A6 undercuts them each by a number of thousand. After all, only a few of those luxurious sedans are ever bought with none choices, and pricing rises dramatically with only a few clicks of the mouse. An instance like our take a look at automobile, blessed with the M Sport bundle, driving aids and some packages will price round $75,000.
Moreover a number of nitpicks, we actually loved our time within the 2021 540i xDrive. When this sedan is at its finest, it’s the good bridge between the three and seven Collection, combining energy with the best steadiness of agility and luxurious options. If push had been to return to shove, we’d decide an E-Class over the 5er, however we’d utterly perceive if somebody had been to want the extra refined contact of the BMW over Mercedes’ barely extra ostentatious tackle German luxurious.
The 2021 5 Collection will not be what it was once, due to course it isn’t and neither is the rest. What’s is, although, is a grown-up, state-of-the-art and state-of-the-times sedan with all of the bells and whistles. Easy, snug, fast and serene, however only a notch under the prettier E-Class on our luxurious chart.