SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months

Test Drive column: 2021 BMW 540i xDrive

Greg Zyla
More Content Now
2021 BMW 540i xDrive

Entry price: $61,750

Price as tested: $77,935

This week, we’re driving the BMW 540i xDrive sedan, the company’s 2021 version of one of the most popular BMW sedans ever built. Introduced in 1972, the 5-Series was then the darling of the college crowd and through the years evolved through seven generations to its lofty position today as one of the world’s top luxury performance sedans.

Being that I had personally owned a 1999 BMW 540i that was in the family since brand new, (recently sold) I can speak from an extra bit of BMW experience about all these incredible models right on through this 2021 example of automotive brilliance.

Our tester arrived with xDrive mechanicals, meaning it featured all-wheel-drive (AWD) underpinnings. And, being that this scribe lives in the volatile weather northeast, where we’ve already endured a 38-inch snowfall, any sedan delivered with AWD is most appreciated.

These modern day 2021 540i sedans, be it rear drive or AWD, feature many amenity upgrades over and above features from just five years ago let alone back into the 1970s. Back then, roll up windows were prevalent, door locks were mostly manual and an airbag was someone who talked too much.

One thing that stays constant, however, is BMW’s powerful four-door sports car legacy, which in my opinion outweighs even its respected luxury DNA. Although still a very capable version of the 540i series in both performance and opulence, the new motif finds BMW sharing some 7-Series platform enhancements to perhaps better adapt to the aging baby boomer consumer without hurting its dedicated millennial generation customer. All of these combined sales come thanks to the 5-Series dazzling ride and power, regardless of age demographic.

As noted, our tester arrived in AWD dress powered by the TwinPower Turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 cylinder. Notable again is that Twin Power Turbo does not mean two turbos, as the 540i turbo relies on a bit of electrical assistance to completely dampen out any low speed turbo lag and enhance sport mode performance.

Built in Dingolfing, Germany, the 2021 540i is now in its seventh generation and its inline-6 engine is peppier than ever. Specifically, the 335-horse, 332 lb. ft. of torque engine delivers an extra burst of low end power that results in zero to 60 times in an amazing 4.6 seconds. This is the exact same engine that powered our 2020 X7-series convertible we tested back in November and is worthy of extra praise. Included in the engine specs is an 11-hp “mild hybrid” 48-volt electric motor that assists along the way. (Your dealer will explain).

Perhaps the biggest change over the years has been 540i’s mass. The wheelbase now is 5.7 inches longer than the early generation 540i models (like my 1999) with some additional 300 pounds to move along. Considering the performance advantage the turbo inline-6 offers, I’d say BMW did a great job in both the acceleration and MPG categories and then ups the ante by delivering more spacious interior dimensions. The outstanding fuel mileage comes in at 23 city and 31 highway EPA estimates for the 2021 models.

And what about the M550i xDrive with the BMW V8 you might ask?

The answer is zero to 60 in 3.6 seconds from a 523-horsepower design that starts at $76,800, or, the ultimate 600-horsepower M5 with a starting price of $101,000 and zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds. These are the ultimate 5-series BMWs, and nothing to scoff at.

As for the biggest 540i drawback, it’s clearly the BMW extra cost options. From a base price of $61,750, our BMW xDrive came in at a final retail of $77,935 which means along the way this particular 540i tacked on over $16,000 in optional equipment. To me, that’s an incredible amount and worthy of some extra explanation.

Some options are worthy while others are questionable. Included are the $3,300 M Sport package with variable sport steering; a Driving Assistance package for $1,700; a Dynamic Handling package for $3,200; Mocha Napa Leather is $2,500; Luxury Seating is $1,000; a Premium Package is $1,850; and a Parking Assist Package costs an additional $800; I do like the M Sport brakes with red calipers for $650 and heated steering wheel for $190, but you would think that when you pay $3,300 for the M Sport package, that $650 for the M Sport brakes would be included.

Granted, our BMW 540i did come with some impressive standard features. Included are 19-inch Pirelli tires on special M-Sport wheels, dual power moonroof, Apple and Android compatibility, a “live Cockpit Pro” amenity suite with navigation, high-end stereo and a full year of SiriusXM.

Mechanically, all 540i models come with driving dynamics control with three modes of economy, comfort and sport; paddle shifters; all expected modern safety and airbags; dynamic stability and traction controls; and much more.

Option pricing aside, let’s talk driving. On the road, this 540i is terrific on any road thanks to the Pirelli tires that glue the high-end sport suspension traction attributes to the road. As per German built cars, BMW’s steering wheel gives great feedback and the car adheres well in every category to its 540i performance/luxury dogma. The interior, meanwhile, is one of the overall high points excelling in quality build, quiet surroundings and comfort.

When you push the new 540i in a tighter corner, the results are impressive and when you need to stop quickly, the $650 extra brake upgrade is one of the best in the business. Safety, too, is a BMW high priority, and your area dealer is waiting to explain everything from forward collision warning to smart cruise to other driver awareness controls that the modern BMW’s feature as standard fare.

In summary, when you put all of this together, even with the expensive options, you end up with a pretty nice if not outstanding $77,935 BMW 540i with $995 delivery included.

However, knowing $77K isn’t cheap by any means, remember that the BMW 5-Series starts with the 530i four-cylinder starting at $54,200 in rear drive trim and $56,500 for the xDrive AWD.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 117.1-inches, 4,159 lb. curb weight, 18-gallon fuel tank, 39.5 ft. turning circle and 18.7 cu. ft. of cargo space.

In summary, this 2021 540i is another outstanding example of BMW’s leadership in motor car building. It is a world class car that will please drivers and passengers from all age groups.

Likes: Turbo power, outstanding build, looks.

Dislikes: Options very expensive, need a fat wallet, not much else.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.

2021 BMW 540i xDrive