It is getting much more difficult to find a vehicle that is not well made or well designed as global competition forces manufacturers of every kind to do better or risk being buried by rivals.
But among its peers, BMW, the German maker of luxury vehicles, continues to hold a place of honor thanks to sport coupes and sedans that have built a huge fan base across the automotive world.
The 2021 BMW 540i, a hugely well-equipped sedan with power, technology and spirit that seems to typify BMW’s hold on the automotive cognoscenti. The 540i comes with some of the latest technology available in an automobile now.
It is elegant, sophisticated and an enormous amount of fun to drive. Sitting in the driveway or at curb in front of your house, it is certain to impress neighbors with its quiet aura of perfection or more accurately, near perfection.
Basically, the shape and silhouette of the 2021 BMW 540i carries on the long tradition of designing sedans that never seem to grow old or go out of style. The 540i features a distinctive iteration of the famous BMW grille as well as style LED headlamps are tucked into the up corners with vents in the lower corners.
The exterior design of the 540i features a raked windshield that flows into the roofline, which sweeps back to the car’s rear edge. Character lines down the side accentuate the sheet metal and the car’s overall silhouette when it is parked at the curb.
The exterior appearance also is accentuated by the 18-inch wheels with their unique and detailed design. The side mirrors also fold and are heated for anyone living in a cold climate.
Car makers like to talk about building the car around the driver. But BMW puts the words into practice with a subtle interior design that brings controls, including the iDrive controller, closer to the driver’s hand. It also makes it easier to view the screen in the well-organized center stack.
The center stack screen is thoughtfully integrated into the dashboard and does not overwhelm the driver’s vision. The gauges in the 540i offer the basic information such as speed and tachometer readings and the head-up display with the digital speed readout and speed limit sign are easy to read while keeping on eye on the road.
BMW makes luxury vehicles, but the cabin’s furnishing is relatively simple. However, the quality of the materials used throughout the interior from the wood finishes to the leather surfaces as well as the bright finishes that define elements of the interior and the headliner are all first rate.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is very good as the rake of the windshield helps open lines of sight. The seats are comfortable and easy to adjust, and nighttime lighting scheme used inside the cabin is helpful and easy on the eyes.
The BMW 540i powertrain is built around a 3.0-liter, inline 6-cylinder engine and an 8-speed automatic sport transmission that can moved to manual mode where the driver can change gears, using paddle shifters situated behind the steering wheel and can run through all of transmission’s eight gears.
The 3.0-liter engine, which delivers 335 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque, also gets a boost from the 48-volt battery that controls that car’s stop-start system that is standard with the 540i.
With the mild hybrid, fuel economy is 26 miles per gallon combined, including 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. The car I drove also was equipped with BMW’s xDrive or intelligent four-wheel-drive system that comes on automatically when the road surface demands it.
Safety and Technology
The BMW 540i xDrive is equipped with dual-stage airbags for driver- and front-seat passenger for protection in frontal- or side-impact collisions. It also equipped with a long list of technology including voice recognition, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It features a slew of connected services, including cloud-based map data that can be brought up on the center stack screen with the Drive controller. There are also rain-sensing windshield wipers and automatic high beams. The 540i is also equipped with frontal collision warning, blind-spot detection and lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance. It also has two USB ports for charging phones or laptops.
BMW has always been proud of the driving dynamics of the vehicles they build. As one of the key elements in the company’s product line, the 540i is something of a showcase for the German automaker’s skillful engineering.
The ride and handling are first rate whether traveling through sweeping curves and hills or varied pavement. The suspension and brakes are also first rate and the overall handling benefits from the car’s long, 117-inch wheelbase and the xDrive also quickly comes into play on slick roads.
The power comes from the aforementioned inline 6 — and it comes on effortlessly while the powertrain seem to move effortlessly through the eight gears. The manual transmission reached through the paddle shifters gives the car a different personality and feel when you put them to use.
This 540i xDrive is a very impressive piece of automotive engineering and clearly with the right tweaks and tuning, could easily hold its own on a track. While it is not designed for off-road travel, it does seem to have the kind of durable character that could stand up to long commutes every day.
But the most attractive part of the 540i is it is just a lot of fun to out on open highways and back roads away from the city. But it is not the most versatile car on the road. For one thing, none of your friends or anyone in your family will ever want to ride in the back seat.