Sharper, exterior styling is the big takeaway with the 2021 5 Series BMW line, as the German carmaker looks to distinguish itself in this mid-level luxury category from the likes of the Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-class. There are several tech upgrades of note as well. In our case, we’re talking the BMW 540i xDrive Sedan, which we test drove.
Still, how do you truly separate the 5 Series from its German brethren? It’s not a muscle drive, like the hard and fast Porsche 911 we drove a few weeks before. Obviously a different price bracket. Or a muscle drive like the lower priced Chevy Camaro. Those are both bulldogs.
A luxury car that has your back
“Smooth” was a word that kept coming to mind as we drove the 540i, especially on the highways. Precise, sleek, but still powerful, accelerating and decelerating along Toronto’s Highway 401, sharp lane changes, in and out of traffic. The BMW is more like a Doberman, to keep using the dog analogy. High-level engineering, with an additional layer of driver comfort and safety. The car has your back.
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Where are we at with pricing, off the top? The MSRP for the 2021 BMW 540i xDrive Sedan in Canada is $72,950. Options on our test vehicle included the Tanzanite Blue Metallic Paint ($1,450), Premium Enhanced Package ($5,950), M Performance Package ($2,000), Comfort and Ventilated Seats ($1,500), and Advanced Driver Assistance Package ($2,000).
First impressions when we walked up to it was the handsome new styling, with a cleaner surface design. The new Kidney Grille design and re-sculpted headlamps really stand out. The grill is taller and wider, and reaches down further into the front bumper cover than past versions. The sedan is also longer, by 30 mm. That lends itself to a more sleek profile. There are also aerodynamic benefits inherent in the car’s new exterior lines.
One of the other new features, that ties into driver safety and convenience, is the interior design and equipment. The sedan’s interior is marked by a 12.3 inch digital instrument display, up from the previous 10.25 inches. Standard Navigation, Apple CarPlay Compatibility and Android Auto Compatibility are included. The buttons on the centre console are now finished in a high-gloss black.
And while we are talking interior, Dakota leather is standard in all the 5 Series cars. If you really want to up your game, Nappa Leather is an option, as well as BMW Individual Merino Leather. I can’t say enough about the cabin. It really is a relaxing, spacious place to get from Point A to B. I even went for the blue interior ambient lighting as I pulled into the dark, underground parking area of my Toronto condo. The lighting stretches around the doors and across the dash, below the screen. That just further lent itself to the cool mood.
On the road, as said, it was all hands on deck, as it always it is when I drive a BMW model. A new, mild hybrid system with a 48V starter-generator offers the driver enhanced performance. You also get better fuel economy and improved driving comfort in the 335 HP, six-cylinder BMW 540i (332 ft-lbs. of torque). That translates to zero to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds, top speed of 210 km/h. When the driver releases the accelerator, the generator transforms the kinetic energy into electricity to be stored in the 48V battery.
In fact, one important thing to keep in mind with hybrid system driving is energy boost. When the car is accelerating, the 48V starter-generator is able to offer the driver an electric boost effect that can instantly put an extra 11 hp on tap for more dynamic power delivery. The result is a sharper response off the line and quicker bursts of speed when accelerating.
A car that’s an investment piece
There just isn’t anything to go at, from a critical point of view. I stare at my father’s 2019 BMW 5 Series M550i all the time, parked in his driveway. Overall, stellar reliability, intuitive, state-of-the-art infotainment system. Plush, comfortable seating. Spacious trunk, posh, quiet interior. Exemplary music sound system. New, electrified powertrains.
Okay, maybe the price then? You could shave a few thousand off by going another route, maybe. The 2021 Genesis G80, another direct competitor, is priced at $66,000. (We wrote about the larger, Genesis G90 here.) But ask yourself, what you are paying for with cars at this level?
They are an investment, truly.