BMW 5 Series 540i xDrive M Sport 5dr Auto [Plus pack]
Everything we told you about the 5 Series saloon applies to the estate. If the driving experience is compromised for the fifth door, it's not by an amount you'd spot.
The 520d engine is expected to take well over half of UK sales, and it's easy to see why. The acceleration from rest is quick for a base model – 0-62 in 7.6 seconds thanks to 187bhp. On the road it rarely feels strained and is very quiet for a four-cyl diesel. The eight-speed auto is brilliantly calibrated for smoothness and well-chosen shifts.
The 530d with its 282bhp and 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds is properly quick, as well as refined. Although if you enjoy this much performance, you might want a zingier engine sound. Just a thought…
It might not be a V8 like the old E34 540i, but the 328bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six in the current 540i might be the best engine of the modern bunch. With all-wheel xDrive it’ll hit 62mph from a standstill in 5.2 seconds, and is crisp, responsive and purrs along nicely.
The 530e also makes rapid and smooth progress, with the electric motor filling in any torque gaps nicely and the four-cylinder remaining quiet and composed when called upon. Cleverly, BMW has fitted the electric motor upstream from the transmission – in real-world terms, that means you’ll feel gearchanges even in electric mode – so that there’s no need to fit a torque converter. Net result? They’ve saved weight, a critical element in these porky plug-in hybrids. You’ll easily get 28 miles of real-world EV range too.
The old 5 Series always felt well-balanced, but it also felt heavy and had a viscosity to its reactions. Like the big car it was. The new one is more lithe, and more willing to change direction. But it's relaxed too when you want it to be.
Even in two-wheel-drive form it has a secure and solid grip of things. Accurate, well-weighted steering makes it easy to be smooth in your inputs. The RWD versions have slightly crisper steering versus the xDrive.
Precision is backed up by a surprising transparency and feel as you load the 5 Series into a corner. This is what elevates the driving experience from the otherwise very competitive Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
But if it can be steered like a small car, it still has the physical bulk of a big one. In town and down country lanes, the breadth of its beam needs watching.
If the car has the adaptive damping option, there's no need to switch between sporty and soft settings for the chassis and powertrain. A catch-all 'Adaptive' setting that does it for you, taking data not just from your driving inputs or the road underneath, but the navigation system's reading of the road ahead. It works a treat.
Given how far the dynamic dial has been turned up, the 5 Series' ride and refinement are borderline brilliant. The ride is fluent and supple, and wind noise is as quiet as anything in the class. This thing just whispers along at Autobahn speeds.
The optional driver-aid package includes lane-keeping with adaptive cruise, set up so the car will all but drive itself for longish periods. But don't let your attention wander because it can unexpectedly lose its lane. Same with the low-speed traffic following function. They are driver assistants not driver replacements. Its cruise control has a function that with a single nudge from you re-sets the speed to match road signs. Handy when average-speed cameras are proliferating.
LED headlamps are standard fit, as is park distance control.
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