2018 BMW 540i xDrive: Monthly Update for August 2018
by Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Manager
Where Did We Drive It?
We've had the 2018 BMW 540i xDrive in the Edmunds' long-term fleet for nearly a year. And while its time with us hasn't been completely issue-free, we breezed through August without any additional problems. There was even a nice little bump in our average fuel economy.
Last month, Road Test Engineer Calvin Kim made a 16-hour-plus round-trip drive from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe and was surprised by the range capabilities of this 335-horsepower sport cruiser.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
With a few solid highway-cruising tanks covering nearly 1,600 miles last month, our 540i registered its best monthly fuel economy to date at 27.9 mpg. A few tanks even surpassed the EPA-estimated highway range of 29 mpg, which isn't very common when it comes to turbocharged engines.
This efficiency was significant enough to not only nudge our lifetime average up a couple tenths of an mpg but to put our 540i over the EPA combined estimate. Considering that most staff comments involved "not trying" to be feather-footed, this is a good showing from such a potent inline-six engine.
Average lifetime mpg: 23.5
EPA mpg rating: 23 combined (20 city/29 highway)
Best fill mpg: 32.7
Best range: 488.9 miles
Current odometer: 17,416 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
"Inductive charging is great: no cords, no fuss. And the 540i has one that works well. But the pad is located in such a way to make the phone utterly inaccessible and difficult to remove if you have cups in the cupholders. I ended up using a cable to charge my phone and left it in the center console." — Calvin Kim, road test engineer
"Kudos to BMW for being first to market with wireless Apple CarPlay functionality. However, my latest experience with the CarPlay system in our long-term 540i was less than great. The menu to add your phone for CarPlay isn't obvious and almost required digging into the owner's manual. That may not sound like a big deal, but other systems are much more accessible. The connection takes longer to establish compared to using a USB cable. And there were a couple occasions where I had to reactivate the connection, which involved trying to retrace my steps through the iDrive infotainment menus again.
"My iPhone doesn't have wireless charging capability, so I need to plug it in for power. Therefore, at least in my case, I prefer the wired method of CarPlay where it prompts you to launch CarPlay every time you plug in. It's simple and it works." — Jonathan Elfalan, road test manager
"I chose the 540i for a circuitous road trip to Lake Tahoe with the idea that it would be a quick and comfortable transport. The seat's thigh bolsters initially felt awkward, pushing into my butt and thighs, and I began to regret picking the BMW. But after about two hours in the saddle, I stopped noticing the bolsters and found the seats comfortable and didn't mind them for the rest of the trip. When hustling the 5 Series a bit, these lower bolsters are helpful in preventing you from sliding side to side. But for long-distance cruising, I think most would prefer a little flatter seat cushion." — Calvin Kim
"I dialed in my perfect driving settings today in the 540i. Within Sport mode, iDrive provides something called 'Sport Individual' that lets you mix and match between various calibrations. I went with Comfort for the suspension and steering, which gives me a softer ride and lighter steering effort.
"But I find the powertrain a bit hesitant by default, so I picked Sport for the engine and transmission. Voilà! Now the car is always ready to accelerate, yet it doesn't hold onto gears obnoxiously or anything like that. Meanwhile, the ride remains controlled without thumping me unnecessarily over bumps, and the steering isn't artificially rigid in my hands.
"I usually take a dim view of extensively configurable driving modes —just get it right in the first place, you know? — but in this case, I'm a big fan. It's just one more way in which the 540i feels tailor-made for people who like to drive." — Josh Sadlier, senior manager, content strategy
"I logged more than 475 miles on one tank of gas during my road trip up to Lake Tahoe. I filled up at the lake, then drove all the way back to Los Angeles with more than 80 (indicated) miles to spare. With the 5 Series' excellent overall comfort, it's nice to know you could cover some real ground with its 18-gallon tank. I stopped only once for coffee and a stretch." — Calvin Kim