2018 BMW 540i xDrive: Monthly Update for January 2018
by Cameron Rogers, Staff Writer
Where Did We Drive It?
January was another busy month for our 2018 BMW 540i. It stuck around town for most of the month, racking up the majority of its 2,079 miles in the early part of the month. I added 800 more miles at the end of January, driving from my home east of downtown L.A. to Cupertino in Northern California, and was surprised by the 540i's excellent fuel economy throughout the trip.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
The 540i managed an impressive 25.6 mpg over the 2,079 miles. That's the best monthly average to date, raising the lifetime average from 22.2 to 23.1 mpg, or a tick over its EPA combined rating. We didn't set a new fill record (that was done by Senior Editor Brent Romans in December), but the two fills from my road trip weren't far off.
Average lifetime mpg: 23.1
EPA mpg rating: 23 combined (20 city/29 highway)
Best fill mpg: 32.3
Best range: 480.5 miles
Current odometer: 7,139 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
"I've seen it written that the 5 Series has lost its luster as a driver's car. 'Too insulated,' they'll tell you. 'Not enough road feel.' Or something. Well, I'm here to tell you to pay them no mind, whoever 'they' are, because this new 540i is a towering automotive achievement. For one thing, it's impossibly quiet and refined. The ride isn't cloudlike; it is a cloud. But a taut cloud. You're floating noiselessly above the road, yet there's still a reassuring sense of control. And the engine — you hear it but you don't feel it. It is virtually vibration-free. What you do feel is the immense, shove-you-back torque when you dip into the throttle. Look, I don't appreciate the M badge on the doorsill because it reminds me of how diluted BMW's once-vaunted performance brand has become. I'm still the guy who wrote this little screed about that. But as a mainstream luxury sport sedan, the latest 540i is a 100. If there's a better all-around sedan for the money, I haven't driven it." — Josh Sadlier, senior manager, content strategy
"This turbo six-cylinder is a real beauty. It has excellent power delivery and a pleasingly high redline, and it sounds good, too. And when you're at a stop, it's so quiet and smooth that you might think it's off." — Carlos Lago, senior writer
"No surprise here, but most adults should be comfortable in the back of the 5 Series. There's plenty of legroom and a suitable amount of headroom. I would have perhaps expected a little more cushion contouring for support, but on the upside, the flatness will help out with child seat installation." — Brent Romans, senior editor
"Our 540i's cabin looks and feels premium, and the controls have a solid heft to them. It's what you'd expect from a 5 Series. I'm not particularly fond of the metallic interior trim — it has an odd geometric pattern that seems like something you might find on a Japanese car — but that would be easily solved by selecting one of the more traditional wood trims." — Brent Romans
"Our 540i has a pretty digital gauge cluster that switches motifs depending on the drive setting. Problem is, you only get a digital speedometer when you're in one of the various sport modes. Actually this isn't really a problem because I'm always in the Sport Individual setting, but I wish I could have a digital speedometer at all times. Yes, I know there's a head-up display with a digital speedometer, but it disappears when you're wearing polarized sunglasses." — Carlos Lago
"Our BMW 540i has both the Driving Assistance and Driving Assistance Plus packages. That means it has the 5 Series' full arsenal of advanced driving aids. Interesting to me is that there are effectively two types of lane departure and lane keeping systems. You essentially get regular lane departure warning and lane keeping with the Driving Assistance package and then the more advanced Active Lane Keeping and Traffic Jam Assistant with the Driving Assistance Plus package. The former is on all the time, unless you purposely turn it off, while the latter is activated by pushing a button on the steering wheel.
"This BMW video has a good overview of the Active Lane Keeping system. It's basically a more attentive lane keeping system that you can use in conjunction with the adaptive cruise control (which is included with the Plus package). It's not meant to be a fully autonomous system, but it can be useful in certain situations. In particular, I've used it on long-distance highway drives and in congested, slow-moving highway traffic when I needed to momentarily reduce my driver attention.
"Examples were when I wanted to adjust the driver's seat (or stretch a bit in the seat) or find something in the cabin that required me taking my eyes off the road. With the system engaged, the 5 Series can automatically steer enough to handle gentle curves on the roadway. But relying on it for anything more than brief help is not a good idea. The system depends on having clearly identifiable lane markings. Anytime they become less than ideal, the system becomes inactive. Overall, I found it worked as BMW says it does, but its true usefulness seems pretty limited, at least for my typical driving." — Brent Romans
"I spent a few hours commuting on the freeway in rush hour this week and relied heavily on the adaptive cruise and lane keeping/steering assistance systems. The way these features reduce your workload while driving really makes rush hour tolerable. You don't have to spend as much energy carefully watching the car ahead; you can just sit back and enjoy your music or podcast. Still, I had two instances where the lane keeping/steering assistance system wanted to move the 540i out of the lane. If I recall right, it happened as the car ahead moved out of the carpool lane. In both instances, the steering pulled to the right and I had to correct it to stay in the lane. It wasn't an emergency maneuver, but a good reminder to keep two hands on the wheel at all times." — Carlos Lago
"I hadn't driven the 540i much since it arrived in our long-term fleet, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was available on the eve of my trip to Cupertino for a friend's wedding. I promptly signed up for it, confident that the large luxury sedan would make the journey through hundreds of miles of farmland bearable.
"No surprises then that the 5 Series did exactly that. The ride was serene, the seats highly adjustable and comfortable, and the trunk large enough to swallow two large suitcases. What I didn't expect was how fuel-efficient it was. Our 540i xDrive is rated at 29 mpg highway and I nearly matched it (28.5 mpg) on the trip north. It's worth noting that the 28.5 mpg included about 30 miles driving in Cupertino traffic and normal speeds on side streets. Without the city driving (but including 38 miles in traffic on my way back to the office), the 540i averaged 29 mpg even on the return trip. Total trip fuel economy was 28.7 mpg. This is astonishing given the 5 Series' 4,000-pound curb weight and 335-horsepower inline six-cylinder." — Cameron Rogers, staff writer