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The BMW 540i xDrive has become superfluous

The BMW 540i xDrive is a mild hybrid sedan with a lot of power, but it can't keep up dynamically with the all-electric i5.

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BMW’s Ultimate Driving Event is happening now, and it includes some laps in a BMW 540i (always fun to surprise the instructors with some speed). For the full 5 Series review of the nearly identical i5, including features and utility, click here.

I’m not really sure how BMW selects the hero car for UDE each year. No doubt, being the latest and greatest helps. A little M DNA wouldn’t be so bad. A B58 under hood is always a delicious discovery. But even BMW’s bigger cars like the 5 Series keep composure under the stress of autocross.

Each year, the course seems tighter, and the cars become larger and more powerful – that applies to regular BMWs too. This 540i is by no means an M5, nor an M Performance model, yet it still has nearly 400 lb-ft of torque. And what happens when you add power without control?

I’m afraid we’re about to find out.

BMW 540i

2025 BMW 540i xDrive Quick Take

Get one:

B58 boom. Maintains the 5 Series grace. Comfy.

Don’t get one:

Handling at the limit is worse with a motor in the front. Doesn’t like to be pushed.

Soul Score: 6

You might as well go ahead and grab an i5 if you don’t plan on leaving it in Sport mode.

The 2025 BMW 540i xDrive Overview

BMW 540i

Prepare yourself for the apocalypse of choice. You want ICE? Hybrid? Electric? How you arm your 5 Series is up to you, but that comes with a penalty. There is no “the” 5 Series.

The 5er has always offered multiple powertrains, but no one was complaining about a four, six or V-8 as options. Now, this G60 has strict ICE in the four-cylinder 530i, strict electric in the i5 range, or this thing: the 540i xDrive with a B58 and a 48-volt mild-hybrid setup.

BMW i5
Does the i5 make more sense?

But engineering doesn’t work like that – though the chassis is set up to accept many different variations of POWA, I can tell you that within 30 seconds of driving the 540i, ICE wasn’t their priority.

Performance score: 6. Falling all over you

BMW 540i

Let’s throw numbers at you right away. 4,370, 3,814 and 53/47.

The first number is the 2025 BMW 540i’s curb weight. The second – a 2015 BMW F10 535i’s weight (556 pounds less), and the last is the G60 540i’s weight distribution. BMW’s have always been famous for their 50/50 balance, and the i5 has it. Not this one though.

Engine

BMW 540i
Meet squat and dive like never before.

If the 540i has a sporting bone in its body, it’s under hood. Place it in Sport mode, and bring that wonderful B58 to life with a sonorous (if subdued) roar. 375 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque are big boy numbers, even more than the M-tuned versions in lesser models.

You feel it right away, with a gigantic whack off the line. Launch control it and your neck will be sore as the car snaps you into the next ZIP code. That’s because peak torque comes on from 1,800 – 5,000 RPM – quite the broad band. Despite the power being available at the top of the rev range, there’s no sudden rush to redline.

BMW 540i
The 5 will kick your ass at launch, no denying 395 lb-ft of torque.

It’s hard to deny the motor’s sporty intentions, but after a few minutes you realize this 5 doesn’t really want to be rushed, and at that point the engine is sort of put away. We’re going to work, and we’ll get there when we get there.

Maybe, maybe, the sound will matter to you, but it’s heavy on the artificial sweetener with Active Sound and must be in Sport mode to awaken the ancient one.

Transmission

BMW 540i
The shifter is identical in either version.

The ZF is back as always, offering crisp upshifts and eager downshifts. It’s willing and able on the autocross track, and pulling the (once again tiny) paddles comes with a fast jump up the tach.

On the street, the car is perfectly capable to loaf around and act civilized. But I must say that no matter how smooth this powertrain is, it’s no where near as silent and invisible as in the i5, especially with that damn auto stop engaged. This isn’t an M5, so for 99% of people that buy a typical 5 Series…

Wait, I get ahead of myself.

Steering and Chassis

BMW 540i
Leaning…

What happened? We were doing so well. The steering wheel is oh-so-dead on arrival. I can describe the sensation as akin to experiencing a really bad kisser. Just feels gross.

Stop, you’re not doing it right. Isn’t this supposed to be fun?! Why is it making a mess of everything?

I thought we were beyond this, BMW. Engaging in dog fighting with this car only makes it more noticeable because there’s no weight to the wheel. But hey, at least it’s easy to park.

BMW 540i
Every car leans into a turn, but the 540i does it more.

And the chassis, lots to sort through. First, despite being on summer tires, the 540i is a floaty drive at anything above 7/10s. There’s no M Sport Suspension option, nothing to keep that 4,370 pounds under control. And it’s heavy. An F10 feels like a go kart compared to this G60, and at over 500 pounds less, it damn near is.

Weight distribution is one of those stats that other car reviews will point to and say “Look!, It’s not even!”, but I will tell you that having 1% more mass over the front wheels isn’t something you’ll notice – maybe ever.

BMW 540i
No M Sport Suspension option is available.

But you notice it here. Leaning waaaaay over, this thing is ready to understeer into oblivion at a moment’s notice. The rear never feels planted either. This is still a BMW 5 Series, but both its predecessors were much more capable.

For what a 5 Series is meant to do, this is inconsequential, but they are going to make an M5 out of this thing, and boy does M need to get overtime monies.

Brakes

BMW 540i
Get the biggest you can.

At least M Sport brakes are still here. You’re not going to induce fade on the autocross track unless you’re a real noob; braking zones aren’t long enough. The pedal is a little soft, so you quickly learn to dig into those discs big time. You know all those sports cars I drive with gigantic 15-inch brakes? The 540i actually needs them.

So what are we left with? A luxury sedan that’s very comfortable on normal roads, and out of place on a track. Whether or not other 5 Series could better handle the fun stuff isn’t so much the question. Instead – it’s this: why do you need an engine like this if you’re never encouraged to use it?

Fuel Economy: 7. Yea, but…

BMW 540i
The electric version makes more sense, if it’s convenient for you.

28 combined, and up to 33 MPG on the highway. That’s really good for a car with this much power and heft.

And yet, you can get a BMW i5 M60 with 593 horsepower, 240 miles of range, and a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds that never needs fuel. Of course you still need to plug it in and that’s not free, despite what everyone is saying. But you’re not spending $60 bucks a week on a tank of premium. Given the 5 Series mission, isn’t silent and stately better than what the B58 alone offers?

On the flip side, if an electric car isn’t convenient for you (it isn’t for me), and you like the 5 Series, absolutely make the jump to the six-cylinder. That four just isn’t worth it in fuel savings or drive experience.

Features and Comfort: 6. Grumpy Mike is still here

540i interior
M Sport cars get a unique steering wheel.

Let’s give the 540i one point more than the i5, because these were equipped with the M Sport Package. That means no unpainted bits, no cheap matte silver trim. For $3,000, it’s an easy choice. Paint it Vegas Red (a new BMW color), and I must say it looks pretty good.

540i interior
Red leather helps to dress up the dour interior.

Inside we have Burgundy Red Veganza leather, and a color other than black helps to dress up a rather cheap-looking interior. The M Sport steering wheel is more sporting than the odd two-spoke i wheel, and glass controls help a car that’s in desperate need of some love.

The sins from the i5 remain, namely the fact that this $70,000 car feels more like $45k inside.

The BMW 540i xDrive is what happens when you compromise

BMW 540i xDrive

I must confess, I thought I’d like this car more than I did. BMW’s B58 is a hell of an engine. And taken at face value, it’s faster than the i5 eDrive40. The engine (in Sport mode) is satisfying and entertaining, but also quiet and reserved in more relaxed driving. In other words, a BMW.

But elsewhere…I understand that this car might be 30 years removed from an E34, a car that weighed about 3,500 pounds. This G60 is the Starship Enterprise by comparison, with technology inside that was truly inconceivable in 1994. But why does BMW assume that well-equipped luxury sedans and dignified handling are mutually exclusive? Can’t I have a little fun on the commute home?

Can’t I have any at all?

BMW 540i

BMW has had to play jigsaw puzzle with all the chassis and powertrain configurations, but it’s obvious that the battery-powered versions were the priority here. The result is a car that’s a compromise in any form. Take a spin in a Porsche Taycan – that’s what the i5 should have been. It’s comfortable, smooth, reserved, but also fast, capable, and balanced.

So I was wrong – it’s okay to let gas engines go for the basic 5er. Doesn’t need them, and it’s not really meant for them. An M3, M340i – those are different stories. And yea, the M550i was a sweet machine too – I lament the loss of the V-8. Asking me to pick an electric M60 over an M550 would result in a temper tantrum of the highest degree from yours truly.

For the masses, I’d say the 5 Series is a fine car. But for us, a daily need not be so unwilling.

BMW 540i

2025 BMW 540i xDrive Specifications

Vehicle Type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, five-passenger, four-door sedan.

PRICE

Base: $64,900

POWERTRAIN

3.0 liter turbocharged inline-six
375 horsepower @ 5,200 RPM
398 lb-ft @ 1,850 RPM

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 117.9 in
Length: 199.2 in
Width: 74.8 in
Height: 59.6 in
Curb Weight: 4,370 lbs

FUEL ECONOMY

Combined / City / Highway: 28 / 26 / 33

Want MWS to review your car?

If you live in the tri-state area and want me to check it out, send me an email! 

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