by Brent Romans, Senior Editor
Where Did We Drive It?
Our crack Edmunds team logged close to 2,000 miles in our 2018 BMW 540i in December. In addition to our normal commuting, I used the 540i for a Christmas family road trip, plus a blitz up to Northern California to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi with a friend (had I known how the film turned out, I needn’t have bothered).
We’ve got great comments this month on everything from the 540i’s technology to its trunk space.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Abundant highway miles boosted our fuel economy in December when we averaged about 25 mpg. I did a 285-mile round-trip drive that was all highway, and even with speeds averaging 70-plus mph, our 540i posted an impressive 32.3 mpg, which is better than the EPA’s highway estimate and our best tank yet.
I suspect this will be a high point for our car for a while unless someone specifically attempts a run for great fuel economy. Otherwise, our staff seems to enjoy dipping into the turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder’s seductive power too much.
Average lifetime mpg: 22.2
EPA mpg rating: 23 combined (20 city/29 highway)
Best fill mpg: 32.3
Best range: 480 miles
Current odometer: 5,061 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
“I’ve been driving our 540i for a couple weeks straight and just realized that I had never taken its turbocharged inline-six engine past 5,000 rpm or so. Engine redline is 7,000 rpm! There’s so much midrange torque that there’s no practical reason to wring it out in every gear. It’s not like the old days of naturally aspirated [non-turbo] BMW inline-sixes. Those motors begged you to drive like the redline indicator was a ‘Shift here!’ indicator. This one’s more of an ‘Ehh, shift whenever you want’ engine.” — Brent Romans, senior editor
“I had the chance to drive our 5 Series on a track and was actually quite impressed. Sure, the steering is completely artificial but the chassis feels great. It feels light and lively, and pitch and roll are dialed in very nicely. The body doesn’t stay perfectly flat, but it’s better for it thanks to the precision of those movements. It’s especially nice to have so that the car can communicate with you since the steering can’t tell you anything.” — Will Kaufman, associate writer
“Our 540i is like a bullet train on the highway. It’s so stable that you’ll find yourself zipping along at 100 mph, thinking you’re going 70. Cruise control is necessary to keep your speed in check.” — Brent Romans
“Our long-term 540i has the M Sport Design package. This includes, among other features, sport front seats. These seats have thicker bolstering than the regular seats to provide more lateral support. I like them quite a bit and find that they provide both comfort for long-distance drives and support for enthusiastic cornering. But while I fit fine, I’m also 5 feet 10 inches and 150 pounds. The extra bolstering could be annoying for a larger driver. I recently sat in a new 5 Series that had the standard seats and there’s definitely a difference.” — Brent Romans
“After my first night in the 540i, here are the things that stuck out to me the most:
1. The seats feel great. Had about a 1-hour-45-minute drive home and never got sore. That’s unusual.
2. The interior design is a mixed bag. I’m not a fan of piano black trim, so all that shiny black trim on the center console is a turnoff. Not a fan of the gauge cluster either. Just too much going on there.
3. The chassis and suspension are fantastic. No complaints.
4. It has Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto? That’s very odd.” — Carlos Lago, senior writer
“The sun visors aren’t extendable. Really? How much does this car cost? And it has side and rear sunshades for the rear passengers. But the driver? Granted, it’s only about 1 inch of missing coverage, but it’s still a curious design choice.” — Will Kaufman
“The default music interface in our 540i (not Apple CarPlay) has been oddly buggy when playing music from my iPhone 7. It’s slow to access and play music and will occasionally reset. In the past, I’ve been impressed with iDrive’s music interface but the latest version, at least with my phone, has been disappointing.” — Brent Romans
“Something strange happened when I turned on the 540i last night before heading to the gym: The infotainment touchscreen screen didn’t turn on. It just showed black nothingness. Making inputs on the iDrive controller didn’t do anything, but oddly the touchscreen still responded when I tapped it by playing the chime it normally does. The radio was playing and I could adjust it through the steering wheel controls, but the screen remained black.
“Restarting the car (while staying in it) didn’t do anything, so I simply drove off. Fortunately, I didn’t have a long drive ahead of me. After returning to the car from the gym, the screen operated normally. Strange glitch.” — Carlos Lago
“Props to the camera and screen technology in the 540. This tech still works to differentiate luxury cars from the pretenders. The BMW’s system is crisp and clear, and has a good contrast and excellent dynamic range to show you where you are and where the risks are located.” — Kurt Niebuhr, photo editor
“I like the head-up display in our 540i. It displays all the info I’d want, such as speed, navigation routes, audio, cruise control and driver assist information. The color graphic design makes it easy to read, too. You can get it as a stand-alone option ($1,100), but the better way is to just order it as part of the Driver Assist package ($1,700), which also gets you blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning.” — Brent Romans
“There aren’t any USB charger ports for the rear passengers in our 540i. That’s disappointing. There are two power ports back there, so a work-around is easy enough. But rear-seat USB ports are increasingly common, so it’s odd that a recently redesigned midsize luxury sedan, and one packed with technology at that, doesn’t have them.” — Brent Romans
“I’ve loaded up our 540i’s trunk a couple times now for road-trip duty. It’s reasonably sized and should be good for a few suitcases plus some extra duffel bags and the like. The cargo area is fairly long, but the width narrows about halfway in. Depth is a little shallow, too.” — Brent Romans
“I wish there was a better place to put my phone inside our 540i. There’s no true front cubby, so the next best option is putting it in one of the front cupholders. That’s fine until you’ve got two water bottles. I’ve found that I have to wedge it between the water bottles and the front center stack, which isn’t ideal.” — Brent Romans
“Our new 5 Series makes a very good first impression. It rides quietly and comfortably over the broken roads I drive every day, while the engine feels powerful and responsive. The transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, and most of the interior relays the sense of luxury you’d expect from a vehicle of this nature. Overall, I’m really impressed with this car.” — Kelly Hellwig, manager, content production