2017 BMW 540i Is Faster and Smarter Than Ever – The Drive
Even this 540i raised a conundrum of modern luxury cars: Once you get used to some optional feature, it’s no longer a an expensive trifle, but something you can’t live without. Just about any enthusiast will defend the $3,200 Dynamic Handling Package, along with the $2,600 M Sport Package, because they deliver concrete performance gains. Dynamic Handling features include adjustable adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars; the latter now fully electric rather than part-hydraulic, which trims some weight and eliminates hydraulic fluid for more enviro-friendliness.
The M Sport group further tightens the performance screws with stiffer springs and dampers; 19-inch M double-spoke wheels with all-season or summer tires, both run-flats; a body lowered by 10 mm, including for the first time on xDrive versions; an aero body kit and dark exterior trim; an M steering wheel and more choices in interior trim. But it doesn’t include M Performance brakes with larger rotors and painted calipers, so that’s another $600. Motorized soft-closing doors added another $600, then $575 for a power rear sunshade, $650 for ceramic-coated interior controls and $500 for a power trunklid that one might argue should be standard fare. Buyers can also add 20-inch V-spoke wheels for $950, which aren’t available on the four-cylinder 530i models. Those wheels do look bodacious, but I wouldn’t mess with the 540i’s gracious ride quality on 19’s.
Adopted from the 7-Series, the $190 Gesture Control is a relative pittance, especially for something magical-seeming, that charms every passenger who encounters it. Twirl a finger in the air, and audio volume rises or falls according to your clockwise or counter-clockwise move. Point at the screen to accept an incoming call, or wave it away to send it to voice mail. It’s yet another BMW innovation that some people initially scoff at, but within a few model years, becomes standard-issue for every luxury rival.
A remote-control Bimmer for grown-ups.
The $750 Remote Control Parking does seem a parlor trick for now, but again it presages a brave new world of self-driving cars. It allowed me to, in the words of a BMW rep, “take your BMW for a walk,” using the nifty Display Key fob and its LCD screen display to remotely guide the BMW forward or back from outside the car. The idea is to let your car squeeze into parking spaces or garages that are too tight to let you open the doors. Its sensors make sure you won’t bash into your kids’ bicycles, a brick wall or even the Rolls-Royce Ghost that I used as a $400,000 guinea pig. Sorry, Rolls, but not a scratch.