The BMW 540i M Sport boasts plenty of smart gadgets and the latest BMW technology

It may have not been launched that long ago but already the new BMW 5-Series has a nickname — the baby 7-Series. Having test-driven two models within the top-of-the-range 7-Series, I can see the similarities.

This new 5-Series is filled to the brim with smart gadgets and the latest BMW technology. It just comes in a smaller shape than its larger and pricier cousin. The 5-Series was already a class act and is BMW’s second- best-selling car worldwide. It is also massively popular in Singapore and you are unlikely to take a drive anywhere on the island without seeing one. So, the pressure was definitely on BMW to please its 5-Series customers with some changes they would appreciate while attracting a new breed of driver along the way.

I was test driving the 540i M Sport. As with any makeover, most people expect a radically different car and are disappointed when they struggle to spot any differences, particularly with the body shape.

On first impressions, the 540i does look the same as the old 5-Series in many ways. But once you start to look closely, you can see bits of the 7-Series (particularly the front of the car) and even the 3-Series jump out at you. It has the classic long bonnet and short tail that BMW fans have come to know and love, while the body panelling is made from lightweight aluminium.

With the 7-Series very much the benchmark for BMW, it should come as no surprise that it would eventually sprinkle some of its luxury and technology onto the 5-Series. Some of these additions, such as the insulated engine, are not obvious to the naked eye. This virtually wipes out all noise, while keeping the engine warmer for longer and reducing fuel consumption as well. It is inside the cabin that you will see the most obvious changes to the new-look 5-Series. Staring you in the face is a large freestanding touchscreen on top of the dashboard itself. This is the central console that gives you access to BMW’s iDrive system.

This is the very latest version of BMW’s intelligent driving system and lets you move around the app tiles the way you can with an iPhone. Even more impressive are the gesture controls, which I first experienced in the BMW 750Li. Simply move your finger in a circular motion in front of the monitor and you can turn the sound level up or down. Jab two fingers towards the screen and you will automatically mute the sound. It is a lot of fun messing around with the gesture controls (which you can change to your own preferences), but I am not sure how often I would use them as an everyday BMW owner.

Another carry-over from the 7-Series is the wellness approach. The air-con pumps out negative ions, which kill bacteria and other bad stuff in the air, apparently. There is also a fragrance delivery system, which I first encountered in a Mercedes-Benz. It produces a range of sweet smells — based on your tastes — that are designed to leave you feeling relaxed and revitalised.

With all the gadgets and features on board, I almost forgot about the drive itself. When the engine is starting up and you shift into Sport mode, the instruments turn a devilish red colour. This sets the scene for the adrenaline-pumping ride around the streets of Singapore. The 540i is pretty torquey (450Nm to be precise) when you put your foot down. The weird thing is that you hear none of the noise, as the engine is so heavily insulated. Without the engine revving in your ears, you have to engage other senses to make you aware of your speed, like your eyes.

Let’s not forget this is part of the M stable, BMW’s motor sports division. The test-drive car also came with chunky 20-inch wheels, which hold the road superbly at high speeds. It is punchy for its size, and maintains a high level of comfort as you give it a workout. That’s luxury German engineering for you. If this is too much raw power for you, then there’s the slightly slower and cheaper 530i to choose from. There is also an entry-level 520d, and a plug-in petrol-electric 530e is due out in a couple of months. By year-end, a 520i should be unveiled, with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol under the bonnet to add to the collection.

So, you can see BMW is placing a lot of faith in the newly revamped 5-Series’ doing well in Singapore. And if the 540i is anything to go by, it could be on to a winner.

BMW 540i M SPORT
$356,800 including COE
Engine: 2,998cc, 24V, in-line 6, turbo
Power/torque: 340hp/450Nm
Fuel efficiency: 7.2L/100km
0 to 100kph: 5.1 seconds
Top speed: 250kph

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast

This article appeared in Issue 778 (May 8) of The Edge Singapore.