COAL: 2018 BMW 540i xDrive (G30) – The Bavarian Beast

Yesterday’s CC Clue, a rather perplexing one I knew only the truest of Bimmerfiles would get, was from the last word of the title and image in reference to Dingolfing, Bavaria, home to BMW’s largest production facility where the 5 Series is produced. Some very great responses though!

I’ve dreamed of owning this car for almost my entire 25 years. I’ve always been a BMW fan, and for as long as I can remember it’s been my most favorite automotive brand and the one I’ve been most passionate about, even when my only experience with BMWs was my car models and what I saw of them on the road and in movies and TV. Though other BMWs have periodically been more exciting over the years, for most of my life, my most constant love and aspiration has always been the 5 Series and everything it embodies.

Late this past year, an opportunity to acquire another vehicle presented itself when mom found herself in the situation she does every 4-5 years or so, of her car approaching the age and mileage in which she usually trades it in. This time was a bit unusual, however, as Mom simply couldn’t come to terms with the idea of parting ways with her Mercedes GLK 350, a car she’s still very much in love with. Ultimately, we came to a mutual decision and agreement of keeping the GLK a few more years, lessening its daily use to better “preserve” it, and going in halves together on a brand new car that we’d each get to drive – Treat Yo’ Self at its finest!

With the still very new and fresh seventh generation “G30” 5 Series entering its second model year after an abbreviated introductory season, and my employee pricing plus the already good incentives guaranteeing an obscenely good deal, I thought it was the perfect time to obtain the car, which in one form or another, I had been dreaming of since the early-1990s. By far the most technologically advanced, luxurious, powerful, and expensive vehicle either my mother or I have ever owned, as if it wasn’t exciting enough, what made the whole process of this car extra meaningful was that we special ordered it, getting to build it exactly to our liking.

Consulting with mom over the build spec the entire way, so long as it had the few items she wanted, she gave me the majority of the creative freedom. Although I officially placed the order in late-September, I had been building this car online since the G30 arrived in January 2017, so I had a fairly concrete idea of how I’d ideally spec it out.

Without a doubt in my mind, I went with the stealthy yet elegant Carbon Black Metallic over Cognac Dakota Leather, a combination personally favored by my dealer GM for his own executive demos. Available only with the M Sport line, Carbon Black Metallic is a beautiful BMW color that has been offered for many years, with metallic shades of dark blue when the lighting hits it right. I always prefer rich-looking, warm interior colors, and the Cognac hit my sweet spot, with the Gray Poplar wood trim adding a striking contrast. On a side note, BMW’s standard Dakota leather is actually less chemically-treated and holds up over time much better than the extra-cost Nappa leather.

As for how I equipped it after that, I added the $4,900 M Sport Package (19″ Style 664M wheels, LED fog lights, M Sport suspension, M Sport steering wheel, Aerodynamic kit, Shadowline exterior trim, and Anthracite headliner). For 2018, the M Sport Package now includes the former Premium Package components (Comfort Access keyless entry, Power tailgate, Heated front seats, SensaTec vinyl stitched dashboard, Satellite radio, and BMW’s Gesture Control).

From there, I upgraded my “tier-less” M Sport to the $2,100 Executive Tier (Icon adaptive full-LED headlights, automatic high beams, Dynamic Digital instrument cluster, Active Park Distance Control, Surround View w/3D View, Parking Assistant Plus, and Soft-close automatic doors). Per Mom’s wishes I also added the $1,700 Driving Assistant Package (Active blind-spot detection, Land departure warning, and Head-up display).

After that, the standalone extra-cost options I added were the Heated Steering Wheel ($190), Harman Kardon surround sound stereo ($875), Apple CarPlay (what I’ve come to find as a useless option for $300, as BMW’s own interface is much better), All-weather floor mats ($210), and a BMW first aid kit ($50). Obviously, it’s very easy to keep pushing the MSRP up on any BMW but between leasing and all various discounts and incentives, the burden of extra cost equipment I added was essentially wiped away.

Now in recent years, it seems that whenever a new generation of any given BMW model is released, it’s instantly met with varying criticism from enthusiasts as being too soft and disconnected, and from the more general population as “not like it used to be”. The simple response to that is indeed today’s BMWs are not like they used to be — no car is like what it used to be any given number of years ago. With each next technological and engineering advancement, not to mention safety and environmental regulations, and various consumer demands and market trends, cars do change quite a bit, adapting to all these various forces.

As for how this pertains to BMW, yes, it is true that today’s BMWs are more comfortable, easier to drive, and larger than their same-named Series counterparts from the 1990s and before. The primary reason for this, is quite simply because that’s what sells. Like any automaker these days, BMW can sell way more cars with automatic transmission, electrically-assisted steering, and active safety gizmos galore, because that is what the large majority of buyers, especially luxury car buyers demand.

However, that doesn’t mean that today’s BMWs are not capable of offering equivalent levels of the Ultimate Driving experience as BMWs of yesteryear. Even in standard form, most current BMWs still offer superior driving dynamics and handling than their competition. True, while in standard form, BMWs are tuned more comfort-oriented, their selectable Sport and Sport + modes dramatically change the steering, suspension, and responsiveness far more noticeably than in cars from most other luxury brands I’ve driven. It truly feels like you’re driving a different car with the switch of a button.

Also often overlooked is the fact that most models can be equipped with optional M Sport and Dynamic Handling packages, enhancing performance by adding features such as adaptive M suspension, high-performance brakes, variable sport steering, and dynamic damper control. And of course, there are also still the real M cars.

In any event, I’m happy to report that the new G30 5 Series offers a Teutonic driving experience to my own personal liking, and one that should appease most drivers, both hardcore BMW enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike. You see, the beauty in the 540 is how it so masterfully blends comfort and performance. Even on 19″ rims, the ride is smooth and composed, with active dampers minimizing New England’s many brutal pot holes better than in the 2 Series that feels like I’ve quite literally “broken the car” with every one I cannot avoid.

Yet at the same time, there is no bounciness or wallowing typically expected with larger car — the 5 remains completely flat with no body roll, even under emergency maneuvers or taking sharp curves on twisting mountain roads at highway speeds. On the open road, it feels like a much smaller vehicle. You can thank the superb chassis, cornering brake control, and tauter M sport double-wishbone front and integral-V multi-link rear suspension for this. Steering is nicely-weighted, providing better than expected feedback even in standard comfort mode. Sport mode adds a significantly heavier feel to it which I prefer even more.

When it comes to the engine, I chose what I feel is the engine best-suited for daily driving in this car. Slotted above the 2.0-liter turbo inline-4 found in the 530i and the 2.0-liter plus twin electric motors found in the 530e, and below the two 4.4-liter turbo V8 found in the M550i and M5, the “B58” 3.0-liter TwinPower turbo inline-6 is the true sweet spot when it comes to the G30.

Making 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, it’s capable of propelling the 4,019-pound 540i xDrive from zero-to-sixty in a mere 4.7 seconds… fast enough for any freeway merge. The ZF 8-speed automatic, the same found in most modern BMW products, is geared more for comfort, making for a less responsive throttle in first gear when accelerating from stop if only a light tap is given to the gas pedal. Thankfully in sport mode, however, gear ratios are improved for performance, and the slightest tap on the gas rockets the 540 from idle. Oh, and did I mention it sounds fantastic in sport mode? Very purposeful and no-nonsense in a Germanic-like way. For a point of view driver’s seat experience, please watch Tedward’s video of my very car.

Styling of the new G30 5 Series is an evolution of its F10 predecessor, drawing design cues from the most recent 7 Series for a look I find smoother and sexier than the F10. Versus the F10, height is visually reduced while width is heavily emphasized by a wider grille, headlights, air intakes, and taillights. The front especially, comes off as more attractive, with less busyness to it than the F10.

The G30’s most noticeable advancement by far, and the primary reason I ruled out my other choice, the 440 convertible, is its interior. Over its predecessor and lower series BMWs, the new 5 Series boasts a dramatic upgrade in interior materials, layout, and technology. Soft leather covers the seats, armrests, door panels, center console and the muscular M Sport steering wheel, while Sensatec leatherette covers the dash and upper door panels.

Among the most rewarding part of special ordering is the ability to select interior leather and trim. After all, the interior is where you’ll be spending most of your time, so I always feel that a visually appealing interior is a must-have. As I mentioned earlier, I greatly prefer my interiors to have warmer tones versus the stark coldness of black leather and aluminum trim that’s ever prevalent in modern BMWs. From the minute I saw the Cognac over Gray Poplar Wood trim from an early promotional shot, I knew it was the ideal interior of my 5.

The front sports seats are among the most comfortable and supportive I’ve had the fortune of experiencing, with the proper amount of cushioning and bolstering in all the right places. Befitting of the 5 Series class, the front seats are rightfully more plush and throne-like than in my 228. As in the 2 Series, power adjustable side bolsters come in handy for my slim build, effectively cradling me through corners. A total of 16-way power adjustments plus 2-way manually adjustable thigh cushions come standard, something that made the optional 20-way power Multi-contour seats for $750 seem unnecessary. In hindsight, however, I somewhat regret not adding them for their massage function.

We took delivery of “Blitzen” the Bavarian Beast back on December 23, making for a wonderful early Christmas present, and now some three-plus months and 3,000 miles into ownership, I cannot express how much I am in love with this car. It’s everything I ever could have wanted it to be, and I savor every chance I get to drive it. I will say that while the 2 Series is a car that fits me like a glove, I’m happily growing accustomed to the 5 Series and its more spacious, comfortable, and opulent surroundings — and its added performance.

I never expected the car I’ve fantasized about in my daydreams for so many years to actually be in my garage at this point in my life, but when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t pass on it. It still feels like a dream, but I suppose that’s what owning your dream car should feel like. Five is such a perfect number, and this 5 is truly the perfect car for what I wanted in an additional car. Oh, and Mom likes it too!

Photographed: Chickatawbut Overlook in the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, Massachusetts (Boston skyline in the distance) – April 2018

My Car Of A Lifetime Series

2004 Toyota Highlander

2010 Acura TSX V6

2016 BMW 228i xDrive