2017 BMW 540iM: The last of our luxury series — following Jaguar's F-Pace and Infiniti's Q50.
Price: $82,610 as tested. $56,540 for the trim level.
Marketer's pitch: "The Ultimate Driving Machine."
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes that it's "spacious, quick, fuel efficient, well-endowed with tech" but not that it's "insulated, not much fun to drive, absurd option pricing."
Reality: I'm with C&D on the option pricing but found it a blast to drive.
Whoda thunk? I thought that certainly after six years of writing Driver's Seat, I would have been known as a BMW lover.
But that's not how it has turned out. I loved the 2 series and the X6M, had mixed reviews for the X5, and came out against the M4 convertible and the X3.
So the 540 wasn't a slam-dunk.
But then: I sat inside. The seat bathed me in soft leather, roomy first-class-style seats, and whisked me away like a Calgon bath (Ivory nappa leather, $1,000).
The dashboard also was trimmed in brown leather, a beautiful touch. But those option prices? Ouch.
Outside: The BMW style retains its classy look while still getting updated, as it's all new for 2017. The Mediterranean Blue Metallic paint was $700.
Up to speed: All those luxury accoutrements are nice, but if it's not fast, well, that's a problem. Never fear: The 3.0-liter twin-power turbo inline six creates 335 horsepower and gets the 540i M to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
On the curves: It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. This is where the M4 fell short; it was so smooth that nothing seemed to be happening until I was breaking the speed limit.
The 540i M does not have this problem. Sport mode, Eco mode, Comfort mode, it didn't matter. They were all fun for enjoying winding country roads or cornering like an idiot in town (safely, of course).
Shifty: Of course, American buyers can't handle a clutch, so they'll get the Sport Shift transmission. (No charge!) And it's fun and responsive to row through the eight gears.
Friends and stuff: Here, cranky Sturgis Kid 4.0's stupid legs almost ruined my fun (that kid is 6-foot-2 now!).
Play some tunes: Fortunately, I could drown out his complaints. The Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($4,200. Why, yes, that is more than each of the first six [very used] cars I ever purchased) offers more phonic choices than even Volvo's awesome arrangements, and each one is a delight. A+++++++.
Infotainment remains subject to BMW's classic dial control, which seems to be getting more complicated. But the 10.2-inch high-resolution touchscreen is easy to see.
Friends and stuff, part 2: Ahem. Had to get my digs at the young lad while I could.
For us regular-size folks, the legroom in the back is very good, headroom is OK, and foot room is a challenge. Cargo space is a roomy 18.7 cubic feet.
Here's a new one: Gesture Control, $190. At first, I wondered if it would keep me from giving other drivers the finger. But it's actually something that allows drivers to control navigation with voice controls and gestures, and my trip to Europe last spring certainly included some angry gestures while I was getting lost, so my first guess actually wasn't that far off.
Night shift: LED adaptive headlights are standard. They lead the driver into turns well. Inside, the overhead lights are subtle and don't interfere.
Fuel economy: 23 mpg. It's a BMW, so it wants premium.
Where it's built: Dingolfing, Germany.
How it's built: Consumer Reports has no reliability data on the 5 series. But a funny thing happened on the way to 2017 — its 2 and 3 series models now rate a 5/5 in reliability, which has historically not been BMW's strong suit.
In the end: This is a really nice car, but $25,000 in options alone is ridiculous. I'll show them; I'm not going to buy this car, in protest.
But it's a really nice ride, especially in "comparison" with the F-Pace and the Q50 — though it does have $25,000 to $30,000 on them — and the others were all-wheel drive as well. At least the 5 series is probably the most reliable.