With U.S.-market diesels nixed at Audi and on borrowed time over at Mercedes-Benz, BMW stands to be the only German luxury-brand willing to keep selling them here. And BMW’s latest diesel-burner, the 2018 540d xDrive sedan, is shaping up to be a stunner, with huge helpings of the the torque and fuel economy that give diesel-powered entries their appeal.
For starters, the new 540d’s turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six—which hails from BMW’s new B57 modular engine family—makes 261 horsepower and a massive 457 pound-feet of torque. (Last year, we drove a Euro-spec 530d, which uses the same powertrain but has a different name.) That’s quite a bit more than the 255 horsepower and 413 pound-feet produced by the old N57-family engine, which powers the X5 xDrive35d and was under the previous-generation diesel 5-series’ hood.
With BMW’s claim that the 540d runs to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds—a half-second quicker than the last 2014 535d we tested—the 540d likely will be the brand’s quickest-ever diesel car sold here. In fact, it might be among the quickest regular-production diesels sold in America yet.
Even so, the diesel 5er sips fuel like a Toyota Corolla—at least on the highway. The EPA’s highway fuel economy estimates for the 540d xDrive land at a solid 36 mpg. The city figure is a respectable 26 mpg, which is more than offset by the stellar highway efficiency to earn the 540d a 30-mpg combined estimate.
BMW plans to make this model available only with all-wheel drive (xDrive in BMW-speak) and its ubiquitous eight-speed automatic transmission. (The diesel-powered 3-series, by contrast, is available with rear- or all-wheel drive; the diesel-powered X5 xDrive35d crossover is, like the 540d, all-wheel-drive-only, as will be the upcoming X3 diesel.) Pricing will be rather dear, at $62,995 before options—and between M Sport and Dynamic Handling packages as well as driving-assistance packages and cabin upgrades, it’s easy to end up with a car well over $70,000. And yes, you’ll still need to pony up another $300 up front and $80 a year just to be able to connect your iPhone to the infotainment display via Apple CarPlay. If you’re both flush with cash and an itch for a powerful diesel-fueled sedan, BMW will begin sending 540d models to dealerships in the United States in February.