Test drive comparison: 540i Sport vs 440i w Track Package - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums



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G30 (2017 - Current)
The next generation 5 Series, chassis code G30, arrives at dealers in February 2017. Looking like a scaled down 7 Series and riding on the CLAR platform, the new 5 Series will have a focus on lightweight and sporty performance. Engines options will come from BMW's new B family for the 530 and 540 and a turbocharged V8 for the M550i. Read more about the 2017 5 Series

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  #1  
Old 10-03-2017, 10:13 AM
bostongio bostongio is offline
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Test drive comparison: 540i Sport vs 440i w Track Package

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking these two cars out for a test drive back-to-back:

2018 540i xDrive M Sport package (704 suspension), multi-contour seats
2018 440i GC xDrive Track Handling package (w Adaptive M suspension)

My test drive route was mostly winding backroads of New England, so I had a chance to check out the handling characteristics of both cars pretty substantially (but no highway driving).

I started with the 440 GC, because I've never driven a car with the Adaptive M suspension. Unlike on cars without an adaptive suspension, the Comfort/Sports button actually changes the suspension settings too -- in a very noticeable manner. Comfort was nice, but things tightened up noticeably in Sport and Sport+. I found the car very tossable but ran the curves like it was on a rail. This is probably one of the best sorted near-luxury sedans you can own if you're interested in performance and silkiness of the inline 6.

Interior noise was minimal, probably a little quieter than my current 535xi (2008), but the 540i was in a different class. A little louder coming from the rear of the car, because of the hatchback.

The interior is where the let down begins. You can't get the amazing multi-contour seats in the 3 or 4 series, so you're stuck with sport seats (or the lesser seats). These are good and seemed comfortable in my short drives, with adjustable side bolsters, but nothing special. The cabin feels well-thought out, but you can see the cost-cutting everywhere you look. From the weirdly-shaped center armrest with minimal storage, to the cup holder door which feels and looks as flimsy as it is. But then, weirdly, the glove box feels like it was handcrafted by Lexus. It's just odd how some things stood out as "cheap" while others showed more thoughtfulness in design and function. (All of the BMW's center stacks are so similar, there's very little to discuss difference-wise there.) The 440i lacked any way to put down the rear seats from standing behind the car; you have to go back into the cabin and flip the latch on each seat.

One thing I did not feel in the cabin was "cramped." This is a pretty open, airy cabin and only marginally smaller than the 5 series. I sat in all seating positions to ensure the passenger and rear passengers were comfortable too. Rear passenger seating volume is smaller than the G30, but not so much that most people would notice or complain.

I like the lower, wider stance of the 440i -- it looks more aggressive than the G30. And I like the flexibility of the hatchback -- lots of cargo room. The hood seems more closely wrapped around the inline 6, with very little overhang in front of the front wheels. It is a tight, attractive package.

Onto the 540i...

First thing I noticed in my test drive (this was my second test drive in a 540i, 704 suspension) is how forgiving the suspension is compared to my 2008 535xi (with a standard suspension). It was noticeably more smooth to ride, especially on rough services. I found it similar to the 440i in Comfort mode, though the 440i had a little less smoothness in its ride over bumpy surfaces.

I found the car was well-composed in the turns and, as other people have said, always drives smaller than it is. This is a big sedan -- bigger than my current ride by about 4 inches in wheelbase and length. But it really doesn't feel like one -- not like a 640/650 feels like (which is even bigger -- and feels it).

The cabin also felt a lot more special than the 440i. Where one could argue the 440i is a cockpit, oriented toward the driver, and focused on basic functionality, the 540i is luxurious by comparison. The materials and design just seem more modern and aesthetically pleasing (although not a fan of the silver highlights on both dashboards). The mutli-contour seats are -- as others have said -- worth the upgrade. I could sit in them all day long driving without any worries of fatigue or pain.

Cabin space is a bit larger, which you especially feel in the rear seat. Trunk seems as large as mine, but my current E60 has a spare tire underneath the floor. In the G30, if you get the spare, it sits in the trunk with a raised floor, eating into usable trunk space. (The 440i does not have a spare tire as an option, though.). Rear seats can be dropped down by convenient handles in the trunk area, so you don't have to go back into the cabin to drop the rear seats.

Some fit and finish issues in the G30, though, too. The glove box felt like it was an after-thought -- no smooth, slow drop like in the 440i, it just plops open like a Kia's. And again, the center armrest space isn't very deep, so you won't be putting much in there (unlike the E60, where the center armrest has a double, deep compartment).

In the handling comparison, I was surprised at how the 540 didn't feel significantly different than the 440 on the roads I drove while both were in Sport mode. Yes, I could tell the 440 was going to handle much better on the twisties if I was going to be doing aggressive driving all the time... but for as much opportunity as I do get to open it up on the back roads around here, it just didn't seem like a meaningful difference. (And no, I have no plans to actually track the car.)

I thought maybe I could consider moving down to the slightly smaller 440 with the right equipment options and such, but I just wasn't feeling it. Perhaps it was my own bias toward the 5 series, but there it is.

When it comes time to make a purchase, of course a number of annoyances arise about packaging and options. Why is the harmon kardon an option on the 5 series, but standard on the 440? Why are you forced to go up to the 550 if you want the Adaptive M suspension? These are just arbitrary choices made by the marketing arm that annoy long-time customers. Ah well.

All in all, I understand why the 440 is an attractive car and a good choice for many. Perhaps because I'm spoiled by the 5 series already, I'm definitely leaning toward the 540.

Last edited by bostongio; 10-03-2017 at 04:06 PM.
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  #2  
Old 10-03-2017, 11:08 AM
baudi baudi is offline
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I'm moving from a 2008 535xi to a 530i xdrive. My theory is that the 0-60 times are close enough (5.4 for 535xi, 5.8 for 530i xdrive) that I won't really notice much difference, but I'd be interested in what you think about the acceleration of the 540i vs your 535xi.
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Old 10-03-2017, 11:11 AM
visualguy visualguy is offline
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Good comparison.

We'll see what BMW does for the next-generation 3 (and 4) series - they'll have to improve the seats and interior in general to stay competitive.

The not-so-great seats are a big disadvantage of the 3/4 series when compared to the 5 series. Also, I find the 440i to be a little too low with a seating position that's a bit too low - kind of a pain to get in and out of. Yeah, it's more "sporty", but it's less comfortable. I prefer the 3 series to the 4 series GC. The 4GC looks better, and it has that nice trunk, but it's too low. Also, I prefer doors with window frames! Coupes are just not my thing.

Anyway, I'm also in the 5 series camp rather than 3/4, although the exterior dimensions have grown a bit too much.

Last edited by visualguy; 10-03-2017 at 11:14 AM.
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  #4  
Old 10-03-2017, 11:40 AM
BMWBDW BMWBDW is offline
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Great write up, I am coming from a 428 GC into a 540 and agree with the above, the 540 is hands down more elegant and also quite a bit quieter on the road. The 428 GC is also very low to the ground and a lot of people who get into it are surprised at just how low it is. I made a mistake going with the four cylinder on the current car, we were getting out of an X3 and it seemed quick compared to that, however after a few months I realized that I was going to miss the six. My 540 is currently on the boat headed for Baltimore so I will do a comparison once it arrives and I have some time with it.
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Old 10-03-2017, 02:47 PM
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quackbury quackbury is offline
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As a guy with both a 540 and a 428 in the garage, I agree with your assessment, almost across the board. The 4 series is gorgeous, but except for the glovebox, the interior is nowhere near as refined as the G30's. You feel it everywhere: the door pulls, the way the doors sound when you close them, the sun visors when you flip them down, the quality of the "wood" trim, the way the head restraints move, etc. To get an interior close to the 540's quality, you need to step up to an M4.

The one place I disagree with you is the 440's rear seat room. My 6'1" son is very comfortable in the G30. In the 4 Series, his head is up against the roof. And the way the rear doors are configured, it's a lot more difficult to get into the back seat. even for my 5' 3" wife.
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  #6  
Old 10-03-2017, 04:10 PM
bostongio bostongio is offline
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I don't think I could ever bring myself to buy a 4 cylinder BMW, that's just my bias, even though their newest 4 cylinders are actually quite good. So yeah, I need that sub-5.0 0-60 time to get that feeling of BMW-ness for me. I'm sure the 530i xdrive is quite good as well, given that the xdrive gets all the power down through all four tires. I'm sure it would *feel* like it is just as fast as a 535xi.
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Old 10-03-2017, 04:12 PM
bostongio bostongio is offline
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Yeah, I'm 5'8", so head room in the backseat was fine for me in the 440 GC. But I could see it being a problem for anyone 6' and over, definitely.

Perhaps with the model refresh in a few years, they'll bring the interior up a notch. But I guess it would be defeating the purpose to bring it all the way to the level of the 5's refinement.

Definitely a nice car, nonetheless. If I was 20 years younger, I could definitely understand buying it.
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Old 10-03-2017, 04:13 PM
jjsC6 jjsC6 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by baudi View Post
I'm moving from a 2008 535xi to a 530i xdrive. My theory is that the 0-60 times are close enough (5.4 for 535xi, 5.8 for 530i xdrive) that I won't really notice much difference, but I'd be interested in what you think about the acceleration of the 540i vs your 535xi.
While I have not owned an F10 535, I have driven a couple and I know the test times of both. The new 540 leaves a 535 for dead. It's as fast as the 400 hp F10 550 I had. Anyone who has not driven a 540 in anger will be amazed at how fast it is. And BTW, it's performance times are identical to the 440 according to road test times I have seen.
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Last edited by jjsC6; 10-03-2017 at 04:15 PM.
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  #9  
Old 10-03-2017, 04:14 PM
bostongio bostongio is offline
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Just to clarify, I test drove a 440i GC (I updated my review to make that clear).

Yes, the seating is a bit low and I found getting in and out of the rear seat more of a hassle than the front seat. I wouldn't buy the 440 GC (or the 430 GC) if I regularly used the backseats (e.g., if I had kids).

I also had a loaner X3 for a week a few weeks back. That was a nice comparison as well, since I hadn't spent any significant time like that with a BMW SUV. I can understand the attraction of the higher seating position and all. But I found the blind spots and driving dynamics nothing close to a car's, so it quickly became a non-starter in terms of looking at one to replace my E60. The interior of the X3 seemed a bit of a step above that of a 3/4 series, but maybe it was more perception than reality.

One thing I can say for certain is that the newest iDrive continues to lead the pack in terms of the infotainment systems out there. I mean, it completely rules out some cars, because their systems are just so bad. It's the last thing you have to worry about when buying any type of BMW.

Last edited by bostongio; 10-03-2017 at 04:18 PM.
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  #10  
Old 10-03-2017, 04:22 PM
baudi baudi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjsC6 View Post
While I have not owned an F10 535, I have driven a couple and I know the test times of both. The new 540 leaves a 535 for dead. It's as fast as the 400 hp F10 550 I had. Anyone who has not driven a 540 in anger will be amazed at how fast it is. And BTW, it's performance times are identical to the 440 according to road test times I have seen.
Thanks. That's actually what I was hoping. If a 540 smokes a 535, then maybe a 530 won't feel much different from a 535. Anyway, my car is in production. Just have to wait and see.
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Old 10-03-2017, 04:29 PM
visualguy visualguy is offline
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The surprising thing is that the 5-series is so much nicer for not that much more money. The value for money is much better. Let's see what happens with the G20 3-series - it might change the picture. The G30 5-series is a bit too large in my view, so having a really nice smaller car would be appealing.
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Old 10-03-2017, 07:18 PM
jjsC6 jjsC6 is offline
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Originally Posted by baudi View Post
Thanks. That's actually what I was hoping. If a 540 smokes a 535, then maybe a 530 won't feel much different from a 535. Anyway, my car is in production. Just have to wait and see.
You are correct. I've read road tests on the 530 that show perrformance times almost exactly the same as times for the F10 535.
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Old 10-03-2017, 07:28 PM
baudi baudi is offline
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Originally Posted by jjsC6 View Post
You are correct. I've read road tests on the 530 that show perrformance times almost exactly the same as times for the F10 535.
My 535xi is actually an E60 (2008), so I guess the performance of the new 530 would compare even more favorably.
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Old 10-04-2017, 01:48 AM
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G30 530i xDrive in performance wise is not disappointing , I had some quibbles before ordering a one but once I drove it ,I said "Ok, that's not bad at all " .Honestly, I think if someone had asked me what kinda of engine it was packed with I would say an inline 6 not a 4 cylinder
You guys are eating the cake with all the ingredients in some sense speaking of which 440 seems lack of space then you shouldn't buy i8 .You wouldn't believe in me how tight the interior was
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Old 10-04-2017, 10:46 AM
wkndroadtrips wkndroadtrips is offline
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For the posters asking about 530i performance...I'm one of the few on the board that got the 530i over the 540i because I live in a traffic congested area.

The performance is more than adequate when you open it up. If i stop at a light and gun it, look in the mirror and all the other cars are like tiny ants. Its not a 540i for sure, but its not lacking for a car like this. I'd never track a car the size of the 5, so for the street I'm happy.

The area where the 530i falls short is in smoothness. It could easily pass for a v6, but I'd never mistake it for a BMW inline 6. Its the smoothest 4-cylinder I've driven, and when you're accelerating it sounds pretty nice and is fairly smooth. In stop and go traffic though, very low speeds the coarseness comes out.

Personally I don't mind it so much. If I were buying again, I'd probably be on the fence and flip a coin between 530i and 540i. Little extra refinement would be nice, but its not a deal breaker for me, and I'm getting better MPG than listed on the sticker. Highway drives I can easily crack 35mpg...38 if I take it easy.
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Old 10-04-2017, 12:15 PM
baudi baudi is offline
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Thanks for that ssquared. Reassuring.

On a separate note, I've been trying to figure out whether Adaptive mode is possible on a 530i.

Do you have 223 Dynamic Damper Control or ZDH Dynamic Handling Package?

Do you have the "Adaptive" label on the Sport/Comfort/Eco button?
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Old 10-04-2017, 01:03 PM
wkndroadtrips wkndroadtrips is offline
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Originally Posted by baudi View Post
Thanks for that ssquared. Reassuring.

On a separate note, I've been trying to figure out whether Adaptive mode is possible on a 530i.

Do you have 223 Dynamic Damper Control or ZDH Dynamic Handling Package?

Do you have the "Adaptive" label on the Sport/Comfort/Eco button?
No I do not have DDC or ZDH as I did not want to ruin the handling.

I have 704 M-Sport Suspension which is spectacular. Perfect balance between performance and comfort. I've also got the M-Sport brakes.

223 Dynamic Damper Control and ZDH use softer springs than 704 so the handling is not as well balanced as 704. DDC will give you more comfort in comfort mode and less body roll, but it comes at the expense of a less natural feel in Sport/Sport + mode.

Honestly though, the ride on 704 is so good and I drive on ****ty LA roads that I don't think there is any reason to spec DDC but some on here love it.

Last edited by wkndroadtrips; 10-04-2017 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 10-04-2017, 01:06 PM
baudi baudi is offline
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But you have Adaptive Mode on the Sport/Custom/Eco control? I thought that only came with DDC or ZDH.
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Old 10-04-2017, 01:12 PM
wkndroadtrips wkndroadtrips is offline
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But you have Adaptive Mode on the Sport/Custom/Eco control? I thought that only came with DDC or ZDH.
No i do not have adaptive mode, as you mention that is only on cars w/DDC. All that does is adjust the dampers based on road conditions.

The 704 suspension is so well balanced you don't need adaptive mode. The ride is never harsh and its always well controlled
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Old 10-05-2017, 04:29 AM
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I think the 530i is more than adequate for most people, most of the time. If you are not the "I want a big engine" type, or generally just commute in your car, you won't feel like you should have got the 540i. That wasn't the same with the F10 528i for as many people (a lot of people felt it needed more oomph). It still 'feels' like a BMW for those that know what that used to mean. The progress with the 4 cyl is amazing just one generation on. All IMO of course.

I opted for the 540i because I don't do a lot of miles, but if my circumstances were different a 530i would have been in consideration along with the 530d.
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Old 11-27-2017, 09:34 AM
nubova nubova is offline
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My 540 is currently on the boat headed for Baltimore so I will do a comparison once it arrives and I have some time with it.

Any update?
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Old 11-27-2017, 03:28 PM
BobRae BobRae is offline
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Originally Posted by bostongio View Post
Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking these two cars out for a test drive back-to-back:

2018 540i xDrive M Sport package (704 suspension), multi-contour seats
2018 440i GC xDrive Track Handling package (w Adaptive M suspension)


Why are you forced to go up to the 550 if you want the Adaptive M suspension? These are just arbitrary choices made by the marketing arm that annoy long-time customers. Ah well.
I've thought about this as well after test driving a 540 and M550 back to back. I think part of the answer lies in BMW saving the best handling "tech" for the higher end car (M550). Also, from a cost perspective, once you add premium enhanced and few other options as well as DHP to a 540 its only about $5,000CAD less than an M550. So, I think at that point, most people would just get the M550. Maybe BMW has already thought of this?
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