The electronically controlled transmission is designed around a fully articulated Ravigneaux gearset that is controlled by electronically timed application of several range-specific hydraulic clutches, in combination with mechanical one-way sprag clutches. The 5L40E unit's centerpiece is an automatic overdrive which supersedes the French-made 4L30E four-speed automatic light-duty gearboxes, and like them features a torque converter clutch to eliminate slipping losses in select forward ranges. It is assembled in Strasbourg, France.
The 5L40/50 series was replaced in 2007 with the 6L50 six-speed.
The 5L40-E was designated in either "M82" (rear-wheel drive) or "MX5" (all-wheel drive) versions for service in BMW vehicles from 2000 model year until the design was superseded by (for BMW) the 6L45E and (for all others) the 6L50E series electronic automatic transmissions in 2007 . It is designed for service in vehicles up to 4000 lb (1814 kg) GVWR and in service was mated to a selection of final drive ratios 3.42:1, 3.73:1, or 3.91:1 depending on the carline. The 5L40-E had been designed for 1.8–3.6 L engines with a maximum of 250 ft·lbf (340 N·m) of torque. It was underrated when used in combination of M57D30 engines. As the M57D30 rated torque output of 390/410Nm.