Definitely one of the best sports sedans in the world today.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
I don’t know. Did BMW invent the sport sedan? If not, they were certainly involved in the process. The 5-series has always been a wonderful car, balancing luxury and performance nicely.
The latest generation has seen some incredible refinement, and while the 530i and the 540i are lovely cars, this M550i xDrive takes things to a new level. BMW sells the 5 series as a “business sedan” these days, and the M550i (I am not bothering with including the ridiculous xDrive part of its name any longer) takes the top spot in the 5-series line-up before you rachet it all the way up to the fire-breathing M5.
Boasting a high-performance V8 and a bespoke M Performance-tuned chassis without compromising any of the niceties that make the 5-series an outstanding daily driver, the M550i is a new take on bumping things up the performance ladder. And I like where BMW is going with this. This isn’t a poor man’s M5. In my opinion, this is a smart man’s M5.
Let’s have a closer look.
The latest 5-series is a very nice looking car. The M550i sits 10mm lower than a normal 5-series thanks to the M Sport adaptive suspension, and that makes a big difference. It looks lean and mean. Little touches like the rear spoiler on the trunk lid and the slightly revised front air intake and “air breathers” on the front fenders make a small but notable impact and look great. The M package adds a number of dark trim elements, more like a carbon silver, in place of the normal chrome. I love it.
The stunning 19-inch wheels are fitted with huge staggered-size tires (245/40s in the front and 275/35s in the rear).
BMW’s styling for their interiors is slowly picking up steam, but it’s still mostly business. The materials are nice, of course, and the no-nonsense design works well. The car’s ambient lighting looks great and the fact that you can change the colours was a big hit with kids and adults alike. The digital dash is crisp and the changing graphics with different drive modes are delightful. As is the fat, grippy heated M Sport steering wheel. Speaking of M stuff, there is a lot of it. Illuminated door sills remind you you’re in an “M550i xDrive”. There’s badging on the steering wheel, the floor mats are M Design and so are the pedals.
The upgraded Nappa leather (go for this option!) front thrones are heated and ventilated, and can be adjusted in every which way, including your seat cushion length and the aggressiveness of your kidney bolsters and have massaging functions. They are simply fantastic.
Front and centre sits a sharp and dramatically-wide touchscreen – the face of the newest iteration of the iDrive system, which continues to grow on me. It’s still unnecessarily complicated, and its highly nested menu approach using the rotary joystick dial still irritates me. But it’s better than ever, and the learning curve is less steep than before. I found that the harman kardon sound system was not as good as I had hoped it would be, particularly in a car that cracks 90 grand. I enjoyed the wireless charging mat at the front of the centre console – in particular because this car has wireless Apple CarPlay, which should really be the case with every car nowadays. It’s very slick!
There is a sunroof overhead and a powered rear sunshade. Opted up like my review car was, the M550i can come chock full of the latest driver assistance technology. Mine had an amazing 360-degree camera system with a 3D surround view, parking assistant, adaptive cruise control, heads-up display, steering and lane control, evasion assist, cross traffic alert and lane keep assistant.
Back here, the heated seats are very comfortable but less spacious than the size of the 5er would lead you to believe. At 5’10”, and sitting behind my own driving position, I had a couple of inches of leg room to spare and perhaps an inch of head room. The middle position straddles a huge floor tunnel and is narrow and raised – even my kids didn’t want to sit there.
Rear passengers get their own automatic climate control panel and the middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with a couple of cupholders. Both side windows have manual sunshades.
I didn’t find there was a ton of useful storage to put my stuff away. Other than the glove compartment, there’s a little storage bin under the armrest lid, as well as a 12V and a USB plug.
The trunk is sizable at 530L and should serve most people’s needs. It has a powered trunk lid.
Under the Hood
Here lurks a modified turbocharged 4.4L V8. 455HP come on at 5,500 RPM but you can already access the 480 lb.ft of torque at 1,800 RPM.
As with any car, the fuel economy depends on your driving. When I was being good and driving normally, I averaged around 11 L/100 km which is actually very impressive for a large sedan with well over 400HP. When I was having fun and accessing the incredible power and wanting to hear the sounds this car makes, I averaged 14.4 L/100 km.
After the ever-so-slight delay due to lag, the M550i puts down a tremendous amount of power. Beautiful, linear, pull-hard-to-the-redline kind of power. It makes daily driving a breeze, as well as pulling into traffic, passing on the freeway or just simply launching off the line like an idiot for no other reason than to feel pushed back into your seat and to hear the car as you quickly approach illegal speeds. How quickly? The M550i was, until the newest M5 arrived, the fastest 5-series ever made. Which means it was faster than the last M5. Which means it’s insanely fast if you want it to be. It will do the 0-100 km/h sprint in 4 seconds flat.
EcoPro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ as well as Adaptive, which will adjust things according to your driving. I personally loved Sport mode. It added a slightly harder edge to the M550i – it dials up the responsiveness, it takes the exhaust note up a notch and the adaptive suspension suddenly keep the car shockingly flat, even while taking cloverleaf exits at ridiculous speeds. Sport+ does all that, but makes the responsiveness a bit jumpy, the shifts a bit harsh and the suspension just a tad hard for every day driving. It doesn’t befit the car’s character, unlike the Sport mode which felt perfect. When it comes to the ride, the car remained highly comfortable in all modes except Sport+ where things got a bit firm.
Speaking of the sound, the M550i sounds absolutely wonderful inside the car. Part of that is the M sports exhaust system, and I believe part of it is the manufactured sound that is piped in through the sound system. It does sound good from the outside too. If you ignore the fact that you’re likely hearing a few things that aren’t real and just sit back and enjoy it, the M550 is one of the best sounding cars to drive in.
BMW’s 8-speed transmission (again specially tuned for this application) is fast and smooth, and almost always seems to be in the right gear. You can shift manually using paddles or the gear selector, but I was happy to let the transmission do the work – it’s smart enough in this case. The M Sport brakes (with their gorgeous metallic blue calipers and M badging) are incredible too. They are easily on par with the car’s acceleration performance and don’t need to work hard to haul things back down to earth in a hurry – thankfully they are still easy to use in normal driving.
I didn’t really get to test the all-wheel drive as it remained completely unobtrusive during my week with the car. The handling was impeccable, as was the high-speed stability, and I’m certain the rear-wheel-biased system contributed to this.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) soared here for the most part, even though she isn’t a big sedan fan. She said it felt luxurious and drove beautifully and she liked the power available. She struggled with the iDrive system though.
I liked virtually everything about the M550i. It would make a terrific daily driver. It has enough space, it’s comfortable, it’s relatively efficient when driven efficiently, it’s loaded with technology and it has world class performance capabilities. It’s tough to think of something I’d change here.
As a matter of fact, this car is so well-rounded, it starts begging the question – why would someone spend the extra money on the monstrous M5? Not that I wouldn’t want an M5, of course, but is it worth the difference in price? Regardless of how you answer that question, there is no denying that the 2018 BMW M550i gets virtually everything right and if this thing sits in your price bracket and you’re looking for a luxury sports sedan, you need this on your shopping list.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by BMW Canada.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.
Pricing: 2018 BMW M550i
Base price: $83,000
Options: $6,500 Premium Package; $1,500 Advanced Driver Assistance Package; $750 Smartphone Connectivity Package; $1,500 Nappa leather seating
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $95,595