Hello and welcome to the latest offering from BMW’s M Performance lineup. What’s that you ask? Well think of it as a middle ground between regular BMWs and full-on M cars. These are basically your typical Bimmers fitted with the biggest non M engine BMW could find in that series and they also get some fine tuning from BMW’s M division.
So what we have here is a rival for the Audi S6 and for the Mercedes-Benz E43 AMG.
This is the M550i and it’s the most powerful 5 Series you can buy. That is until the new BMW M5 arrives. It’s got a 4.4l twin-turbo V8 up front, drive goes to all four wheels via BMW’s excellent xDrive all-wheel-drive system and you also get the fabulous eight speed ZF gearbox as standard. It has 462HP, 650Nm of torque and it goes from 0 to 100km/h in 4 seconds.
You do realise what I’m saying here right? I near two tone executive sedan is capable of reaching 100km/h from standstill faster than a 997 Porsche Carrera S can and it’s just as fast as a Ferrari F430. Not only that but it can also outrun the outgoing BMW M5 (F10).
But driving it around town and on motorways it feels just like a regular 5 Series. It’s very practical, comfortable, quiet and it’s very easy to drive. It’s a lovely family machine. But once you hit the road and step on its tail it all changes quite dramatically. Put it in Sport mode, the gearbox just so and for once Sport mode in a car really makes a big difference.
And in the particular case of the BMW M550i it completely transforms the driving experience. The second you touch the throttle you get pushed back into your seat, the acceleration is relentless and quite violent sometimes. The gearbox adds even more to that experience with a more ferocious gearshift, it gives you a nice kick in the back of the head on upshifts and I’m happy to report that even though it has more weight added to it, the steering doesn’t feel too artificial. It’s just right.
The suspension is really good as well. The BMW M550i gets the adaptive suspension as standard and it really fits very well with the autobahn cruiser theme that BMW’s got going on here. It’s very comfortable and very refined. The only problem I have with it is that even when you’re in Sport mode, and please take into account that we’re talking about an M Performance model here, the suspension is a bit too soft for my taste. I would have loved if Sport mode had the same effect on the suspension as it does on the rest of the car but maybe this is just another way to distance this car from the new BMW M5.
And if the BMW 540i’s chassis can handle much more than 340hp let me just tell you that the 462hp of this M550i is pretty much maxing out the chassis capabilities. Even though BMW tried to place the engine as far back as they could under the bonnet, this superb twin-turbo V8 is just too heavy for the chassis to handle. If you just gently touch the throttle mid-corner the car will understeer like crazy and that point it will pretty much stop taking the corner and just go straight ahead. So yeah, the BMW M550i is definitely not a B-road blaster but more of a muscle car and a pretty good autobahn cruiser.
One thing that’s pretty annoying about the Sport mode in this car is the amount of fake noise that’s being pumped through the speakers. Why BMW? Why would you cover up such a glorious sounding V8 is beyond my capabilities of understanding. I totally understand why you would do that on a diesel but on this it beats me. And I also understand that this cabin is so well insulated that you might not hear the exhaust. But if that’s the case why not just channel in some noise from the outside?
The car features black nappa leather seats, a heated M sport leather steering wheel, exclusive 20″ alloys, twin tail pipes for the exhaust which are not fake for once and grey aluminium accents that are present on all M Performance models. So what does this all add up to? The base price of the BMW M550i (in Sweden) is 78.590 Euros and the car I drove today costs 101.613. Also Euros.
What more can I tell you about the M550i? I’m a really big fan of this car, I think it’s a perfect long distance cruiser and even though this car is 40% more expensive than a 540i, I would still recommend you buy the M550i if you’re looking for something a bit more special from BMW’s petrol side of the garage.