2018 BMW M550i – HD Road Test Review



What if one of the most comfortable cars you’ve ever driven … is also one of the fastest?

A big sedan that pivots like a track star?

How has BMW defied physics?  Yes.

The M550i is a revelation on the road.  After a week of flogging this beauty for kicks – and the cameras – we came away absolutely in love with BMW’s fastest ever 5 series.

The 3.9s sprints to 60-mph from the almost-violent launch control are enough to make up for its lack of M5 sounds from the V8TT.  The hyper-adaptive suspension and standard xDrive turn a soft car rock hard when needed.
A few videos to share here along with dozens of photos inside and out.   Along with standard headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Pricing.

 

HD Performance Drive Review

EXTERIOR

M550i stays fairly subtle on the outside versus its M Sport siblings.  Standard Icon full LED lighting all around has the latest, 3D lamp units with chiseled DRLs, cornering functionality, auto highbeams and even adaptive brake lights that add extra lights when you really slam the brakes.

Shadowline exterior treatment removes every trace of chrome in favor of gloss black or Cerium grey.  This ceramic is almost matte in its finish and looks brilliant on the twin kidneys and lower intake spats.  It also looks hot on the mirror caps and front fender vent – especially with a light paint color choice.  In the test car’s dark Mediterranean Blue paintwork, you do need a second look to confirm this is not a humdrum 530i.

That is both benefit and demerit.  Yes, its subtlety will help avoid tickets and calling attention to oneself on the road.  But sometimes it is nice to be the center of attention.  Non car enthusiasts might not know how special this car is – and that is a shame.

Once you get close, however, a deep M aerokit all around, 19-inch split polished alloys and discreet trunk spoiler make a big impression.  These wheels vaguely recall some M3 Coupe wheels from years past – and are damn sexy.  Optional 20s in Cerium grey are also available but might make the ride a bit less comfy.

M550i also seems to ride quite low and mean versus other 5 series – even with standard xDrive AWD traction.  Adaptive M suspension is standard with a 10-mm ride height drop versus the 540i M Sport.

Even the M550i badge on the trunk is a matching ceramic finish – and is the big give-away that this car is faster than any previous-gen M5.  Quad pipes down below gloss black rectangular finishers are discreet but unique in the 5 series range.  This is the only V8 available outside the upcoming M5 – and these pipes are the evidence.

The overall M550i design is very-much a smaller 7 series in its form language and body surfacing.  It is undoubtedly a very handsome machine.  Its proportions are classic even while the car gets ever larger with each generation.

In terms of design appeal, we’d give the M550i an eight out of ten.  Even the upcoming M5 is pretty subtle, to be honest, and we long for visibly wider fenders and a more expressive nose clip to really rival the new E63S or S7.  Let alone RS7.

INTERIOR

Is commuter heaven a four-door BMW with 20-way multicontour sport seats?  Quite possibly.  These thrones are extremely comfortable at all times – even if the loaded tester is missing the seating package that includes venting as well as heating.  Pretty stingy for that not to come standard when cars like the 2018 Elantra GT have this at $25k.

As we’ll note below, the test M550i had about $15k in options – most of which add tech to the cabin.  Nightvision, heads-up display and Bowers & Wilkins audio alone total about $9k, so if you can skip those we recommend it to save some money.

As it is with its standard Cognac tan leathers, sexy M steering wheel, anthracite headliner and open-pore woods, this M550i is plusher than any 5 series before.  Nearly every surface is some kind of tactile, soft matte material.  The leather wrapped dash and doors are a treat.  Even the precise stitching of the mini airbag unit in the center of the steering wheel is nice to see and touch.

Most helpful option for the superlux impression?  The $1200 Executive package with its soft-close doors and fancy ceramic control surfaces and buttons.  These are always cool to the touch with a dark silvery sheen to match the exterior theme.   The soft-close doors are nice to have to ensure you never have to do a double thunk to compress the extremely thick rubber door seals.  That exec package also adds a Wifi hotspot (that didn’t work for us even when deep in iDrive menus to change its password, etc.) and wireless charging.  This is nice to future-proof the car even if only the latest iPhones can charge with it.

Apple CarPlay is still a $300 stand-alone option for some reason.  This needs to be standard pronto – too many cars arrive at dealers without it.

On the move, this M550i is cloud-like in its smooth, calm silence.  It is a dream of a car for doddling around at low speeds.  Comfort or Adaptive drive modes lighten the steering and dull the throttle a bit for fancy couple’s dinner outings.

The backseat of this generation 5 series is bigger than ever.  It majors on reclined, supportive seat comfort for three back there instead of chasing legroom stats.  Hip, shoulder and foot room are terrific.  Knee room leaves something to be desired versus Genesis G80 Sport, but is about the same as the Jaguar XF or Audi A6.

Whiz-bang tech inside is somewhat limited without option packages.  Gesture control is brilliant and fun to demonstrate to people – but is another $190 stand-alone option.  Should be standard.

iDrive itself is easier than ever.  The touchpad atop the control knob even lets you surf web pages right from the car’s browser if you want.  (While stopped).

iDrive maps seem slightly improved, but cannot shot satellite imagery up close like Audi’s Google Earth displays.  There is some sweet tech on M550i as tested – detailed below in the Pricing section.

PERFORMANCE

Writing about how fast this car pivots and how bombastic it is through corners really does it no justice.  Watch the first few minutes of the drive review above to really sense it in all its HD video glory.

First: the corner speed. 

M550i has standard xDrive but the AWD system is completely imperceptible.  You only know because it never even hints at breaking grip.  And it hangs on around corners like a WRX STi.  Try as we might, we could not even begin to approach this car’s limits on public roads.  It is that fast.  The standard Integral Active Steering cuts the amount of lock needed based on how fast you turn the wheel.  This means the M550i can be hip-checked into a bend or another lane with a quick wrist flick.  The steering is firm and heavy like it should be.  It also delivers vastly more surface feel through the wheel than we recall in the previous 550i.  No sense of a heavy nose in this car, either.

HOW?  The $3600 Dyanmic Handling Package does help.  This adds Adaptive M Suspenion Plus (over the standard adaptive springs) and active roll stabilization.  The combination means the M550i is a true knockout: it can float like a butterfly and also sting like a bee. 

In reality, the option adds extra firmness on demand.  It is still nowhere near as tight and bouncy as the previous-gen M5 Competition Pack, however, even in its firmest setting.

Second: the straight-line speed

In general driving and 5-60-mph launches, the M550i feels gutty and seriously quick.  This sport-ified ZF eight-speed automatic is clairvoyant.  It is spooky good and you almost never need to use the paddles.  They’re just for fun.

The biggest difference in straight-line speed between this M550i’s 462HP and 479 pound-feet of torque and a Charger 392’s 485HP, or E63’s 500+ is not the headline numbers.  BMW is conservative here, and the car easily smacks 500 ponies – at least — when at max attack.

No, what sets this M550i apart is that its speed never tapers.  Crossing 60-mph in 4.0 seconds is actually just when the 4.4-liter V8TT comes alive.  It then starts hurtling you past 100 and 120-mph mere seconds later.  It never reaches a point where drag becomes apparent.  This M550i smashes the atmosphere and makes it its b****.

Then comes a launch start.  You thought M550i was fast in Sport+ with a simple floored throttle?  Seriously, strap in.  You are in for a treat.

The Launch Control is easy and doesn’t stress the car much.  Simply turn TCS off while in park by holding its button down.  Slap the shifter over into its S profile to the left of Drive.  Both feet hard down: left on brake, right on gas pedal.  The M550i knows what to do.

A few seconds of revs get the turbos spinning and POP!  You are off the line.  Bam-upshift.  Bam-upshift.  You thought youre neck was strong?  It isn’t.  Your head hits the pillow-like headrest at each torque peak.  M550i is NOT losing drag races versus almost anything.  This car is a spring WINNER.

Third: the passing power and top-end. 

Passing slower traffic in the M550i is an exercise in restraint.  Mash the gas in any mode and the M550i is lunging forward in lag-free, boost-rich strides.  60-mph to 100-mph feels instant.  Like time travel.  Only faster.

Fourth: Fun?

Yes, yes it is.  This M550i is fun in the same way that all hot-rods are.  It just leaves everything dead in its wake.

M550i is also fun to fling around, too.  What it lacks in tail-out antics it makes up for in lightning-fast turn in and apex-busting boost.  Just get to the middle of a corner, floor the gas and let the M550i’s active rear diff shove you through the bend and onto jailable speeds.  It all happens fast – and is addictive.

Dynamic B-Roll w/ Aerial Drone Cameras

PRICING

The M550i stickers from $72,100 and is a steal of a bargain for that total.  The options make a sweet thing even sweeter and richer, but are not strictly needed to have a ball every time you drive it.

We recommend just the Exec package and Dynamic Handling package, and would skip the $700 park assistant, and $800 climate pack for heated rear seats/steering wheel.  The $1700 Driver Assistance pack with heads-up display is poor value, but needed to add the other $1700 Drive Assistance Plus pack for lane-keep and adaptive cruise.

As cool as the night vision is (it works during the day too!) we cannot justify $2300 for it.  Bowers & Wilkins for $3400 is similarly too rich for our blood, but a must for some.  All in, with everything (except the 20s and vented seats), the M550i test car costs $88,895.  Seems steep until you realize many 540i M Sports can be optioned to that level too.  They are quicker than ever – but lack the V8’s huge torque reserves and cannot crack 3 seconds to 60, like this car can.

M550i is monstrously powerful.  Yet the engine will be tougher and less demanding to own long-term than a race-spec M engine proper.

 

SUMMARY

Gripes?  Very few.  The twin character of the M550i is evident from the driver’s seat.  Yes, it is one of the fastest BMWs of all time.  Yes, it will shame an M4 GTS off the line, while costing $40k less.

But M550i’s default persona is calm, relaxed and mild.  With provocation on throttle or via drive modes, M550i definitely earns its M badge.  Here is a car that will lap circuits at supercar speeds.  Yet one that is also pussy-cat cuddly and easy in daily driving.

Sure, there are places we wish the M550i was more M and less 550i.  Places like the exhaust note that is louder from outside the can than inside. And still a whisper versus Porsche or AMG V8s.

Or places like the ultra-discreet exterior makeover.

A track car is not this car’s mission, however.  It ruthlessly follows the mantra: M-car fast, M-car nimble… but also 7 series smooth.

M550i is a car for those who want shocking power and performance reserves.  But a relaxed cruiser for normal driving in between.

 

Open Next Page for Full M550i Photo Gallery [76 Pics]

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