|Positives: Authoritative power that's faster than the last M5, more elegant than an M5 but still menacing, rich interior with superb build quality, quick steering, Euro-V8 power is a comparative bargain.|
|Negatives: Engine sounds artificially piped into the cabin, minor turbo lag at low RPMs, can get pricey when optioned out.|
|Bottom Line: For those searching for a luxurious ride that's also a hoot to drive, the M550 xDrive presents a well-priced performer that also looks regal and has top-notch entertainment and performance technology.|
The M550i xDrive is a rapid and luxurious sports sedan that most owners won't ever be disappointed with when it comes to driving. That being said, there is some room for improvement.
Ride Quality: The ride always compliant, even in Sport+ mode. It leans toward luxe, but that doesn't mean the car can't be pushed hard.
Acceleration: The combination of the great 8-speed transmission and solid power to all four wheels equates to a seriously fast 0-60 time around 3.8 seconds. Keep in mind, if you want a twin-turbo V8 Mercedes E63 AMG, you have to pay over $100K, and it's only about a half second faster to 60 mph.
Braking: The M Sport brakes, which use blue-painted calipers and feature M badging, are strong and offer enough feel and a firm pedal.
Steering: The steering could use more feel and effort (Sport+ mode does really ramp up the effort), but in all modes it lacks the feedback of the E39 5-Series from way back when.
Handling: The Adaptive M Suspension Plus, with a 0.4-inch-lower ride height and automatically adjusting anti-roll bars, is superb. The car corners pretty flat for something this heavy.
There's plenty to like in the M550i. From a crisp head-up system to 3D surround view cameras, ambient lighting and slick soft close doors, it's a rolling technology wonder.
Infotainment System: iDrive has come a long way, and the current system is excellent, once you get used to it. It also happens to be one of the best-looking infotainment systems around.
Controls: The center console controls are very easy to use, as well as the ones on the steering wheel. We just didn't like the lack of forward/reverse buttons for audio.
The M550i might not have the pure aggression of the last M5, but it looks fantastic, nonetheless, eschewing the bloated look of the last-gen 5-Series and going for sleek and sophisticated. In Mediterranean Blue Metallic paint and Cognac Dakota Leather, it looks positively posh.
Front: The wide maw could easily be mistaken for a 7-Series. The long kidney grilles and sleek flanking headlights look fantastic. The matte silver highlights above the lower intakes are a nice touch.
Rear: The taillights won't wow anybody, but at least the rear looks crisp and wide. The lack of any chrome is welcomed.
Profile: The 19-inch M Light alloy wheels and metallic fender trim look sophisticated, while the black Shadowline window trim adds sportiness. The hood seems overly long but not bad.
Cabin: It's one of the nicest-looking cabins we've seen in a while. The rich leather color stands out, as does the matte wood trim in a world of overly glossy ones.
The M550i xDrive is comfortable and spacious for all occupants, and it has some of the best seats in the industry.
Front Seats: Seriously adjustable seats provide excellent support and bolstering. We love BMW's thigh bolster, and the heating and cooling are excellent.
Rear Seats: Plenty of space for adults, as well as good head and shoulder room.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): It's bank vault quiet, except when the engine is pushed and the snarling V8 sound is piped in for effect.
Visibility: Great visibility all around, and the pillars aren't overly thick. You'll find yourself using the 360 cameras often, and the 3D feature rocks.
Climate: BMW does climate with the best of them. The system fires up quickly, providing premium comfort levels quickly.
Though this specific trim level hasn't been tested, the new 5-Series gets top marks in crash testing, as well as some impressive safety tech.
IIHS Rating: The current 5 gets the Top Safety Pick+ rating, attaining "good" in all crashworthiness tests, and superior in accident prevention tech.
NHTSA Rating: Not tested.
Standard Tech: Our vehicle came with Park Distance Control, a rearview camera, and BMW Active Protection system that detects imminent accidents and manages pre-collision and post-collision for the optimal safety of occupants.
Optional Tech: Night Vision with Pedestrian detection, Driver Assistance Package Plus that provides Lane Departure Warning, Frontal Collision Warning, City Collision Mitigation, and Pedestrian Protection.
BMWs aren't Hondas when it comes to practical storage/cargo space galore, but for a sport-luxury sedan that's performance minded, the M550i is pretty good.
Storage Space: The large center stack cubby with the retractable door is handy, as is the split-top armrest, somewhat compromised by the Qi charger.
Cargo Room: 18.7 cubic feet of trunk space is pretty capacious and can hold a weekend's worth of luggage and gear. Drop the rear seats, and you get a substantial 63 cubic feet.
No one buys this car to save on gas. It's a big-displacement engine, and the car really does beg to be throttled most of the time.
Observed: 15.3 mpg
Distance Driven: 207 miles
Driving Factors: We drove it in Sport and Sport+ modes most of the time with our time split between local 35 mph roads and highways.
Our car got the big Bowers & Wilkins upgraded sound system, even better than the stock Harman Kardon system. It was loud, clear and full with great bass and midrange. It's one of the better systems out there, but it's seriously expensive at $3,600.