The 2018 BMW M550i’s name takes its cues from the 1979 BMW M535i, the M5’s predecessor that set the automaker’s performance-luxury ethos for generations. The new M550i carries on that “ultimate driving machine” spirit with thrilling performance combined with a slick look.
Outside, the M550i has several styling details that bridge the gap between 5 Series and M5. They include a unique, aerodynamic body kit, rear spoiler, blacked-out grille, and 19-inch alloy wheels that are slightly wider in front than the rear.
The cabin features one of the best expressions of BMW’s interior design philosophy. It’s mechanical and tech-laden, but unlike other BMW models, it’s warm and welcoming, thanks in large part to the Cognac Dakota leather interior. The broad woodgrain interior accent panel spans the dash and gives the M550i a bold, warm appearance.
The controls are all well laid out, including the joystick-style shifter and the dial for the iDrive controller. The top of the controller doubles as a touch-sensitive pad that allows you to “draw” letters and numbers, which makes entering an address or contact easier. You can, of course, circumvent the whole process with voice control.
The large 10.2-inch iDrive screen has a logical, easy-to-use layout, and it’s now a touchscreen. Through the iDrive’s gesture control, drivers and passengers can use simple hand gestures to perform actions like changing the volume and skipping to the next track. It’s a really cool technology, but seems to only work some of the time.
Our test model also came with heated and cooled seats, navigation, an impressive Bowers & Wilkins stereo system, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. In past vehicles, CarPlay required a connection via USB cable, but with the M550i, it connects wirelessly, allowing you to access Apple Maps, podcasts, and apps like Pandora and Spotify.
The M550i comes with a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine that makes 456 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to xDrive all-wheel drive via an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Fuel economy estimates for the M550i are 16 miles per gallon in the city, 25 highway, and 19 combined. In our time of mixed driving, we observed fuel economy of 18.3 miles per gallon.
The M535i is a fabulous performer. Steering is well-weighted and precise, with quick response in corners. Body roll is minimal, yet the big chassis seems to float over bumps on the road. A drive mode button provides Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport+ drive modes. Sport+ tightens up the steering and quickens throttle response, but also pipes in manufactured engine sound, which is disingenuous and somewhat cheesy.
City residents, beware: the long wheelbase that makes the rear seat supremely comfortable actually hurts the vehicle’s turning radius, so maneuvering in tight spaces can be a chore.
Luckily, BMW offers impressive safety and driver-awareness technology, such as parking sensors all around and a 360-degree camera system with multiple angles. Other safety tech that came on our test model included the Driving Assistance Plus Package, which includes active lane-keeping assist and traffic-jam assist.
The BMW M550i has a base MSRP of $72,100. Our test model had a sticker price of $88,985. For reference, the base 5 Series has an MSRP of $52,400.
Under the Hood:
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic transmission
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
Power: 556 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque
0-60 acceleration: 3.9 seconds
Top Speed: 130 miles per hour (155 miles per hour without electronic limiter)
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