BMW has a new model for 2018, the first ever BMW M550i xDrive, the first M Performance version of the world’s most successful business sedan, occupying a spot as the top-of-the-line performance vehicle in the BMW 5-Series lineup.
The new BMW is also the fastest 5-Series to date, going from zero-60 in under four seconds, with an M Performance TwinPower Turbo engine producing 456 horsepower, and an outstanding blend of performance and uncompromising everyday usability.
M models have a specially tuned chassis for even sharper steering response. And xDrive, BMW’s intelligent all-wheel drive with rear-wheel bias, allows sportiness and practicality.
Intelligent start stop, included for the first time, switches off the engine to help conserve fuel and reduce CO2 emissions when a stop is anticipated to last for a certain period of time. The M550i has been EPA rated at 16 mpg city/25 highway/19 combined.
Four 5-Series models are available – 530i, 530e iPerformance, 540i, and M550i – with sDrive (RWD) or xDrive available for all except the M550i, which has standard xDrive.
Prices range from $51,200 to $72,100, with xDrive adding $2,300. Engines are, respectively, a 2.0-liter, TwinPower Turbo inline four-cylinder; a 3.0-liter, turbo inline six; and a 4.4-liter, turbo V-8.
The first ever M550i xDrive is the first M Performance model to be powered by the specially modified TwinPower Turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine.
A specially tuned steptronic sport eight-speed transmission has been tailored to the characteristics of the V-8, has launch control, and can be operated using shift paddles on the steering wheel or the shifter in the center console.
The driver can select one of four driving modes – comfort, eco pro for efficiency, sport for dynamic driving, and the new adaptive mode to continuously adjust to suit current driving conditions.
The xDrive sends power to all four wheels, as the situation requires, with rear-wheel bias, delivering two fundamental elements of trademark M Performance: increased driving performance and precise handling.
The adaptive M Sport suspension lowers ride height by 0.4-inches, and allows the driver to select the highest level of comfort or a real sports car ride. Sensors measure speed, corner angles, and road conditions and the system adapts accordingly.
An M aerodynamic kit with an M rear spoiler accentuates the sporty lines of the M550i, while optimizing airflow around and over the car. Mirror caps, kidney grille frame, special M Performance design accents on the front air intake and two air breathers on the front fenders feature cerium gray metallic finish.
High-gloss shadow line trim around the windows adds impact to the undeniable dynamic appearance. Exclusive black chrome tailpipes are part of the M Sport exhaust system, which is responsible for producing the unmistakable and exciting BMW M roar.
The kidney grille and headlights are directly linked for the first time ever in the seventh generation of the sporty 5-Series. The low, sloping roof adds an elegant coupe-like silhouette to the muscular body, while the broad rear accentuates the high performance capability of the line.
Two wheels are available for the M550i – standard 19-inch M light-alloy in cerium gray metallic matte, or exclusive 20-inch M light-alloy ($950), also in cerium gray.
M Sport brakes show blue metallic calipers with M badging through the spokes, while providing outstanding stopping power and excellent feel.
Uniquely shaped tubes give the adaptive LED headlights the arrow-shaped design of the 5-Series. The moving headlights shine deep into corners at the turn of the steering wheel, while selective beam automatically adjusts the high beams according to exterior light conditions.
My M550i was Mediterranean blue metallic, with cognac Dakota leather seating, stitched Sensa Tec dash, fineline cove matte wood trim (heavy grain), ambient lighting across the lower dash and upper door panels, M Sport steering wheel, M design floor mats, aluminum pedals, illuminated “M550i xDrive” door sills, and anthracite headliner. Base price was $72,100.
The 20-way multi-contour seats included adjustable thigh support, lumbar support, and seat memory for driver and passenger. A 40/20/40 fold-down rear seatback and hands-free power trunk lid were versatile for loading several large items. All seats were exceptionally comfortable for our road trip.
The BMW ConnectedDrive system provides a link between man, machine, and the outside world, using smartphones, smartwatches, computers and tablets, as well as the vehicle’s navigation system.
This technology becomes a personal mobility manager, recognizing the driver’s patterns and preferences. For example, ConnectedDrive factors in advanced real time traffic information and recommends earlier departure if a detour appears necessary. ParkNow will help the driver find, reserve, and pay for parking.
A cold weather package ($800) added a heated steering wheel and heated seats, front and rear. Driving assistance ($1,700) brought a color HUD; driving assistance plus ($1,700) added active driving assistance plus; and dynamic handling ($3,600) included adaptive M suspension plus, active roll stabilization, and integral active steering (the rear wheels turn slightly for easier parking and cornering, and stability at higher speeds).
The head-up display projected current speed, navigation directional arrows, posted speed limit, and more onto the windshield. Driver assistance plus included blind-spot detection, daytime pedestrian protection, frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation, lane-departure warning and cross-traffic alert, using audible alerts and automatic priming/activation of braking to avoid or mitigate the severity of collisions.
An executive package ($1,200) featured soft-close automatic doors, ceramic controls (gloss black), wireless charging (center console, under the center stack, behind the cupholders – inconvenient, to say the least), WiFi hotspot (requires paid access), and enhanced USB and Bluetooth.
Parking assistance ($700) with parking assistant plus and surround view with 3-D View will find a parking spot and steer the vehicle into the selected spot with minimal input from the driver. The 3-D/360-degree image shows what is beside, in front and behind – with a computer image of the vehicle superimposed. The superimposed image was small and a little confusing in a crowded parking lot with people walking by.
Apple CarPlay compatibility added $300, NightVision with pedestrian detection was $2,300, a Bower & Wilkins Diamond (diamond tweeters) surround sound system cost $3,400, and gesture control for the touch screen added $190 to the sticker.
Gesture control allows driver or passenger to control the volume by moving a hand in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. My passenger was talking with his hands and accidentally raised the volume, to his surprise and awe.
The touch screen is easy to operate, with six configurable live tiles for navigation, media, communication, ConnectedDrive, My Vehicle and messaging. Some controls were more than two clicks away, but the most-often-used controls were one or two clicks – especially the volume for navigation guidance.
A BMW active protection system includes pre-tensioning of seatbelts, priming and/or pre-application of brakes, closing of windows, closing of the sunroof, turning on hazard lights, and turning off the fuel supply to prevent or mitigate further damage from a collision.
The total delivered price of my M550i -- $88,985 – included $15,890 in options and $995 destination charges.
We averaged 23.5 mpg on our road trip, traveling over 75 percent on the highway. Driving was easy and fun, seats were very comfortable and accommodating, and amenities such as separate climate controls added to the pleasure.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.