Looking for an executive sedan on the sportier side, but not quite as aggressive as an M5? Then BMW has the vehicle for you: the M550i xDrive.
Sitting atop the 5 Series range, this recent addition to the lineup is truly the ultimate touring sedan with ample seating for five adults and loads of legroom. The standard all-wheel drive system normally sends more power to the rear axle to provide signature German agile handling, intelligently sending torque to any corner requiring additional grip in slippery situations.
During my week evaluating our loaner, I took it both on a long drive down the highway and the electric power steering gave wonderful feedback of the road. Fully variable, the wheel firms up in SPORT and SPORT+ modes making navigating windy country roads a particularly enjoyable experience. Sudden required stops are handled beautifully by the big M Sport brakes visible from afar, the calipers finished in a bright metallic blue colour and covered in M logos.
The M550i is proof the mighty V8 isn’t quite dead yet. Delivering silky smooth performance is a 4.4-litre eight-cylinder BMW TwinPower Turbo unit rated at 455 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. With a 0 to 100 km/h time of four seconds flat, merging and passing is truly effortless. However, puttering about town isn’t jerky or loud — under normal operation the ride is quiet and comfortable. In ECO mode the vehicle was even able to achieve an astoundingly efficient fuel consumption of 8.7 L/100 km on the highway.
As far as infotainment systems go, the latest iDrive 7.0 is among the best. Many manufacturers struggle to strike a fine balance between responsive, intuitive software and amount of physical buttons, which is not the case here. The control wheel makes selecting what you’re trying to select quick and easy, for example browsing SiriusXM radio channels. A built-in Wi-Fi hotspot means everyone in the car stays connected even while road tripping.
Open the door and the doorsills light up to greet occupants, displaying an illuminated “M550i xDrive” inscription. The seats are covered in Black Dakota leather with contrast blue stitching, and buyers have the option of swapping in nappa leather at an additional cost. Other highlights include specialty steering wheel, floor mats, and aluminum pedals.
As expected, the M550i takes the elegant lines of the current 5 Series and ratchets everything up a notch. The grill frame, front bumper air intake, Air Breathers on the front fenders and side mirror caps are all painted a Cerium Grey metallic, and the side windows feature a high-gloss Shadow Line trim around the edges. An M Performance aero kit is installed all around, topped off by a rear spoiler on the trunk lid.
The dual angular black chrome muffler tips poking out from the back are far from cosmetic. A free-flowing M sports exhaust is fitted, producing a soundtrack that’s exciting yet civilized for enthusiastic motoring on the open road.
Motor: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 455 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 480 @ 1,800 rpm
Gearbox: eight-speed automatic transmission
Layout: front engine, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 10.1 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)
Photos: BMW pressroom