THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Taking the latest 5 Series qualities (essentially a shrunken 7 Series) and adding best-ever performance and handling qualities. And that sound . . .
- What’s Worst: I can’t afford it.
- What’s Interesting: As impressive as it is, a new 600 hp M5 model will push the mid-size sport sedan performance envelope even further next spring.
It just never gets old.
Goose the gas and the engine erupts, fuel and air pumping through dual twin-scroll turbochargers, spark and fire releasing the fury of a 4.4-litre V8 to the tune of 455 hp and 480 lb/ft of torque.
It’s savagery enabled by sophistication, with the blended technologies of BMW’s High Precision Injection system, Valvetronic fully variable valve lift and Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing control, combining and kicking in to the power equation.
But all a driver realizes is that you are getting up to speed and, man; you are doing it in a hurry.
After initial launch, the full load of torque comes on strong and early at a low 1,800 rpm.
BMW’s xDrive may have a rear-wheel bias to enable sporty handling, but right now all four wheels are digging in, the low-profile 20-inchers scrunching into the pavement and hurling you forward, the g-forces of acceleration jumbling your innards and jamming you into the seat back.
But really, what else would you expect from a V8?
Well, this is somehow different from Detroit power, from the ambient leather aromas and interior Euro environs, to the baritone moan that is singing a vaguely Teutonic tune, rising to a crescendo, prickling your adrenaline and mentally transporting you to some remembered chase scene in the movie Ronin.
This is the 2018 BMW M550i, lighter, stronger and the fastest 5 Series ever, boasting an acceleration time of 0-100 km/h in four seconds.
The power to get the job done has been complemented by a 10 mm drop in ride height, a bespoke chassis, sport suspension set-up, and a specially-tuned Steptronic Sport eight-speed transmission, with shift modes tailored to the TwinPower Turbo V8 engine and putting the final power down through the aforementioned BMW intelligent xDrive all-wheel drive system.
BMW Efficient Dynamics with auto start/stop and freewheeling coasting benefits the fuel mileage, probably not a concern for customers swallowing an +$80K price tag, but appreciated by your humble tester.
An NRCan official fuel economy rating is not yet available but numbers ranging from BMW’s 12.7/6.8L/100km (city/hwy) to the U.S EPA’s 14/9.4L/100km (city/hwy) give a ballpark idea.
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A variety of mode settings – SPORT, SPORT+, COMFORT and ECOPRO – allow performance choices with corresponding responses from the M-specific electromechanical power steering system, while wheel-prominent M Sport brakes and brake calipers, coolly accented in blue metallic with M badging, provide beefed-up stopping power.
Other accents include an M aerodynamic kit with a rear spoiler on the trunk lid and air breathers on the front fenders finished in a special Cerium Grey metallic finish, also applied to the kidney grille frame and front air intake accents.
Smallish, subtle side badges mark the front fenders while the “M550i” badge is mounted on the trunk lid. High-gloss Shadow Line trim around the windows adds BMW bling while, in back, exclusive black chrome tailpipes help to sing the V8 symphony.
And M accents extend into the interior with illuminated “M550i xDrive” door sills, aluminum sport pedals, M design floor matts and a new M sports steering wheel.
You’ll find the usual sumptuous 5 Series appointments that you’d expect in a car that is, despite performance enhancements, true to its executive saloon status, still weighing in at 2,058 kg and still loaded with luxuries to match.
In this case, the usual Black Dakota leather with blue contrast stitching has been replaced with optional Nappa leather ($1,500) – soft, supple and in the creamy kind of off-white shade your mother warned you about.
Our tester was further enhanced with a Premium Package ($6,500) adding ventilated comfort seats, soft close doors, universal remote, individual reading lights, ceramic controls, message function, SiriusXM tuner and parking assist with 360/3D surround view.
A set of more intrinsic extras comes with the Advanced Driver Assist Package – Driver Assistant Plus, Steering & Lane Control, Evasion Assist, Cross Traffic Alert, Active Cruise with Stop & Go, and Lane Keep Assist.
It’s a comprehensive package that builds on the BMW 5 Series’ already impressive inherent qualities.
At the start of this story, I mentioned that the M550i is the fastest 5 Series model – for now.
Well, BMW brand fans are probably already aware that an even faster, ever more furious 5 Series model – the vaunted and latest BMW M5, making a monstrous 600 hp, is slated to arrive next spring.
Until then, the M550i does a pretty good job of offering an ultimate 5 Series level of panache and performance.
It’s a car that can be anything you want, from a sedate saloon cruising in Comfort mode to a supreme Sport+ muscle machine, with combined abilities and qualities that push the sport/luxury envelope further than ever before.
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2018 BMW M550i
BODY STYLE: Mid-size, luxury sports sedan.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, xDrive all-wheel-drive, eight-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: 4.4-litre TwinPower Turbo V8 (455 hp, 480 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 12.7/6.8L/100km (city/hwy)
CARGO VOLUME: 530 litres
PRICE: $82,000; As tested $92,250 incl Premium Pkg ($6,500), Advanced Driver Pkg ($1,500), Nappa Leather ($1,500), Smartphone Connectivity ($750). Destination ($2,245) not incl.
WEB SITE: BMW.ca