Like other sedans in BMW’s lineup, the 5 Series is divided into three parts: commuter-friendly cars, mid-level performance sedans, and the track-ready M models. The more basic BMW 530 and 540 models are decent enough but fail to wow. Reviews of the M5 have just started coming in and they’re more in line with the, “Holy crap, that’s fast,” sentiment. In the middle sits the 2018 BMW M550i, the 5 Series tween.
For this review, I drove the M550i xDrive for a week traveling on twisting rural roads, highways, and in city traffic. The model BMW leant me to test came well-equipped at $88,985. On the base price of $72,100, BMW had added the Cold Weather Package ($800), a head up display ($1,700), Active Driving Assistant Plus ($1,700), Dynamic Handling Package ($3,600), Executive Package ($1,200), Parking Assistance Package ($700), Apple CarPlay ($300), an upgraded Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($3,400), Night Vision with pedestrian detection ($2,300), gesture control ($190), and $995 for destination and delivery.
The M550i xDrive has just about the same exterior as the more basic 5-Series models save for a M rear spoiler; Cerium Grey metallic exterior mirror caps, kidney grille frame, M Performance design accents on the front air intake, and the two Air Breathers on the front fenders; high-gloss Shadow Line trim around the windows; and a M sports exhaust system. On the inside, there are additional upgrades including M550i xDrive illuminated door sills, Black Dakota leather seats with blue contrast stitching, M sports steering wheel, M design floor mats, and M design aluminum pedals.
What is supposed to set the M550i xDrive apart from the rest of the 5-Series and the competition is its modified M Performance twin turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine that delivers 456 horsepower and 480 lb.-ft. of torque. The car gets from zero to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, but not smoothly despite the specially tuned Steptronic Sport 8-speed transmission. The model I test drove had extended turbo lag that caused it to be inordinately slow to engage off the line in traditional driving situations. When the twin turbos kicked in, it was like a swift kick in the pants as you are casually walking down the stairs.
The default drive mode is Comfort, which delivers a kinder, gentler car via a softer suspension, smoother shifts, and quieter exhaust. In Sport+ mode, the car comes alive, allowing a noisier and more engaging drive, especially when traveling at high speeds or winding roads. But, how often do you drive like that? (All the time! – Ed.)
My best guess is that most M550i xDrive drivers will primarily use the car in town and on highways. That sort of lag doesn’t fly there. Lurching is never fun for traditional street drivers and the best cars are equally good in traditional and more aggressive driving situations.
The cabin of the M550i xDrive comes well-equipped with the latest BMW technologies and fine leather surfaces. It all looks just fine but it’s especially exciting. The cabin looks pretty much like every other BMW sedan, aside from the M Performance badging. It’s very much a case of once you’ve seen a few, you’ve basically seen them all.
The truck of the car is large for a midsize sedan. Folding rear seats feature a 40/20/40 split. There is plenty of small item storage throughout the cabin.
The M550i xDrive comes equipped with the latest BMW safety technologies and the 5 Series performs well in crash testing.
The price of the M550i xDrive is in line with the 2018 Audi S6. It has a higher starting price than the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class though available features quickly drive the cost of that car up into the range of the BMW and Audi models. The beefier Genesis G80 Sport offers a more engaging drive and comes with a much lower price tag.
Like any tween, the M550i has parts you like but there are some finer parts of its personality that need another refining. It’s visually a good-looking car and its high-end interior is nice enough. The biggest problem is that it just doesn’t feel special. For $80,000, I want a complete car that makes me feel like I am getting my money’s worth. The 2018 BMW M550i just doesn’t make me feel that way.