I am sure you have heard of the phrase “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” This proverb has been accurate for most of BMW’s recent history. This is especially true for their current lineup because their vehicles tend to be polar opposites. The latest generation of Bimmers offer either Mercedes level luxury or Porsche level performance. You are either riding in comfort and style in their series models (IE 3-series,5-series,etc) or being bounced around like ping pong ball while you are grinning from ear to ear in their M cars (IE M3,M5,etc). If you haven’t noticed, BMW’s latest trend is to offer “M Sport” packages for their series models; Allowing a 180 horsepower 320i sedan to pose as a 425 horsepower M3. This is like allowing a sheep to dress in wolf’s clothing. The “M Sport” packages in most cases don’t offer any performance benefits while making the vehicle look like an M car. Thus the packages are a waste of money in my opinion.
So now we turn to this week’s vehicle… the BMW M550i. It is not an M5, but it is also not, not an M5. And don’t confuse it as a BMW 5-Series with an M-Sport package. The most accurate statement I can come up with is that the BMW M550i is an M5 with a “touring package.”
Both vehicles share a nearly identical 4.4L twin-turbo V8 engine. But the M550i’s motor produces 456 horsepower and 480 pounds of torque, while the M5’s motor produces 600 horsepower and 554 pounds of torque. The difference between the two motors is the tuning and compression. You could likely pay a performance shop to give you the extra 102 horsepower for less than a $1,000. The 8-speed automatic gearboxes are nearly identical and the weight between the two vehicles vary by 2 pounds. All of this gives the M5 a 0.7 second advantage from 0 to 60 mph and a 26mph top speed boost.
Let’s be real thought. Most people are not going to track their family sedan on the weekends, and most people wont be jetting down the freeway at over 130mph. This is why the M550i allows you to take the cake. It is a slightly less aggressive M5 that allows you to enjoy your daily commute almost as much as a twisty road in the Ozarks or the dragstrip. In comfort drive settings it feels like a true executive sedan with a soft ride, premium leather seats, and advanced technology. But when you feel like it, the M550i rockets from 0 to 60 mph 1/2 a second faster than a Porsche 911. It is able to give you that true feeling of luxury when you want it and adrenalin when you need it. The M550i has adjustable suspension, and you can feel the difference between the settings, but you don’t get bounced around like a ping pong ball even in the stiffest setting – like you would on a true M car. The 20-way multi-contour seats on the M550i are also a lot more comfortable than competition themed seats in the M5. This means you won’t be as fatigued after spending all day driving.
The technology in the M550i is obviously state of the art. With lane-keep assist technology and emergency braking, the car can nearly drive itself. My favorite technology is a simple one, but extremely useful, wireless Apply Car Play. Outside of BMW, every car I have driven requires you to plug in your iPhone in order to control your iPhone via Apple CarPlay. It is a first world problem but having to take your phone out of your pocket and plug it into the car is annoying for short trips. BMW’s wireless Apple CarPlay displays your iPhone screen on the dash within seconds of starting up the M550i. There was no detectible lag while interacting with your device, and battery life did not appear to be an issue even at extended periods of time. I am heavy iPhone user, so this small feature alone would make me want to buy a BMW over the competition.
The BMW M550i isn’t cheap though. It starts at 73,900 with a fully optioned model topping out at over $100,000. A base level 5-series starts at $52,000 and an M5 starts out at $102,600. So in comparison, the M550i isn’t a bad deal because it delivers M5 performance in a much more livable package.