Test Drive: BMW M550i Sedan full review

Test Drive: BMW M550i Sedan full review

August 12th, 2017 by Mark Kennedy in Business Around the Region

The 2018 BMW M550i has a 556-horsepower engine.

Photo by Mark Kennedy /Times Free Press.

The interior of the 2018 BMW M550i features Cognac Dakota leather.

The interior of the 2018 BMW M550i features...

Photo by Mark Kennedy /Times Free Press.

Some cars have a lawless heart.

Witness the 2018 BMW M550i sedan, which has undisguised contempt for all posted speed limits.

During a week of Chattanooga-area driving, our 456-horsepower BMW M550i tester appeared to be sniffing around for the nearest autobahn despite my warnings to play by the rules of the road.

Seriously, this car's hushed isolation and twin turbocharged V-8 engine lull you into a false sense that you are adhering to speed laws, when the speedometer tells a different story. Thus, 45 mph feels like 25 mph in the M550i; and 70 mph feels like 50. This is how space travel must feel without the zero-gravity part.

A good problem to have, you say.

Well, perhaps, if you make generous use of cruise control functions. Otherwise, vigilance is a must. With a top speed of 150 mph-plus, the M550i is one bad mama-jama. Alas, the highway patrol has special housing available for those who would test the Bimmer's upper limits. It's called jail.

So, if you have an M-tuned 5-Series in your sights please obey all traffic laws and be content with controlled bursts of speed.

All this thrust comes at a price, too. Our Mediterranean Blue Metallic tester has a bottom line of $88,985, but keep in mind that BMW says this is the fastest 5-series sedan of all time. It also includes over $16,000 worth of options — about the cost of a new Honda Civic.

As a sweetener, BMW includes three years (or 36,000 miles) of standard maintenance. BMW of Chattanooga has three M550i's listed in its digital inventory this week.


The BMW M550i is handsome but not ostentatious. In fact, it looks very much like a base 5-series that's $30,000 cheaper. Still, stealthiness is part of its charm.

The iconic kidney shaped grille panels taper into swept headlight assemblies that give the M550i a slightly menacing look. Special 19-inch alloy wheels are one of the giveaways that the sedan has been given the M-treatment, and are, thankfully, standard equipment.

Some of the pricier options include a cold weather package ($800) featuring heated seats and steering wheel, a $1,700 head-up display, a $3,600 sport suspension package, and a $1,200 executive package that includes soft-close automatic doors, ceramic controls, wireless smartphone charging and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

One of our litmus tests for interior quality is fast-food worker approval. Drive-through windows give the perfect view of a car's interior and the BMW M500i collected compliments from workers at Krystal and Burger King. The workers at McDonalds, meanwhile, were too busy whipping up fancy coffees to notice the gorgeous Cognac Dakota leather in our tester.

Oh, well. Their loss.

To our eye, the mix of matte wood trim and leather furnishings the color of a chocolate milkshake give the interior a delicious look. The seats are firm and supportive, not couch-soft like some others in the class. Everything about the design reflects high-class athleticism.

An outstanding Bowers and Wilkins sound system adds $3,400 to the bottom line, although few customers in this price echelon may notice. Night vision — crucial in a battle tank but a mere conversation starter in a sedan — is a $2,300 option. Ostensibly it helps you see pedestrians before they step in front of your car at night. Unless you're a Manhattanite this seems like overkill.


-Model: 2018 BMW M550i xDrive

-Exterior color: Mediterranean Blue Metallic

-Interior color: Cognac Dakota Leather

-Engine: 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8

-Horsepower: 456

-Transmission: eight-speed automatic

-Fuel economy: 25 mpg highway, 19 mpg city

-Local Dealer: BMW of Chattanooga

-Price (as tested): $88,985


Despite its aforementioned unbridled personality, the M550i is actually a joy to drive. It's one of those sedans that's built for comfort but prepared for those instances when you feel an impulse to get wild.

Make no mistake, a twin-turbocharged V-8 making 480 pound-feet of torque is a rocket launcher, capable of tossing the Bimmer from zero to 60 miles per hour in a mere 3.9 seconds. Equipped with BMW's excellent xDrive all-wheel-drive system, the M500i hugs corners while special ventilated brakes are a counterbalance to that beastly acceleration.

The EPA estimates that the M550i will get 25 miles per gallon of gas highway and 19 mpg city, about the same as a mid-size SUV with 200 less horsepower.

View other Test Drive stories by Mark Kennedy

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If you sometimes feel you have a split personality, the M550i might just be your automotive soul-mate. Sedate one day, seductive the next, it could almost occupy two stalls in your garage.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.