The newfound power brings a rare combination of value and performance in the luxury sedan segment.
In the automotive world, luxury automakers have locked themselves in an arms race trying to outdo each other and produce the superior vehicle. One of the approaches automakers have been using for years to one-up each other is to add more power, and BMW had recently ripped that page out from the strategy guide and put the rest of the industry on notice. They’ve done this with a significant power upgrade in the 2020 BMW M550i xDrive, which we have on hand for a full evaluation over 15 days.
The 2020 BMW M550i xDrive’s 4.4-litre turbocharged V8 engine is rated at 523 horsepower, up 67 ponies from last year’s model, and peak torque is increased by a whopping 73 lb-ft. to 553, matching that of the almighty M5 Competition (reviewed here). The power increase is notable as it puts the M550i at a huge advantage over all of its peers; the Mercedes-AMG E53 4MATIC+ (reviewed here) outputs 429 horsepower, the Audi S6 makes 444, and even its closest competition, the Lexus GS-F, still gives up 56 horses to the Bavarian super saloon.
With the help of the quick shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and a capable xDrive all-wheel drive system that manages to put power down with minimal traction loss, the BMW M550i xDrive launches with ferocity that could previously only be felt from dedicated M models. We have zero doubt that the M550i can achieve its quoted 3.6-second 0 to 60 mph sprint, beating last year’s figure by 0.4 seconds and coming within three-tenths of the 617-horsepower M5 Competition.
While the acceleration figures might look similar, the biggest difference between the M550i and the M5 (reviewed here) lies in the way they handle themselves around corners through the different all-wheel drive systems. The M550i’s standard xDrive system focuses on putting power down to all four wheels with the least drama possible, and the M5’s tricked-out M xDrive system gives drivers an option to distribute torque to the rear wheels only, making for more stylish corner exits in the hands of the skilled operators.
For most drivers though, the M550i xDrive’s handling ability is enough for any spirited driving they opt to do, and with the added benefit of more compliant ride quality. In the event that things do get out of control, the standard M sport brake system does an excellent job in halting the M550i almost instantly, however the aggressive brake pedal tip-in requires drivers to spend more time getting used to it for day-to-day use.
Three distinct drive-modes are available, Comfort, Sport, and Eco-Pro, with customizability for Sport and Eco-Pro modes for a tailored driving experience. In Sport setting, the dampening, steering, engine, and transmission response can be individually adjusted, and the front seat bolsters can also be enhanced for a more dynamic experience. In Eco-Pro, the vehicle will adjust its ability to coast freely, as well as settings for seat heating, climate control, and lighting systems to conserve fuel. We like that BMW allows for Sport steering and damping profiles in the Eco-Pro mode, so that drivers can continue to have an engaging driving experience while maximizing efficiency.
Our observed fuel consumption for the week of mixed driving came in at 13.0L/100km. Given the cold weather and liberal enjoyment of the delicious V8 engine during our test week, the figure is in line with our expectation. In normal driving condition, we anticipate it can achieve close to the 2019 model’s 13.3/9.2/11.5 L/100km fuel consumption rating.
The current, seventh-generation, 5-series was launched in 2017, and its styling has remained fresh thanks to the distinctive BMW Laser Adaptive headlights and elegant lines. The M550i gets an M aerodynamics package that adds more sculpture all around, and there is a unique Cerium Grey accent on the signature front grille, front and side air inlets, and the mirror caps that allows the M550i to stand out. The black wheels equipped on our tester are also fitting for the M550i’s business looks, and are spaced just enough to let the beautifully painted M sport brake calipers to peek out and remind onlookers of its performance capability.
Inside the M550i is typical BMW, with excellent materials and beautiful craftsmanship throughout. The interior design language has yet to be refreshed to follow the one we observed in the latest X5 (reviewed here), and while we would have liked to see the gorgeous CraftedClarity glass interior bits get offered in the M550i, the tried and true layout is simple and elegant. BMW’s iDrive infotainment remains one of our favourites for being easy to learn and use. It accepts commands using the rotary dial or by touch, and the screen resolution is vivid. The futuristic digital instrument cluster features a fighter jet style speedometer and tachometer; however, readability takes a hit as a result. Fortunately, the optional Head-Up Display is excellent in displaying a wide variety of vital information with great clarity even in daylight settings.
Head and legroom can be considered generous for the class. The front seats favour comfort over lateral support, which is valued for the type of driving the M550i normally sees. The optional Premium Excellence Package includes an air massage function for the front occupants that’s good for reducing fatigue for long drives, however the strength of the massager leaves much to be desired. Other comfort features including soft-close doors, side and rear sunshades, ventilated seats, rear heated seats, wireless charging capability, and an excellent Harman-Kardon premium sound system are also included in the wholesome optional package.
Pricing of the 2020 BMW M550i xDrive starts at $86,150. Add $12,550 for the Premium Excellence Package, $1,450 for the Azurite Metallic paint job, and $400 for Piano Black wood trim and we arrive at an as-tested sticker of $98,700. The BMW M550i’s pricing is closely matched to the Mercedes-AMG E53 4MATIC+, and is several thousand dollars cheaper than that of the Audi S6 and the Lexus GS-F when similarly equipped.
The 2020 BMW M550i xDrive’s competitive pricing strategy and its newfound power come together to bring a rare combination of value and performance in the luxury sedan segment. It is remarkable to think that the M550i is one of the quickest sedans in the industry, despite the fact that it is only the third-string member of the BMW 5-series family. It shows just how capable the modern BMW lineup is, and until its German and Japanese counterparts respond, the BMW M550i xDrive is the best choice in the segment by a wide margin.