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BMW M550i xDrive review

Colin Cumming test-drove the BMW M550i xDrive, and sends his report on a returning BMW favourite.

BMW M550i xDrive

BMW M550i xDrive

When the understated M550i xDrive was introduced by BMW in 2016, it sat in the shadows of its big brother, the M5 – but not anymore. The refreshed M550i is now making its own mark.

The M550i has been offered in overseas markets since 2017, however, it's only been in the last few years that BMW relented and brought it to these shores, where it's been mostly pitted against German counterparts. The M550i isn't quite a full M5, but that's no bad thing.

When BMW refreshed the 5 Series range, they also tweaked the M550i, bringing with it a new front end, some subtle tech upgrades, body upgrades, as well as new colour and trim options. The aesthetic changes weren't too dramatic, thus helping it to still differentiate from its big brother. The sleek 5 Series saloon is as eye-catching as ever, with subtle design lines and refined bodywork. As standard, you get exclusive 20-inch alloys and cerium grey exterior detailing.

As you'd expect, the luxurious M550i is packed with high-quality leather with a very well-finished interior, top-end tech and superbly comfortable electric seats. Ambient lighting, M Aerodynamic pack, 4-zone control automatic air conditioning, Harmon/Kardon Surround sound system, M sport leather steering and a neat BMW live cockpit professional sat nav system displayed on a 12.3-inch high resolution screen all help add to the luxurious executive feel.

There's plenty of toys and tech, and the new infotainment system runs BMW's latest software, which includes all the latest safety and driver assistance tech – including cruise control with brake function and park distance front and rear. There are a few options available, such as excellent 3D parking cameras and a large heads-up display which gives clear and concise information, directions and even projects a map.

The M550i is fitted with BMW's award-winning twin power turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 powertrain, borrowed from the M850i model. This potent mix delivers 530hp, with a 0-62mph sprint in an incredible 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. In fact, it's one of a handful of saloons in its class left with an impressive V8 engine, with clever tech including two twin-scroll turbos and direct and indirect fuel injection which helps deliver a combined 26.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 243g/km. When that V8 purrs, it's music to your eyes. It's subtle yet powerful.

On the road, upon acceleration, you feel the immense power underneath the bonnet. The power is sent to all four wheels via BMW's xDrive system, with the eight-speed ZF Steptronic automatic effortlessly providing power with precision. The M550i is a big car, heavy too, though it doesn't feel it behind the wheel. The ride is superbly damped, providing an excellent drive; even in Sports mode, the suspension has no trouble absorbing any surface intrusions. If you want a little fun, put the dampers to the firmest setting, enable stability control into M Sport mode, and the M550i will adjust its line coming out of the corners.

The M550i is a sophisticated and intuitive car to drive. The brakes are sharp and have plenty of stopping power, and the steering is responsive and engaging. Grip and handling are excellent, whether on motorway, country lanes or in town. With adaptive dampers, M Sport Differential and adaptive M suspension fitted as standard, you can't help but enjoy being behind the wheel.

At low revs, the charismatic V8 authentically purrs, delivering an undeniable and extremely effective performance. The transmission is sharp and smooth, and the shift points are well calibrated and balanced.

Interspersed throughout the cabin there's a mix of old school buttons with modern touchscreen and even touch buttons. Modern BMWs are becoming more touchscreen, so it's nice to see, and use, the mix of old and the new.

The M550i is an impressive piece of kit all round. It's subtle demeanour oozes class and refinement, not to mention road presence. It personifies cool without trying and can unleash vast amounts of power when needed. It's not as prominent as the M5 in terms of power or popularity, and that's a good thing, as it gets to create its own identity. Even fully loaded, the M550i is cheaper than the M5 and offers a drive on par.

The BMW M550i comes in at £72,885 before any options are added, or £4,999 deposit with £989 per month.

Be in no doubt, the M550i is an impressive car, delivering comfort, power and luxury in spades. It's subtle and understated, yet it's graceful prowess can become a performance car with its thundering V8. BMW's slogan is ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ – well, this ethos might have just been met.

About the Author

Colin Cumming