BMW’s fiery M550i is a four-door rocketship
Oh, for a racetrack. Or at least a sinewy mountain road. I’d even settle for an empty freeway on-ramp. Anywhere to test the mettle of this glorious BMW M550i xDrive sedan I’m driving.
Alas, to pilot it here in the Sunshine State, where the closest curve is in Georgia, is something of a waste.
It’s like buying the son of Seabiscuit to give the kids pony rides. Or a $48-grand Hasselblad H6D-400 to snap selfies.
Yes, when the cops aren’t looking, you can try out the car’s rocket-launcher 3.6 seconds to 60 acceleration. Feel the Space-X mid-range thrust of that mighty 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 and its 523 horses.
And, yes, when that runaway dachshund darts out in front, it’s fun to feel the truly eyeball-popping retardation you get from the 550i’s pizza-sized rotors and massive M Sport calipers. Hitting a brick wall wouldn’t stop you any faster.
But without a stretch of serpentine blacktop, the M550i’s rear-wheel steering, its complex active roll stabilization, its rear-biased all-wheel drive with M Sport differential, are all items on a spec sheet.
When I did finally find that elusive, empty on-ramp and put pedal to the metal, the car’s 20-inch Bridgestone tires gripped like Velcro on velvet. But I could almost hear them whispering: Dude, Is that all you got?
Think of this M550i as an ever-so-slightly softer, friendlier version of BMW’s weapons-grade M5 performance flagship. An M5 ‘lite’ perhaps.
Not that there’s anything ‘lite’ about the price tag. Its base sticker is a non-trivial $77,795. But you won’t get away that easy. You’ll want the $3,600 Dynamic Handling Package, the $2,150 Executive Package, the $1,100 upgrade to those gorgeous 20-inch M wheels.
It doesn’t stop there. How could you not resist our test car’s Aventurin Red Metallic paint — a $1,950 add-on? Or the ear-bleeding Bowers & Wilkins sound system. That’s another, yikes, $3,400.
All told, our tester topped out at a slightly crazy $93,735. The only comfort is that the $77-grand base price is roughly $25,000 less than an M5.
But curves or no curves, this latest M550i is a piece of rolling perfection. Even cruising it to Starbucks, or commuting to the office — remember what that is? — it will thrill and excite you.
To see the gap open up in I-75 traffic, to bury the throttle and feel that hair-trigger 8-speed automatic kick down one, two, three gears. And there’s that awesome thrust.
Yes, there’s a whole mainframe of computer bytes being fired around, controlling body roll, channeling engine torque to different wheels, adding or subtracting weight to the steering.
All you have to do, though, is sit back and let it all happen, knowing that on public roads the car will do its very best to thrill without ever getting you into trouble.
And sitting back is one of the best things about this M550i. Its cockpit is a pleasure dome of style, luxury, form and function. Those front sport seats hug and support in all the right places, offering 20-way power adjustment. That chunky M Sport wheel is a true tactile delight just to grip.
In BMW fashion, the fit, finish and quality is exceptional — from our test car’s Cognac Dakota seat leather, to the wafer-thin lines of colorful neon, to the brushed metal paddle shifters. Just gorgeous.
Step back and take in the sporting body adornments you get with the M550i and you’ll either be wowed or underwhelmed.
Yes, there’s that semi-aggressive front end with its air-gulping intakes, the blacked-out kidney grille, subtle rear spoiler and hard-to-miss M550i badging on the trunk.
But it really isn’t dramatic enough to turn heads in the valet park line or impress the neighbors too much.
And that, to me, is the problem. With really nowhere in Florida to make the most of the M550i’s staggering performance, its amazing technology and precision handling, is it worth the investment?
Me, I’m a huge fan of the sublime 540i with its creamy 3.0-liter, twin turbo 335-horse inline-6. At $59,450 it’s all the sports sedan you’ll ever need.
Test drive the 2021 M550i at Reeves BMW Tampa, Ferman BMW Palm Harbor, Bert Smith BMW St. Petersburg, or Fields BMW Lakeland.
If your need for speed goes beyond fast BMW sedans to dreams of driving race cars, click here for tips on how to ride with the pros on three famous Florida courses.