The current top-end model in the 5 Series lineup has a compelling combination of power, speed and refinement.
STEP ON THE ACCELERATOR WITH SOME URGENCY AND THREE-FIGURE SPEEDS ARRIVE BEFORE YOU CAN SAY “JACK ROBINSON”.
BMW has not unleashed the M5 for the latest G30 BMW 5 Series. Until that model is launched, petrolheads will have to be content with the new M550i xDrive as the most powerful model in the 5 Series range.
If the M550i is a sign of things to come, then the next M5 may be a game-changer.
You see, while the previousgeneration F10 BMW M5 does zero-to-100km/h in 4.3 seconds, the new M550i xDrive does it in 4 seconds flat!
The last-gen M5 has 560bhp of power and 680Nm of torque. The M550i has 462bhp and 650Nm, which are about 100bhp and 30Nm less. Both models are powered by twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engines.
However, while the previous M5 transmits its power via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission to the rear wheels, the new “lesser M5” does it via BMW’s ubiquitous 8-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels, giving the M550i better grip.
The weight difference also explains why the M550i does the century dash 0.3 of a second quicker than the M5. The former weighs 1810kg, while the latter weighs 1945kg. The 135kg weight difference is equivalent to two average-sized adults.
To distinguish the M550i from its regular brethren, it is adorned with M Performance parts. There are L-shaped M Performance bars below the headlamps in Cerium Grey metallic. The same finish is also on the kidney grille surrounds, wing mirrors, and side air intakes on the front fenders.
There are also glossy black trimmings around the windows and an M Sport exhaust system with a pair of black chrome tailpipes. Inside, drivers will find illuminated door sills, an M Sport steering wheel, and M Sport seats in Black Dakota leather with contrasting blue stitching.
My test car was specified with sumptuous brown Nappa leather with cross-stitching, making the interior resemble that of a gentleman’s club. It actually suits the M550i.
On the road, the car cocoons you from the outside world and makes you feel as if you are driving a smaller Rolls-Royce. Every component inside feels like it has been torqued to the highest setting so that it will last an eternity.
The turbocharged V8 engine develops 650Nm of torque from 1800rpm to 4750rpm, while the 462bhp is available from 5500rpm to 6000rpm. Driven sedately, you’ll hear the V8 purring ever so softly.
The 8-speed automatic has been tailored to complement the characteristics of the V8. The gearchanges are so incredibly smooth that you’ll forget the gearbox is part of the drivetrain.
Step on the accelerator with some urgency and three-figure speeds arrive before you can say “Jack Robinson”. The V8 on full song sounded delectable and reminded me that there was an animal of an engine in there.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see more than 200km/h on the autobahn stretch of our predetermined route as I ran out of unrestricted sections. I was 50km/h shy of the electronically limited top speed.
That said, I especially loved the car’s steering response. Feedback as to what the optional 20-inch wheels were up to was most informative.
Although BMW didn’t indicate the power distribution ratio between the front and rear axles, the all-wheel-drive M550i felt more like a rear-wheel-drive.
In fact, I experienced a disconcerting moment when the back end became fleetingly unsettled as I powered into a cambered sweeping bend on the autobahn. Lifting off the accelerator brought the rear back under control.
It could have been due to the winter tyres, but that aberration was never felt again. The M550i offers the same, if not slightly better handling than the already excellent 5 Series. This is likely due to the car’s bespoke chassis setup. Another upshot is that the ride on Comfort setting feels firmer than the same mode in lesser 5 Series models.
The M550i may be a temporary “filler” until the next M5 arrives, but it still has a place in BMW’s lineup.
With drawing-room comfort, a throaty V8 engine note, composed handling and acceleration that leaves others in its wake, the M550i sure sounds like the perfect car.
Brown Nappa leather and crossstitching make this sporty saloon’s interior feel like a gentleman’s club.
The M550i’s turbocharged V8 purrs at low revs, but reveals its beastlier qualities when pushed hard.
BMW M550i xDrive 4.4 (A).
ENGINE 4395cc, 32-valves, V8, turbocharged.
MAX POWER 462bhp at 5500-6000rpm.
MAX TORQUE 650Nm at 1800-4750rpm.
POWER TO WEIGHT 255.2bhp per tonne.
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select 0-100KM/H 4 seconds.
TOP SPEED 250km/h (governed).
CONSUMPTION 11.2km/L (combined).
CO2 EMISSION 204g/km.
PRICE INCL. COE On application.
BMW 530e iPerformance 2.0 (A).
ENGINE 1998cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged, hybrid.
MAX POWER 184bhp at 5000-6500rpm (total system output 252bhp).
MAX TORQUE 290Nm at 1350-4250rpm (total system output 420Nm).
POWER TO WEIGHT 142.4bhp per tonne.
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select 0-100KM/H 6.2 seconds.
TOP SPEED 235km/h.
CONSUMPTION 52.6km/L (combined).
CO2 EMISSION 44g/km.
PRICE INCL. COE On application.
Delivering green instead of red-hot performance is the 530e iPerformance, a plugin petrol-electric hybrid.
It is powered by two “hearts” – a turbocharged 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine producing 184bhp, and an electric motor capable of 113bhp. Their combined output is 252bhp and 420Nm.
The standard gearbox is an 8-speed automatic. However, this gearbox is unique because an electric motor has replaced the usual torque converter. The 530e zips from a standstill to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds, and has a maximum velocity of 235km/h.
The lithium-ion batteries, which are under the rear seat, can be charged from a regular wall socket in less than five hours. The charging time is reduced by about two hours if you use BMW’s i Wallbox charger.
There are three selectable engine/electricmotor combination modes. The default setting is Auto eDrive, which automatically chooses between running either the petrol engine, electric motor, or both. The switchovers between the two are as smooth as the best Olympic runners in a 400-metre relay.
I started my drive in the 530e without burning any fossil fuel by selecting full electric mode, or Max eDrive. We covered more than 30 kilometres of undulating country roads in this setting. BMW claims a maximum range of 50km on electric power alone.
Once the batteries were depleted, the system reverted to Auto eDrive to recharge them. The third eDrive mode is Battery Control. This lets the driver tell the system to reserve a percentage of the battery’s charge (between 30 percent and 100 percent) for pure electric driving later on. – SARJEET SINGH