BMW is an automaker that loves to live between the lines bringing us niche products like its growing lineup of coupe-inspired sedans and crossovers. In a similar spirit, the 2018 BMW M550i xDrive bridges the gap between the extensive 5 Series offerings (the 335-horesepower 540i to be exact) and the upcoming 600-horsepower M5.
Although the 2018 BMW M550i could have just as easily been the replacement for the previous-gen 550i, BMW went a step further by letting its in-house M Performance tuning team go to work on this sedan. The result is a better balance between luxury and sport with a plush, tech-filled interior to go along with its label as fastest 5 Series to date — including preceding M5s! It will obviously lose this bragging right when the 2018 M5 goes on sale this spring, but before that happens, we got to spend a week with a beautifully blue M550i.
2018 BMW M550i Exterior
Matching its overall positioning in the 5 Series lineup, the 2018 BMW M550i xDrive has a sportier appearance than lower trim levels without going as extreme as the M5. The lower fascia is opened up with a larger central openings and M5-like side intakes to bring more air to the engine. The side sills have also been extended subtly, and the rear view of the car gets a decklid spoiler and a blacked out lower fascia with larger openings for the quadruple exhaust outlets. As a further distinction, the M550i also receives grey metallic matte accents on the grille, lower air inlets, side fender vents, door mirrors, and this matches the finish used on the 19-inch wheels. The overall look is completed with gloss black trim around the side windows, and the results speak for themselves on this tester’s Mediterranean Blue Metallic paint job.
Of course, the M550i is just part of the all-new 5 Series lineup. This mid-size luxury sedan is an evolution of its predecessor with a more expressive design sprucing up what is essentially the same basic shape. The long hood and short front overhang hint at this car’s sportiness, while the tall, swept roofline and pronounced trunk ensure that this sedan has enough interior space to be the same comfortable highway cruiser that the 5 Series is known for.
2018 BMW M550i Interior
Perhaps the best reason to opt for the 2018 BMW M550i over the new M5 is the interior. While you get the sportier looks and improved performance, the M550i still has a restrained interior without the M5’s racing-style bucket seats. You can still ride in extreme comfort in this car with the multicontour massaging front seats with 20-way adjustability, while the $800 Cold Weather Package adds heated front and rear (outboard) seats and heated steering wheel.
The best part of the cabin design, though, are the materials with this car having a mix of black and tan “Cognac Dakota” leather and matte wood trim on the center console and wrapping around the instrument panel and door panels. At night, the interior gets even better with a soft flood of ambient lighting, and that doesn’t even include the illuminated door sills and the stylish back lighting for the Bowers & Wilkins speakers. The $1,200 Executive Package adds automatic soft-close doors, ceramic controls, wireless charging and a WiFi hotspot.
For the most part, the cabin technology in the 2018 BMW 5 Series is great, but it isn’t without flaws. The digital gauge cluster, optional head-up display and the 10.2-inch infotainment screen are all easy to navigate with excellent displays and resolution. It’s the add-ons – or lack thereof – that leave the 5 Series falling short of rivals. That head-up display will cost you $1,700, while BMW’s cool-but-gimmicky gesture control is a $190 option. The worst tech offense, though, is the lack of Android Auto and a $300 charge for the convenience of Apple CarPlay.
2018 BMW M550i Powertrain
While the 2018 BMW M550i xDrive essentially replaces the previous-gen 550i, this car is a much different beast. At the heart of this car is the specially modified 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8, which is the first M Performance model to get such a modded engine, with an output of 456 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. This engine is backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission with sport mode, manual shift capability and even Launch Control. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system is rear-biased but still has the ability to split drive power between all four wheels when added traction is needed.
This powertrain combination gives the M550i multiple personalities with the ability to be a smooth-riding luxury car when desired or a flat-out performance sedan. BMW says that the M550i xDrive can accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds, which is quicker than the 2016 M5 and just a few ticks slower than the 2018 M5; top speed is listed at 155 mph. If you can withstand the urge of doing constant acceleration tests, you won’t have a problem meeting the EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 16 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway**.
The 2018 BMW M550i xDrive isn’t just a straight-line sedan either. The Adaptive M Suspension sits 10 mm (about half an inch) lower than the 540i, and it gives this big sedan nimble handling. Big M Sport brakes with massive blue-painted calipers and a well-tuned steering feel round out the performance enhancements made to this car. For even better handling, this car had the $3,600 Dynamic Handling Package with Adaptive M Suspension Plus and Active Roll Stabilization.
2018 BMW M550i Safety
The 2018 BMW 5 Series has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but it has earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This tester added the $1,700 Active Driving Assistant Plus package that brings adaptive cruise control with stop and go capability, lane keeping assist and Evasion Aid, and also the $700 Parking Assistance Package with Parking Assist Plus and Surround View w/ 3D view.
2018 BMW M550i Overall
The 2018 BMW M550i xDrive is not the first bridge-gapping M Performance model and certainly is not the last, but it is, hands down, the best yet. This sedan is still a comfortable highway cruiser, while having the ability to embarrass some other sport sedans along the way. You can still get in plenty of trouble with the law if you don’t keep your right foot in check!
The starting price point for a 2018 5 Series is just $52,650*, but opting for the M550i xDrive bumps that up to $72,100*. It wouldn’t be a German sports luxury sedan without a small-car worth of options, and this tester was no different with an as-tested price of $89,985 – just a stone’s throw from the $102,600 starting price of the all-new M5 but still enough of a bargain to be worth it.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation-affiliated BMW dealership and test drive the 2018 BMW M550i xDrive today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.