Sometimes you have no idea it’s coming. You’ll be driving along, minding your own business, and then— wham!—an object of undetermined origin pelts your windscreen. After you shake off the initial stun you start the diagnosis: Did it crack the glass? Please don’t say it cracked the glass.
Then there are the times where you see it all unfold right in front of you, as senior editor Aaron Gold did while behind the wheel of the Four Seasons 2018 BMW M550i xDrive in SoCal. “I was driving down the 405 and watched a piece of plastic pipe fly off the back of a plumbing truck. ‘Man, someone’s going to hit that,’ I thought, as I watched it bounce off the road and right into the BMW’s windshield. THWACK!” recalled Gold.
Gold was getting ready to roll out to Phoenix in the M550i for a couple of days, and that pipe threw a wrench into his plans. Thankfully it was on the passenger’s side and it didn’t take out any sheetmetal. It wasn’t a bad enough hit to park the car, so Gold decided to get it fixed after he got to the Valley of the Sun.
Chapman BMW in Phoenix did the work, which necessitated a specially coated replacement windscreen given that the Four Seasons M550i has the optional $1,700 head-up display. (Note to anyone considering the head-up display: If you wear polarized sunglasses, you’re going to have a hard time seeing it.) The total damage for the damage came to $1,281. You could possibly get it done a lot cheaper going with an outfit like Safelite, but we need to keep things on the up and up with a dealer, which reduces variables in our Four Seasons reports.
Once everything was all set, Gold beat it back to L.A. in the M550i and came back singing its praises as an ultimate highway-cruising machine. “Man, what a great car for a long road trip. Comfortable, quiet, and quick,” he said.
Indeed, many on staff have echoed similar sentiments. Step on the go pedal, and the M550i’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 with 456 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque moves the car like a bat out of Munich, its exhaust producing a wicked baritone snarl at full throttle. It is efficient? Sort of. We’ve been registering just south of 18 mpg combined, a tick off of the posted EPA number. Play with the driving-dynamics control settings and you can change shift points, tighten up the suspension a smidge, etc.
Its front seats have been mostly praised and come with a fair amount of snugness given its sport-sedan intentions. There has been very little negative noise about the infotainment or HVAC setups, and the tan—excuse me, Cognac Dakota—leather upholstery has been holding up well so far.
So it’s fast, luxurious, and it looks good, thanks in part to its 19-inch M Sport wheels and Mediterranean Blue Metallic sheen. It has all manner of top-shelf options like the Dynamic Handling Package ($3,000) that adds the M adaptive suspension, as well as loads of standard and optional safety features. It even has goofy gimmicks like BMW’s hand-gesture controls that allow you to do things like turn up the radio by spinning your finger in the air like you just don’t care. This is all well and good.
The primary arguments for or against the BMW M550i among the staff have been existential ones. Given that it’s a tweener that occupies the performance space between the base 5 Series and the M5, some on staff feel as though it’s a compromised car, but the bigger jab is that’s not a true BMW in the Ultimate Driving sense. Personally, this car fits me. I dig its presence, character, and amenities. If I were an executive of a certain means and had just south of 90 large to blow on a sedan with enough—just enough—room for five, I’m leaning its way. No, the 2018 BMW M550i xDrive isn’t for everyone, but most of us on staff certainly wouldn’t kick one out of our garages. Hopefully for the rest of its stay we’ll be able to steer clear of any other bouncing pipes.
Our 2018 BMW M550i xDrive
$73,095/$86,685 (base/as tested)
4.4-liter twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8; 456 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 480 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine AWD sedan
Electric power assisted
19-inch, alloy wheels
Michelin Primacy 3, F: 245/40R19 98Y, R: 275/35R19 100Y
L X W X H
186.3 x 76.2 x 65.6 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R
CARGO CAPACITY (SEATS UP/DOWN)
18.7 cu ft
WEIGHT DIST F/R
450 miles (est)
Sport exhaust system
Double Spoke Cerium Gray light alloy wheels
Active kidney grille
20-way power multi-contour front seats
Brake Energy Regeneration
Dakota leather upholstery
Twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers
Adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers
Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio system
M Sport brakes
Three-spoke leather-wrapped multifunction M sport steering wheel
Servotronic power-steering assist
BMW navigation system with 10.2-inch high-resolution touchscreen
xDrive all-wheel-drive system
iDrive 6.0 system with touchscreen
Icon adaptive full-LED headlights
Expanded check-control vehicle-monitor system
Power-folding, heated side mirrors
BMW ambience lighting
BMW Remote Services
Cold Weather Package, $800
Driving Assistance Package, $1,700
Driving Assistance Plus Package, $1,700
Dynamic Handling Package, $3,600
Executive Package, $1,200
Parking Assistance Package, $700
Apple CarPlay, $300
Bowers & Wilkins Audio, $190
Gesture Control, $950
Loadspace cove, $150