EL SEGUNDO, California — It’s been a while since we’ve posted about our Four Seasons BMW M550i executive express, but it hasn’t been for a lack of interest. The 5 Series variant has proven to be extraordinarily popular here at Automobile HQ. Though big blue doesn’t generate the same type of excited conversation as our Honda Civic Type R, it seems like someone always wants to take the M550i home, or out to lunch, or on an interstate road trip, which accounts for the 11,572 miles we’ve put on the car since its January arrival.
What is it that makes the big Bimmer so appealing? Associate editor Billy Rehbock sums it up nicely: “The interior is exceptional and I love the big sofa-like chairs up front. And I’m blown away by the powertrain’s smoothness and brutal power delivery. It’s a road trip champion that won’t let you down when the roads get twisty. I’ve started calling it the Rocket Couch because it’s so comfy and so fast.”
Senior editor Nelson Ireson disagrees, calling the M550i “A very sporty Lexus. Not a great BMW. Bland handling, numb steering, a dated and mediocre interior, no specialness to the exterior. I want to like this car, but ultimately, there’s nothing there to make me care.” Tell us how you really feel, Nelson.
Bridging the gap is senior editor Kirill Ougarov, who sees both sides of the coin. “Whether or not you like the M550i seems to depend on your expectations,” he wrote in our logbook. “Anyone expecting an M5-Lite due to the presence of the M badge is sure to be disappointed, but the finance bro who wants a luxury sedan with plenty of power and a booming audio system is probably going to enjoy himself. It does nothing to excite you on a tight road, but in the tradition of many an excellent autobahn stormer, the M550i eats up the miles smoothly and comfortably. When prodded, it adds some sophisticated Euro V-8 growl to the soundtrack, an increasingly rare treat in this age of engine downsizing. A regular 550i badge would be more appropriate. The M stands more for ‘marketing’ than ‘motorsport.’”
One thing no one will argue about is the Bimmer’s build quality. So far we’ve noted just one glitch: In March, we noticed that the passenger-side occupant sensor would sometimes detect a person in the seat when it was empty. We brought the car to Crevier BMW for its first oil-change—this was at 9,788 miles, the first service requested by the BMW’s maintenance minder—where the tech found that the sensor wasn’t properly secured and attached it with the requisite zip tie.
The dealership also addressed two service bulletins, replacing a tank leak diagnosis temperature sensor (whatever the hell that is) and updating the software on the ECU—and, of course, they changed the oil. All of the work was covered under warranty and BMW’s Ultimate Care maintenance program, so no money changed hands when we picked up the car. After we took it to the dealer, we noticed the passenger seat has also been what we think to be the source of an annoying rattle. We’re trying to get to the bottom of it.
That doesn’t mean the BMW hasn’t cost us anything. At 8,800 miles, online editor Ed Tahaney parked the M550i at The Citadel—this would be the shopping center in California, not the military college in South Carolina—and returned to find that someone had backed into it, damaging the right rear quarter panel. Did they leave a note? Nope, they hit and ran. Pacific Elite Collision Center in Long Beach erased the damage, and we were stuck with a bill for $1,281.60. Whoever hit our BMW, remember that karma is a bitch. We wish you well and hope you enjoy your next life as a boll weevil.
Feeding the M550i’s 456 horses has not been cheap. The car is surprisingly frugal on the highway—we’ve seen tank averages in the mid-to-high 20s—but in-town mpg is consistently in the mid-teens, and in hard testing we’ve seen as little as 7.8 mpg on the car’s readout. Overall, we’re averaging just shy of 18 mpg.
Now that we’ve managed to pin the BMW down for a quick update, it’s time to release it back into the wild. A thousand-mile road trip to Arizona by yours truly is on the docket. We’ll catch up with the Rocket Couch in a couple of months—provided it’ll sit still for a day or two.
OUR 2018 BMW M550i xDrive
|MILES TO DATE||11,572|
|GALLONS OF FUEL||338.86|
|OBSERVED MPG||17.8 MPG|
|FUEL COST TO DATE||$1,335.76|
|Secure passenger seat occupant sensor||$0|
RECALLS AND TSBs
|Replace tank leak diagnosis temperature sensor||$0|
|Reprogram control unit||$0|
OUT OF POCKET
|AS-TESTED PRICE||$73,095/$86,685 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||4.4-liter twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/456 @ 5,500-6,000 rpm, 480 lb-ft @ 1,800-4,750 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||16/25/19 (city/hwy/combined)|
|L x W x H||186.3 x 76.2 x 65.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.9 sec|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|
|Cold Weather Package||$800|
|Driving Assistance Package||$1,700|
|Driving Assistance Plus Package||$1,700|
|Dynamic Handling Package||$3,600|
|Parking Assistance Package||$700|
|Bowers & Wilkins Audio||$190|