2021 BMW M550i xDrive review: All the M5 you really need

Aventurin Red is the gif color of a chef’s kiss.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

The BMW M550i xDrive is 90% of the car M5 it is, and in some ways, is actually better. The M550i offers strong V8 power and a long list of technological and creative comforts. What it lacks in terms of track attack ferocity it more than makes up for with greater overall balance and much better ride quality. Given the choice, I would choose the M550i as the daily driver.

Like it

  • The big V8 offers great power
  • The frame is optimized for both comfort and sport
  • Luxurious interior with many amenities
  • IDrive technology is easy to use

I do not like

  • Feeling numb steering
  • Driver assistance options cost more
  • Poor fuel economy

The M550i uses BMW’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, with 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque running through an 8-speed automatic transmission. All in all, the all-wheel drive M550i can accelerate to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds, meaning it’s faster than its main rivals, the Audi S6 is Mercedes-AMG E53, both use quieter six-cylinder engines. The BMW is also equipped with a proper launch control function, which I’m sure most people will never use.

Yes, the M5 uses an optimized version of the same V8 engine and yes, it produces up to 617hp in the racing version. But the torque delivered is the same for the M550i, M5, and M5 Comp, and that quick-release turbocharged boost is what you can rely on the most as you pull away from traffic lights and onto the highway. The base M5 is 0.4 seconds faster at 60 mph than the M550i, and that’s not a disparity you’ll notice 99% of the time, if ever.

The M550i uses BMW’s Steptronic Sport automatic transmission, which is kind of a better gearbox of both worlds. It shifts as fast as a dual-clutch gearbox but has a torque converter, which makes it smoother at low speeds and when first gear is engaged. The gearbox also works with the M550i’s standard navigation system and optional adaptive cruise control to predictively downshift for curves or slower cars ahead of you, all based on information gathered from the various systems. The steering wheel-mounted metal shift levers let you handle your shifts if you want, but that’s yet another case where the transmission is smarter than I am. I’m perfectly happy to let him do his thing.

I won’t underestimate the M5’s ability to race on a race course, but I also refuse to believe that anything more than a percentage of M5 buyers can actually get their cars out on the track. The tradeoff for the M5’s sharp reflexes is often punitive city and highway driving quality, even with the adaptive dampers set to Comfort.

BMW’s 4.4-liter V8 offers 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

The M550i, on the other hand, is much better balanced for everyday driving. Put the M550i in its Sport or Sport Plus settings and it has ample balance on a good winding road. The stock sports rear differential gets the rear talking while the xDrive all-wheel drive system shifts power where it’s needed most. M Sport brakes offer a lot of stopping power and are easy to modulate. Meanwhile the Bridgestone Potenza tires are nice and grippy. My only problem is that the steering, while adequately heavy, is totally numb. The same goes for the M5, though; this unfortunate steering feature plagues most new BMWs.

Leave the M550i in its Comfort or Adaptive settings and the shock absorbers soften just enough to smooth small to medium road impacts while still providing a controlled and composed ride, even when fitted to my car’s 20-inch wheels test (19 are standard). Sure, you have to go for the $ 3,600 Dynamic Handling Package to get Adaptive M Suspension and Active Roll Stabilization, but they’re money well spent if you want to party.

Of course, no V8-powered BMW will be frugal, and the EPA says the 2021 M550i xDrive is expected to return 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25mpg on the highway, and 20mpg combined. If this is an issue, I highly recommend checking the 540i, which offers a turbocharged inline six with light hybrid boost, and will easily beat 30 mpg on the highway.

This interior is super comfortable.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

The M550i receives a number of updates for 2021 that you’ll find on other 5 Series models, including new headlights and taillights and some updated interior trims. You could certainly criticize the 5 Series for being on the quieter side of attractive, especially when compared to cars like the Genesis G80 3.5T o Mercedes-AMG E53. But I like the M550i, especially in this rich shade of aventurine red ($ 1,950) that looks slightly more red or purple depending on the lighting. Personally, I like to call it Chillable Red.

The interior of the 5 is nice, but again boring. There are only a few cheap plastic pieces to speak of, but they are on surfaces that you won’t touch most of the time. Everything else inside the cabin is fantastic, from the soft leather seats to the attractive metal inserts to the optional ceramic controls on my test car. Here, too, it’s extremely quiet, which makes the M550i a great machine for everyday commuting.

The M550i comes standard with the full 5 Series multimedia technology roster, with BMW’s iDrive 7.0 software. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster displays all kinds of relevant vehicle data, while a second 12.3-inch touchscreen handles the heavy lift atop the dashboard. Touching the screen is the easiest way to use this technology, although it is still possible to use the rotary knob on the center console or work via voice commands. BMW’s stupid gesture controls are part of the $ 2,150 executive package and can be deactivated thankfully. Side note: I think it’s funny that if you turn up the volume of the radio via the steering wheel button or the tuning knob while the gesture controls are activated, a small display appears on the screen showing you the movement of your hand. he could do. It’s like the car’s subtle way of reminding you that you’re not using a feature in the newest and most interesting way. As a German.

The M550i is a great alternative to the hardcore M5.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

Personally I prefer to use wireless Apple CarPlay interface, which is standard, along with Android Auto. Wireless charging is part of the aforementioned Executive package, as is a head-up display. You can also specify a Bowers & Wilkins sound system for an extra $ 3,400, if that’s your jam. A surround camera and parking distance control are included in the $ 800 parking assistance package and advanced driving aids such as lane keeping assistance and blind spot monitoring are part of the Driving Assistance Plus package from $ 1,700. The latter also adds BMW’s Extended Traffic Jam Assistant, which allows for limited amounts of steering assistance on select roads below 40 mph.

A 2021 BMW M550i xDrive starts at $ 77,795 including $ 995 for the destination, and a loaded example like the one you see here costs just under $ 94,000. That’s a lot of money, but don’t forget you can’t get into an M5 for anything under $ 104,495. Unless you really need the M5’s slight increase in power and ability, I say stick with the M550i and enjoy a much more livable and affordable package.