Luxury, by its definition, isn’t something we need – it simply makes life better.
For decades BMW’s 5 Series sedan has been a bonafide luxury car. There are (were?) ample alternatives one could choose instead, but it’s arguable that none possessed the same precise mix of refinement, style, and performance.
Years on and still going strong, the 2022 BMW M550i represents the Goldilocks choice. The four- and six-cylinder variants are lovely machines, and the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is a sensible choice; but the V8-powered M550i is the sweet spot in the lineup – and that includes the fire-breathing M5 variant.
Maybe it’s just that we’re sick of looking at SUVs, or maybe the fine-tuning BMW’s stylists have done to the 5 Series has honed this perfectly-proportioned midsize sedan into the sleek and serious yet elegant car it has become. With its new squinty LED headlight treatment, wide blacked-out grille, and lithe body stretched over 20-inch wheels, this one has serious gravitas.
Providing a more sinister appearance here is a $4,900 matte charcoal finish that contributed to its sporty look and prompted lots of approving comments. The only bright flourish here comes from a pair of tiny M fender badges and the optional anniversary tri-colour roundels on the nose and tail marking 50 years of BMW’s performance sub-brand.
The interior stems from decades of 5 Series cockpit evolution, and the owner of a 10- or even 20-year-old model shouldn’t be surprised by any of the control placements. From the buttery leather to the open pore wood and real aluminum accents, the M550i’s cabin emphasizes luxury over its sporting pretenses (the subtle tri-colour seat belt stitching notwithstanding). It’s a place that delights the senses with beautifully-finished textures, aromatic hides, and even the smooth coolness of the ceramic controls all contributing to the overall sensory experience reminding occupants that this is a special car.
Excitedly checking option boxes can net an M550i loaded up with the sort of niceties expected in a car that costs six figures. Automated driving aids that help take the burden out of traffic congestion or boring highway slogs are part of the Advanced Driver Assistance package. Another package adds rear heated seats and four-zone automatic climate control, plus some rear reading lights. And the $5,850 Premium Enhanced pack comes with a self-parking function, the aforementioned ceramic controls, plus BMW’s glorious upgraded seats, which, frankly, are worth the package cost one their own.
Not only are those seats adjustable in 20 ways that should allow anyone with human physiology to find a cozy position, but they offer a series of massage features to help keep the blood flowing during long stints on the road. Taken together, the semi-autonomous driving aides, the sensational seats, and a cabin that offers tomb-like quiet will make owners look forward to the relaxing commute home after a long day at work. Cue up a favourite tune or podcast on the clear and powerful surround-sound stereo, and that monotonous drive could suddenly become the highlight of the day.
User Friendliness: 8.5/10
Of course, it’s about more than just good seats. The four-zone climate control means everyone inside can set the temperature how they want. Well, except for the poor sap in the middle rear seat. The cabin is large enough and the side glass tall enough that outward visibility is great, too. The evolutionary cockpit design means key controls are situated right where a driver expects them to be, and both temperature control and volume adjustments are handled by good old-fashioned knobs. There are some capacitive touch buttons integrated into the climate control screen, but they’re the sort that can either be automated (cooled or heated seats, for instance) or are infrequently adjusted anyway. The steering wheel controls cleverly integrate switches, toggles, and a spin wheel to help make adjustments without taking eyes off the road.
The digital gauge display has become commonplace throughout the BMW lineup, and while it could use greater configurability (maybe some traditional-looking round gauges would help), it does present a lot of information effectively. The head-up display is only visible for drivers without polarized sunglasses.
BMW’s infotainment interface has also been fine tuned over the decades to the point where it’s about as user-friendly as that much information can be. It’s manipulated via a console dial, touchscreen, voice control, or gesture control, and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are wirelessly connected. Smartphones can be wirelessly charged, too.
BMW’s 5 Series fares well in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests, and, unsurprisingly for a premium car, it’s well-equipped with passive and active safety features. Lane-keep assist and autonomous emergency stopping front and rear, plus various vehicle, cyclist, and pedestrian detection sensors, and automated parking capabilities, are all present. It should also be noted that the laser headlights here provide exceptional illumination, allowing visibility significantly farther down dark country roads than any other vehicle in this author’s memory.
While motorists continue to flock to crossover SUVs, midsize sedans still offer significant practicality, with the M550i offering all-weather traction from standard all-wheel drive, plus a spacious interior. Although it’ll accommodate five occupants if needed, four adults will fit more comfortably in the M550i. Compared to the competitive Mercedes-AMG E 53 and Audi S6, the M550i’s cabin offers similar dimensions, with the legroom here particularly generous. Rear-seat headroom falls short of the competition, but only the very tall should notice.
The M550i’s trunk, at 530 L, is significantly larger than those of the competition since their respective mild hybrid systems require a 48-volt battery pack that eats away at some volume.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Unsurprisingly, those competitors, with their smaller engines and hybrid systems, provide greater fuel efficiency than the M550i’s V8, which in the city is rated for 13.5 L/100 km. Rounding out the efficiency is a score of 9.3 on the highway and an 11.6 combined average, all of which are 1.0–1.5 L/100 km thirstier than the Mercedes. Still, despite a week of driving in mixed conditions, mostly with the BMW in sport mode and a very heavy right foot, the trip computer still showed an overall average of 10.7 L/100 km.
That’s a very reasonable efficiency penalty considering the M550i’s twin-turbocharged V8 engine delivers at least 100 lb-ft more torque than either the E 53 or S6. In fact, as great as the rest of the car is, it’s the sensational engine that truly defines the M550i. Whether loafing along in traffic or revved out toward redline, it’s incredibly smooth. But it’s also ferociously quick, with BMW claiming a zero-to-100 km/h time of 3.8 seconds. While mind-bending that a sizable – and very comfortable – sedan can achieve that, what’s far more impressive is the way the M550i uses its 553 lb-ft of torque, all of which is available from 1,800 to 4,600 rpm. Rather than neck-snapping, occupants have their torso compressed into the seatback and held there until the driver relents.
Modern luxury electric vehicles (EVs) offer similarly impressive, linear, and drama-free thrust, but the experience in the M550i is backed by a distant, delicious baritone soundtrack that only a V8 can produce. The deep, throaty growl is sunderstated yet ever-present, serving as a constant reminder that this is the sort of mechanical device traditionally associated with true, powerful luxury cars and not just a four-wheeled, battery-powered appliance. It’s impossible to overstate just how satisfying it is to press your right foot deep into the throttle in this car.
The BMW M5 utilizes the same 4.4L twin-turbo V8, tuned up to over 600 hp, but even in its wildest specification it still delivers the same 553 lb-ft of torque. Technically, the M5 is quicker than the M550i, but you’ll never notice it anywhere except when driving near the limits on a race track.
Driving Feel: 8/10
What you might notice more is the M5’s sharper handling and elevated capability on a track. You’ll definitely notice its harsher ride. The M550i goes about its business in a more relaxed (and relaxing) manner, offering a better ride, but also steering that’s less frenetic, albeit lacking feel and feedback. It leverages BMW’s all-wheel drive system to maximize traction, and the wide, sticky Pirelli tires and adaptive suspension collaborate to make the M550i an impressive handling machine. Plus, the brakes offer sensational stopping power whenever called upon. Although it’ll take corners with surprising speed, the size and mass of the M550i mean it will never be mistaken for an M2.
Capable, yes, but the M550i is not a corner carver. Rather, it’s a pleasurable alternative to taking the Gulfstream G650 across the continent for a business meeting. High-speed, long-distance travel is this car’s specialty, with commuting from the suburbs to the downtown office being a close second.
In typical BMW fashion, costly option packages are required in order to specify an M550i with the sort of features one expects in a $90,000 car. Cresting $110,000, there aren’t many upgrades on this car we’d skip (save for the $4,900 “frozen” paint), and yet it still feels like a good value.
For one, it’s priced competitively against the S6 and E 53, but having one of the last great V8s under the hood gives this car so much personality that it adds significantly to its value. The overall sense of luxury derived from the car’s styling, comfort, finishes, and performance make it well worth the cost of admission.
For much of the last 30 years BMW’s V8-powered 5 Series has been a benchmark in the luxury midsize sedan segment. The 2022 BMW M550i carries on the tradition, especially while nearly all of the competitors have abandoned their V8s in favour of smaller, forced induction and electrified alternatives. This is a car that defines what a luxury performance sedan should be.
|Engine Cylinders||Twin-turbo V8|
|Peak Horsepower||523 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||553 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||13.5 / 9.3 / 11.6 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||530 L|
|Model Tested||2022 BMW M550i xDrive|
|Price as Tested||$113,320|
$20,750 – Premium Enhanced Package, $5,850; Rear Comfort Package, $1,600; M Sport Pro Package, $1,200; M Sport Brakes, Red, $400; Advanced Driver Assistance Package, $2,000; BMW M 50 Years Emblems, $300; Ventilated Front Seats, $900; Wireless Device Charging, $350; Alcantara Roofliner, $950; Nappa Leather Dashboard, $800; Frozen Deep Grey Metallic Paint, $4,900; Ivory/Black Nappa Leather w/ contrast Stitching and Piping, $1,500