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View Full Version : Road Test: 2008 BMW550i - Sexy, smooth and sporty


europrince
03-14-2008, 04:10 PM
http://www.nationalpost.com/todays_paper/story.html?id=373365

David Booth, Canwest News Service
Published: Friday, March 14, 2008


Usually, tests of BMW's top-of-the-line mid-sized sedan-- the V8-powered 550 -- draw comparison to lithe, little sports cars. We autojournalists will ramble on (rightly, I might add) about the (relatively) big Bimmer being the equal of all but the best roadsters when it comes to scything down a country back road.

I, on the other hand, am going to compare said magnificent sedan to a sport-brute or, more specifically, BMW's version of the sport-utility (actually activity in BMW parlance) vehicle. You see, I returned the X5 on yet another snowy night and picked up the 550. I was worried it would be a little tougher to navigate the slippery roads home. After all, was I not the one who chastised the misguided who tried to ride through the winter wearing all-season tires?

I needn't have worried as BMW Canada fitted some sticky Dunlop Winter sport tires to the 550. What was most interesting was that, so fitted, the rear-drive-only 550 was just as adept at navigating the slipperiness as the X5 (also fitted with appropriate footwear). In other words, the tire choice made much more of a difference than the drive system. The only exception was taking off while on an incline, but, nonetheless, there's a lesson in there somewhere.

The second obvious point regarding the 550 is that the big 4.8-litre Valvetronic V8 is a gem. Never mind that its 360 horsepower turns the 1,800-kilogram 550 into a five-second zero-to-100-kilo-metres-an-hour rocket or that the big V8 has so much low-end torque that it really doesn't need the smooth-shifting, six-speed automatic. It's just so darned smooth. Buttery doesn't even begin to describe it; preternatural comes closest in capturing the absolute silkiness with which those eight 93-millimetre pistons go about their job.

It was, of course, impossible to evaluate the aforementioned handling on dry pavement at this time of year, but we'll take it as a given that BMW hasn't forgotten what made it into the expert in sedan handling. Forced to not focus on the speed of the 550, one notices that, for all its abilities in that arena, it rides awfully well. Those aluminum suspension bits -- to lower unsprung weight -- really must help, not to mention some high-quality dampers and perfectly chosen springs.

The 5 Series is also an attractive car. It's not as gorgeous as the new 3, thanks to its more pronounced Bangle Butt. However, it is not the 7 Series, which, even after more than five years trying to wrangle its way into our psyches, still jangles the eyeballs a bit. Credit time passing for letting us appreciate the 5's once revolutionary design even while we hope that BMW will apply the same styling wand to the soon-to-be-revised 7.

Inside, the car pretty much coddles you from the time you start it when the front seat's adjustable side bolsters move in to hug you. The seats are Teutonically firm, but, what seems a little hard at first turns out to be supremely supportive over the long haul. There is also plenty of room inside the cabin, particularly in the rear where previous generations of the 5 Series were more than a little tight.

Even the iDrive isn't as bad as before. I'm still not a fan, but it is sort of livable in this guise, thanks largely to the spate of conventional HVAC knobs that bypass its inner twiddlings and the option to turn its LED screen into a radio faceplate so that I might manually choose a radio station. It is still the answer to the question nobody asked, but, at least, the answer is no longer being yelled directly into your ear.

The 550's biggest issue is that its smaller-displacement, lower-cost sibling -- the 535 -- is so competent. That car's twin-turbocharged, in-line 3.0L six is only marginally less powerful than the 550's V8, it's almost as smooth and it handles like a dream. There are a few options on the 550 not available on the 535, but then one does save about $14,000. Nonetheless, for those independently foolish enough that $14,000 is simply burning through their pockets, there are worse ways to waste your money than on a V8.

dbooth@nationalpost.com---------


THE SPECS:

Type of vehicle: Rear-drive, mid-sized sports sedan

Engine: 4.8L DOHC V8

Power: 360 hp @ 6,300 rpm; 360 lb-ft of torque @ 3,400 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS

Tires: P245/35R19 front, P275/30R19 rear

Price: base/as tested: $82,900/$90,790

Destination charge: $1,995

Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km: 13.3 city, 8.4 hwy.

Standard features: Power door locks, windows and mirrors, climate control air conditioning with micron air filter, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, iDrive onboard communications system, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, leather seats, front sport seats, power-adjustable headrest and heated front seats, auto headlights, dual front air bags, side curtain air bags, active front headrests, seat-mounted side air bags, Dynamic Stability Control, traction control, adaptive headlights, front seat belt tensioners and belt force limiters

summit425
03-14-2008, 06:35 PM
wow... but rather get M5???

anyway 550 is already sexy and HOT!!!

tlaselva
03-14-2008, 11:00 PM
wow... but rather get M5???



Agreed.

If you have the coin for a 90K 550i, I don't see why another 25K for a M5 would be a problem.

Axxe
03-15-2008, 01:09 AM
Agreed.

If you have the coin for a 90K 550i, I don't see why another 25K for a M5 would be a problem.

It's not a matter of the 25k, it's what to do with an M5 in North America. The powerband of the M5 doesn't make it as attractive as an everyday go everywhere car, and you can't get a real automatic with the M5. Unless you track the car or don't want to keep your car and license, then the 550i is just more practical for less money.

tlaselva
03-15-2008, 01:47 AM
It's not a matter of the 25k, it's what to do with an M5 in North America. The powerband of the M5 doesn't make it as attractive as an everyday go everywhere car, and you can't get a real automatic with the M5. Unless you track the car or don't want to keep your car and license, then the 550i is just more practical for less money.

When is less power ever more attractive?
At comparable rev's, they likely have very similar numbers.
But the M5 has a higher revving engine giving it a higher HP number.

JazzM
03-15-2008, 01:12 PM
The same argument goes why would someone buy a C6 vette when only for a few more thousand they can buy a Z06. There's obviously a market for a lower costing alternative.

T.

Blades
03-15-2008, 01:19 PM
It's not a matter of the 25k, it's what to do with an M5 in North America. The powerband of the M5 doesn't make it as attractive as an everyday go everywhere car, and you can't get a real automatic with the M5. Unless you track the car or don't want to keep your car and license, then the 550i is just more practical for less money.

automatic ... practical .. money ...

thats just crazy talk *par-t*

summit425
03-15-2008, 02:50 PM
If a person who likes to drive 550i (yes it is 550 not 525 or 530) must care about performance...practically 525 is enough...

europrince
03-15-2008, 08:38 PM
It's not a matter of the 25k, it's what to do with an M5 in North America. The powerband of the M5 doesn't make it as attractive as an everyday go everywhere car, and you can't get a real automatic with the M5. Unless you track the car or don't want to keep your car and license, then the 550i is just more practical for less money.


A coworker has a 2007 M5, uses it for everyday driving and LOVES it. He kept his 99 540 for his kids.

Your argument makes no sense. You might as well agree that one should not have anything more powerful than a Civic or Corolla, because one can't use the power anywhere other than the track. Might as well not drive SUVs either because most people don't ever use the 4x4 capabilities.

rendered
03-16-2008, 06:05 PM
I'd take a 550i over an M5 anyday. The New M5's never appealed to me. The 550i would be a much better daily driver.

Drive both like I did, and you'll understand my informed oppinion.