2011 BMW 550i | road test

Posted on Nov 24, 2011 by

Quick Review

GoodGood Power delivery; Ride quality; Steering feel; Quality interiors; Improved iDrive;
BadBadAnonymous looks; Rear legroom; Price;
SpecsSpecs407bhp twin-turbo DI 4.4-litre V8; 8-speed automatic; front engine; rear wheel drive;
PricePriceDhs. 360,000
RatingEditors Rating Four Star

2011 BMW 550iThe 5 Series has long worn the moniker “Ultimate Driving Machine”, but besides selling a reputation does this Wallstreet exec perform when the threads hit the tarmac? We audit the ‘5’ in 550i trim to see whether the numbers add up. The test car we drove came with 25k on the odometer; talk about being run-in, either somebody’s been grocery shopping one too many times or been an unhealthy socialite. The latter I suppose and despite my well rehearsed frown afront PR agents, why do most test cars come in white!


There are few cars more recognizable than a BMW after dark, thanks to the famed halo lamps. Those corona rings are now LED lit with a white tint, previously yellow. Honesty may not be best especially when you know some BMW boffins are going to read this, but at the launch of F10 5 Series late 2009, I gave it a snore, a loud one! Like what school text books used to do years ago. The Bangle-butt E60 was more evocative and we usually expect things to progress with time. What happened here? 2011 BMW 550iThe 550i we drove however somehow looked tighter, sleeker and even handsome. The 19” wheels did the trick, it just morphs the car. That combined with styling gestures like creased bonnet lines and the trapezoidal exhaust tips changed my perspective. In any case, history has gone well with these Bavarian motor vehicles; I still prefer the understated aggression of Beemers from the 80’s and 90’s.

Despite my bickering onslaught, I must admit, I was never short on attention, be it traffic lights or parking lots. There I was thinking I’m having a ‘good hair day’ and then my friends remind me that it was all badge! Yes, Beemers exude sensuality of sorts that beckons to be noticed!
The interiors are all characteristic BMW, nothing to write home about but the quality is there, from the clunky sound, heard when you close the door to the soft touch materials at key touch points.2011 BMW 550iENGINE & PERFORMANCE

The last-gen 550i had a catapulting 360bhp 4.8-litre V8, but somehow BMW wants to turbo-charge everything these days, sacrilegiously doing the same to the even. What you pay for now is a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 that churns out a very muscular 407bhp between 5,500 – 6,400 rpm and mountain of torque that peaks at or rather plateaus at 600Nm from 1,750 all the way upto 4500 rpm. BMW claim 5.0 seconds is all it takes to get to 100km/h; the best we managed out of the engine and tyres was 5.7 seconds and that’s no shame. It does have plenty of ‘GO’ from standstill and the mid-range is killer, making even 3-car over taking a breeze. In general, throttle mapping and shift patterns on the 8-speed auto have been aptly programmed; you find power anywhere the tachometer needle sticks and there is Thrust, with a capital ‘T’ for anything beyond half throttle. Braking distance was amongst the shortest while brake pedal feel and vehicle dynamics was positive and composed, respectively. The iDrive lets you stick the car into 4 tuning modes – Comfort, Normal, Sports & Sports+ for progressive variations in suspension stiffness and throttle response. We left it on Sports+ and we did not complain.2011 BMW 550iRIDE & HANDLING

BMWs have been known for their ‘point and steer’ handling capabilities and their steering feel; that makes the drive engaging. These are the things that BMW ads are made of. A corner carving M5 it may not be; but how many twisty mountainous roads do we know of? The power assistance has mature mix, light enough for the days you drive home tired from work and responsive enough for the days you running late. The optional Integral Active Steering, a mechanism similar to Infiniti’s Active steer steers the rear wheels steer in the direction opposite to the front wheels essentially making the car turn like one with a shorter wheelbase. As for the ride quality, I’m surprised BMW got it right; this mid-sizer rides like a big car, a full sized sedan and it is quite the cradle of comfort with well suppressed road and wind noise. A word of caution though, don’t test the complex algorithm that goes into these intel-inspired engine management systems, play your power moves right else you’ll be meeting Mr. Sideways and Mr. Curb on your way to the hospital.2011 BMW 550iFEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY

The 4th gen iDrive is much improved, I don’t want to celebrate it by calling it intuitive, and neither do I want to berate it. Its functionality can be learned without looking up the manual. The Sat-nav on the industry’s largest screen, a 10.2” display with a smothering cloud graphics in the background had me impressed. The optional Rear-Seat Entertainment system incorporates 80 GB Hard Disk, USB port and a DVD player with two monitors integrated in the front-seat backrests; all controlled via remote control or rear seat iDrive. Lets face it, the 550i is no station wagon, you have the 5 Series GT for that. The 440-litre boot space, expandable upto 1,700 litres seems sufficient for your school and airport pick-ups and drops. Few annoyances we had were the rear a/c got a little noisy and the lack of rear compartment legroom. The Honda Accord has a more spacious rear seating.2011 BMW 550iSAFETY

The 5 series has conjured safety awards like nobody’s business, 5 star ratings in the US and Euro NCAP tests and it also won the “Top Safety Pick”, awarded by the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. So it’s a safe car, in theory and looking at the safety features list some grad student could probably do a thesis on it. For starters you get everything a regular premium vehicle gets, in addition you get Lane change warning, Lane departure warning & Blind spot warning. This car has so many cameras, you could go ‘Hollywood’. There are 2 cameras on either ends of the front bumper, perfect for T-junctions where you can’t see beyond advert posts on either sides. Those 2 in combination with  2 others on the side mirrors and the rear camera magically give you a bird’s eye view of your car, so you can conveniently park it into a slot…perfectly.


You’d think, given the big V8 and the 1800 plus weight, this was bound to be ‘Gas-guzzler of the year’, quite not! Spec-sheet economy figures for city, highway & on a mixed cycle are 15.4, 7.5 & 10.4 l/100km, respectively. City figures are helped generously by Brake Energy Regeneration system. We registered 8.7l/100km on highways driving at a cruise controlled 120 km/h. Very decent.2011 BMW 550iPRICING & WARRANTY

Rocketing prices have stopped at nothing, not even ‘Recession’. The 550i does not come cheap, our test car wore a AED 360,000 price tag. A few years ago you could have trampled over plebeians driving a 7 Series for that much money. People! Get a new job, the year end bonus is not going to help get you this expensive piece of machinery.


Get yourself a range-topping 3 Series and it’s as if you are climbing the corporate ladder, get the 5 and people will know you’ve made it to corner office chair, one with armrests and stuff. If you don’t mind the lack of rear legroom and overwhelming anonymity (not a deal breaker of any sort) this could quite simply be the complete car! On second thoughts you should do fine with the 535i but if you want M5 like power and can’t muscle yourself into a bigger car loan at the banks, try this!2011 BMW 550iSpecifications:

Engine: twin-turbo DI 4.4-litre V8
Max power (bhp @ rpm): 407bhp @ 5,500 – 6,400 rpm
Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 600Nm @ 1,750 – 4500 rpm
Transmission: ZF 8-speed automatic transmission
Drivetrain layout: front engine; rear wheel drive
Weight: 1,830kg


0 to 100 km/h: 5.0 seconds (claimed)
0 to 60km/h: 2.9 seconds (tested)
0 to 100 km/h: 5.7 seconds (tested)
80 to 120 km/h: 3.3 seconds (tested)
60 to 120 km/h: 4.5 seconds (tested)
100 to 0 km/h: 2.9 seconds (tested)
Top speed: 250km/h (claimed)

Fuel Economy:

Highway @ 120km/h: 8.7l/100km (tested)
Highway @100km/h: 7.7l/100km (tested)
Highway @80km/h: 7.1l/100km (tested)


As tested: Dhs. 360,000

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