If I had a loonie for every time I’ve been asked about my favorite everyday car – What would you drive, regardless of price? — I’d be in a financial league with Amazonian Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, and his fellow super-billionaires, code-writer Bill Gates and money-manager Warren Buffett, Nos. 2 and 3 on Forbes’ list.
I won’t drag out the suspense: it would be BMW’s M550i xDrive sedan, in basic black. Before I explain why, just pause for a moment and consider that list of billionaires, the latest from Forbes.
At the top is someone who brought us refined and responsive online shopping.
Second is a man who bought 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products and turned it into the dominant computing standard, despite its inferiority to Apple’s operating system.
And third is a folksy Midwestern American with an inoffensive demeanor and an other-worldly knack for picking stocks.
Each of these men, on his own, is worth more than all of BMW, with its market cap of $55.22 billion (US). Bezos, at $112 billion (US), is worth two BMWs – not two BMW cars, but two BMW companies. (Gates is worth $90 billion (US), Buffett $84 billion (US).)
That is to say, any one of them could buy BMW outright and have the GDP of Bulgaria left over. Or they could all just buy an $83,000 M550i xDrive, plus options, fees and taxes and enjoy the drive.
My point: a 100 Gs out-the-door hit is quite something for most of us, but it’s change in your couch when your net worth is twice the value of the world’s No. 2 premium automaker by sales, BMW. Perspective, folks.
Look, you cannot buy a more enjoyable rig than the M550i. You just can’t. The performance is delicious. The handling is both exhilarating and comforting. The design is timeless and elegant, yet understated. The brand, well, BMW is a great brand, the kind you needn’t explain to anyone. Buy this car and you will love driving it for the next 20 years. You’re welcome.
I most certainly have had a romance with the 5 for decades. This latest M550i, though, may be the last of its kind. A few years hence, we most likely won’t be able to buy a midsize BMW sedan with a dreamy, effortlessly powerful, 455-horsepower V-8, a twin-turbo mill at 4.4 litres of displacement.
BMW, in fact, plans to have 25 electric cars and plug-in hybrids by 2025. Like all big automakers, BMW is plowing billions into electrification, which doesn’t leave much for V-8s. In any case, regulators around the world are legislating the V-8 out of the mainstream with ever-tougher fuel economy and emissions standards.
And let me also say that as an everyday driver, I much prefer the M550i to the M5. The latter is just too much for commuting and erranding — too much of everything. The M550i, with power going to all four wheels and an 8-speed Steptronic autobox, is just right.
Let me clear up something else, too. The 550i, in a marketing effort, is now linked to something called M Performance Automobiles. There is a line of these very sporty BMWs that are flavored by BMW M GmbH. M Performance models are just a hair above the best of BMW’s regulars and the flat-out M models. Mercedes does something similar with AMG. In BMW-land, other examples include the M240i, X4 M40i xDrive and the M760i xDrive are others.
None of these other M Performers are as excellent as the M550i. Now, true, this car is heavy at 2,058 kg, and the front/rear weight bias is 55/45, not a perfect 50/50. Yet it’s a stunning dance partner and can really do wonderful things at high speed when you dial up Sport or especially Sport+ mode. Set a line, the car holds it without any hesitation nor body roll. The sprint from 0-100 km/hour is a thrilling four seconds of your life that you’ll enjoy time after time.
BMW’s engineers and software programmers have come up with all manner of ways to allow drivers to tune performance, including an “intelligent” AWD system that splits drive power between all four wheels as needed. The suspension adapts to your driving demands, the M Sport brakes are astounding and predictable. And just so you know it when you’re pushing hard, in Sport+, the exhaust roars like Drogon.
As for the creature comforts, the cabin is perfectly roomy for five adults, the seats coddle you but not in a simpering way and are beautifully covered in leather and contrasting stitching. The latest version of iDrive is almost good for managing systems and infotainment.
Now I would marry the M sports steering wheel if it made any sense at all, it’s that perfect to have and hold. And if you want to know about an “oh, wow” touch, illuminated doorsills reading out “M550i xDrive” are just so lovely.
I hate online shopping, have no interest in code-writing and leave stock picking to ETFs, but I know one thing better than Bezos, Gates and Buffett: the M550i is genius in everyday transport.
2018 BMW M55i
Base price: $83,000. Delivery: $2,480. BMW Canada also throws in something called a $595 Retail Administration Fee which sounds. What?
Power: 4.4-litre turbocharged V-8 (455 hp/480 lb-ft torque).
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litre/100 km): NA.
Comparables: Audi S6, Jaguar XF-S AWD, Mercedes-AMG E43, Lexus GS 450h.