2018 BMW M550i XDRIVE
“Cushy chassis, comfortable seats, and a dialed-in powertrain with a smooth, linear, seemingly boundless wave of torque,”
Nelson said. “Little to complain about but little to be excited about.” And therein lies the rub with the 2018 BMW M550i.
Notice that letter sitting at the beginning of the model name and affixed to the trunk? Don’t expect big doses of typical “M” shenanigans in this sedan—it’s more mild and muted than magical or mesmerizing. Sure, there’s pace here—a sub-foursecond dash to 60 mph is nothing to scoff at—but it’s the chassis and overall exhilaration level that offsets it, especially if you dwell on that BMW M badge. Even though our test car carried the $3,600 Dynamic Handling package, we didn’t feel much in the way of exhilaration. The steering offers little feel and has a noticeable dead spot on-center, and the handling isn’t as athletic as we’ve come to expect when we see that badge.
On the other hand, the M550i is a cosseting mile muncher that would be one of the best picks in this field to drive across the country or for any road trip. The interior is lovely and carries the latest tech and features, and the powerful V-8 and ZF eight-speed automatic are as happy as peas and carrots.
No, the M550i isn’t a full-fat BMW M like the M3/M4 and the new M5, but we expect any vehicle carrying an M badge to be more than a comfortable and powerful luxury automobile. As BMW expands its M performance brand into more segments and offers further low-fat M products, we hope it treads lightly so as not to dilute the long-standing letter. In the case of this car, maybe if BMW simply dropped the M and called it the 550i, we’d be a bit more accepting. — Marc Noordeloos
A Whole Lot of Goodness But Not a Lot of M
“Superb handling, monster motor, and fantastic value,” pro racer and contributor Andy Pilgrim said. Sure, the 1LE Extreme Track Performance package bumps up the price of the Camaro ZL1 by 12 percent, but we’re still talking about a 650-horsepower giant killer for less than half the price of a Porsche 911 GT3.
But certain compromises come along with that impressive pace. Stone tires made by a caveman offer more grip than the bespoke trackfocused Goodyear rubber when cold, and the stiff springs paired with the Multimatic DSSV dampers turn the ZL1 1LE into a pogo stick on the road. Additionally, the throttle connected to the supercharged V-8 is ultra-aggressive, and the steering, though adjustable, is weighted for the arms of a Spandex-garnished pro wrestler. Outside, the extroverted Camaro carries styling details and aero add-ons that battle closely with the Honda Civic Type R in the mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-who’s-the- silliest-of-them-all battle. It’s very much a function-over-form type of car, but we’re sure the wicked-fast Camaro doesn’t give a rat’s ass if you find it unappealing to the eye.
There’s a pure muscle-carclocking-fast-laps attraction here. Chevrolet, thankfully, still offers a six-speed manual (there’s also a 10-speed automatic), and the whole experience makes you smile in an I-don’t-want-cars-like-thisto-disappear way. If it’s the type of automobile you like, the styling doesn’t make you want to hide in a paper bag, and you regularly play at the racetrack, it certainly won’t disappoint. “It’s a blissful driving experience,” Nelson raved. “Supercar performance, muscle car charm, an evocative and brash package with a great value proposition.” Just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into if you tick the box for the $7,500 1LE option. This truly is a niche offering. — MN
PRICE: $73,095/$86,985 (base/as tested) ENGINE: 4.4L DOHC 32-valve twin-turbo V-8/456 hp @ 5500 rpm, 480 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic LAYOUT: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan EPA MILEAGE: 16/25 mpg (city/hwy) L x W x...