2018 BMW M550i XDRIVE

Automobile - - All - Stars 2018 -

“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...

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