As-Tested Price: $73,095
Drivetrain: 4.4-liter turbocharged V8; RWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 400 hp @ 5,500-6,400 rpm, 450 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,365 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 18/16.2 mpg
Options: M sport package including dynamic damper control, 19-inch alloy double-spoke wheels, multi-contour seats, M steering wheel, aerodynamic kit, shadowline exterior trim, anthracite headliner ($3,800); driver assistance package including automatic high beams, lane departure warning, active blind spot detection, side and top view cameras, head-up display ($3,500); convenience package including power tailgate, comfort access keyless entry, soft-close automatic doors ($1,700); premium sound package including satellite radio and one-year subscription, premium hi-fi system ($950); BMW apps ($250)
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I would describe the 2012 BMW 550i sedan, despite its size and 4,365-pound curb weight, as fleet of foot. The throttle tip in is sufficiently sensitive and before long you've run through five gears and are nearing triple-digit speeds without any drama. The 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 pushes all the way to redline before a butter-soft shift from the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
The 550i is quieter than you'd expect. The heavy doors and sound-deadening material keep out the wind and road noise, and unfortunately the engine as well. It is truly about effortless speed in the 550i, especially when the suspension is set to comfort.
The four drive settings change the engine map, transmission and suspension settings. Full sport turns the traction control off and really buttons things down for "spirited" driving, while comfort moves the 550i into Mercedes territory for smoothness and isolation. I kept the car in sport plus most of the night, but I had to stay vigilant, any random pothole could be a tire killer. We learned that expensive lesson with our long-term BMW 550i xDrive tester. It ate six or seven Goodyear runflat tires in one year.
I did enjoy the thick M Sport steering wheel that comes with the M Sport package. It costs $3,800 but includes the adjustable suspension, 19-inch wheels, anthracite headliner and multi-contour seats. As far as other options go, I would ditch the $3,500 Driver Assistance package, though I did appreciate the heads-up display. The Convenience package can go but the premium sound system should stay.
The audio functions work through the iDrive setup, which seems to improve every year. My only complaint is with the iPod functionality that seems extra convoluted. Tapping your way through the menus won't play a song, you have to find a track list and scroll down to initiate. I think some other systems work better in this regard, Hyundai being one of them.
Those in winter climate may want to look at the all-wheel-drive version of the BMW 550i, especially since it only costs $2,300 more than the rear-wheel-drive model. It won't produce the kind of tail-wagging, rubber-burning fun that enthusiasts love, but on the slick stuff it's like an Arctic Cat for the street.
The person looking to buy this car would probably be cross shopping the Mercedes-Benz E550 4Matic, which costs $60,400, or the supercharged Audi A6, which stickers for $50,400. The only problem is that the Audi doesn't offer a V8 or rear-wheel drive, and the Mercedes gives you the V8, but you have to take all-wheel drive with it. As it stands, if you want a mid-sized luxury sports sedan with a V8 and rear drive, it's going to be a BMW.
By JAKE LINGEMAN