What hope would the luxo-dipped 5 Series with M-lite credentials and seemingly modest sporting pretensions have of rising to the 2021 occasion against more thoroughbred stock?
And yet it did. To a large extent, perception was the BMW’s strongest ally; a full-fat limousine easily underestimated to the point where you experienced its remarkable Jekyll to Hyde leap, dramatic enough that it gave unsuspecting judges long pauses of reflection.
Its formidable twin-turbo V8 thrusts its near two-tonne heft to 100km/h well shy of BMW’s form guide. However, on boil, its gutsy 390kW and 750Nm uncorked rolling punch served equally potently on a back road as it did around the Winton circuit.
Dynamically, it’s not the lively animal in the PCOTY pen, but its benign and obedient chassis and deftly M-fettled xDrive offers supreme stability and phenomenal corner exit purchase. Braking, too, is impressive – its 33.87-metre stop was shorter than that of the Audi’s carbon-anchored R8 and RS6 Avant – though the sheer inertia of the thing does punish rubber once the red mist descends for any extended stint.
WATCH NEXT: BMW M550i takes on the MOTOR Shootout!
A fresh-rubber lap banked a time of 1:35.4sec, some eight-tenths quicker than the more heroic and lively Audi wagon, logically the Bimmer’s closest nemesis of the field. Amazingly that proved a dead heat with the Cayman GTS.
The M550i xDrive stakes no claim to being its maker’s “ultimate driving machine” but it could be BMW’s finest ever Q-car. That it’ll confidently sit in the wheel tracks of nearly any of its nine competitors out in the real world while remaining easily the field pick for grand touring, long-haul comfort is outstanding in its own right.
That it’s approaching $100k more affordable than a proper M5 Competition while still laying on the lavish appointments is central to the $149,900 M550’s charm.
And that twin-turbo V8 heartbeat in such an unassuming high street cruiser, in a world now wedded to six-pot alternatives is hugely appealing for traditionalist tastes.
The M550i xDrive is arguably the fittest embodiment of BMW’s velvet hammer sports sedan mantra than anything else in Munich’s current stable. The cheaper Pure version is also a tempter, doing without laser lights, rear steer, soft close doors and active roll stabilisation.
Ultimately, though, its balanced goodness was only going to serve the Bimmer to a limited extent in the annual stoush where focus on sheer performance is so dominant.
Had this been All-Rounder Of The Year, here was your odds on favourite for the win. – CD
0-100km/h: 4.27 sec
0-400m: 12.21 sec @ 193.86km/h
Lap Time: 1:35.4
Eight-tenths of an M5 with 12-tenths of the comfort
The ultimate cross-country express, but the Pure’s even better value
Velvet hammer V8 limousine is perhaps BMW’s ultimate Q-car. Its Jekyll to Hyde transformation is quite the eye-opener
Wow. The M550i’s this year’s dark horse. Fast, capable, charismatic but ultra-discreet. I want one
A performance bargain and entertaining to boot, but buy the Pure