Better than three sequels of Fast & Furious put together.
Seasoned BMW drivers will notice one thing immediately, the dash. In traditional BMW fashion, the center console has been angled 6 degrees towards the driver. One could write a small book about the interior loadout. Its all clean lines & classy wood & leather, sprinkled with a clever NAV screen that actually gets brighter with sunlight, vastly improved iDrive, 4-zone temperature control, and a Heads-Up Display that’ll remind you of Star-Trek. The car tracks & reads road-signs in realtime & throws that info up on the HUD to gently remind you of the area’s current speed-limit – its all simply brilliant.
On the tech side of things, the 550 is very much like the 535 Gran Turismo we looked at some time back. It has the similar beautiful integration level in the dashboard that makes it hard to distinguish on where the mechanical needles stop and where the LCD begins. The full color high-res screen below the speedometer and the RPM gauge not only looks gorgeous but displays a wealth of information- when needed.
On the center you have a nice big LCD that is controlled by the iDrive. I know that many people don’t like the iDrive, but I’m used to it since I have been driving a BMW for a few years now. You can switch between radio, navigation, and other settings that we have on video below. BMW also finally adds a USB port along with AUX input to put the awesome audio system to good use. The screen really shines when you pull up the navigation system which supports 3D view of buildings as well as an option to sync the navigation system with speed limit.
On the safety side of things, you have adaptive cruise control that automatically slows down your car when it sees another car in front at a lower speed and resumes once its all clear. Lane departure is also included which vibrates the steering wheel if it detects the lane being changed without indicating. Speaking of that blind spot warning are also present on the 550 alerting you of any traffic by flashing lights on the rear view mirrors. Also new to BMW is parking assistant that measures the size of parking spot and automatically steers the car into it. If you prefer to do things manually, you have surround view and rear view cameras that help you navigate tight spots.
The iDrive lets you stick the car into 4 tuning modes – Comfort, Normal, Sports & Sports+. Each progressively affecting the car’s suspension firmness, throttle, transmission & steering responsiveness – but make no mistake the 550i has a firm ride quality – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. BMW didn’t stick a big powerful V8 into this car, just to ruin it all by giving it the squishy suspension treatment. They’ll leave that up to the Americans. However, if you’re driving up the UAE’s back-roads or industrial areas, Comfort mode does dampen things down to a comfortable degree.
As a top of the range Executive Sports Saloon – the 550i hits all the sweet spots, with a nice big V8 sledgehammer.