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Road Test: 2012 BMW M550d xDrive Touring
With the release of the BMW M Performance Automobiles earlier this year, the German car maker from Munich added a new chapter to its growing lineup of cars. The premiere of the BMW M Performance Automobiles heralds the creation of a new category of car fitting in between the normal series and the M Power series.
Out of the four models available in the lineup currently available we were given the option to drive the BMW M550d xDrive Touring, in essence the best possible daily travelling package available on the market offering an extremely powerful engine and agile handling. It was time for a road test!
The most noticeable part of the four cars – BMW X5 M50d, BMW X6 M50d, BMW M550d xDrive and BMW M550d xDrive Touring – is the 3.0 liter six-cylinder in-line diesel engine with three turbochargers. Instead of using the detuned 4.4 liter V8 M5 engine, the Germans fitted a special diesel engine and combined the oil burner with an all-wheel-drive providing a lofty new standard in performance and capabilities.
Inside the engine bay the tri-turbocharged six-cylinder left its mark. The first small turbo kicks in just above idle, followed by a large one above 1,500rpm. At 2,700rpm a second small turbo joins in to take the increasing load off the main unit, helping provide power right up to 5,400rpm. It offers a maximum output of 381hp at 4,000-4,400rpm and peak torque of 740Nm at 2,000-3,000rpm. The redline is at 5,400rpm. The BMW M550d xDrive Touring accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. The incredible surge and linear acceleration felt when you step on the accelerator makes these figures seem quite conservative. The top speed is limited to 250km/h.
The engine has been strengthened to cope with the new forces within and also received a new aluminum crankcase, common-rail direct injection with piezo injectors and high-pressure turbocharges with variable turbine geometry. The power is fed through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which has been tweaked to offer sportier responses and a four-wheel-drive system, which sends drive to the rear wheels the majority of the time. The fronts only helps out when needed.
The most noticeable difference for new M drivers is the distinct diesel sound track in lower revs followed by an astonishing dark synthetic soundtrack if you floor the car in higher rpm’s. The sportive settings of the Dynamic Driving Control throw open the bypass valves, ensuring the noise cocktail is present from take-off to v-max. The M550d is clearly one of the best sounding diesel-powered cars on the market.
In the end, the M550d does not touch the brilliance of the F10M M5, but exchanges its sportiveness with more refinement and comfort requested on longer trips. The uprated M-Sport suspension, stiffer bushes and brakes lifted from the 550i do a sufficient job of handling the near two-tone weight across daily cornering roads and in dense traffic. The electromechanical steering system is similar to the stock 5-Series and differs from the excellent M5 steering rack. Still the M550d’s system didn’t disappoint while we were holding the stock M5 steering wheel.
The excellent overall ride quality of the M550d xDrive is mainly due to the fluent process of delivering power to the road. It is not quite as focused in its set up as full-on M cars, but the combination between the engine and the four-wheel drive system offers a great setup for everyday driving or a really hard push forward when requested. The accelerative nature is nothing less than brutal and it is heroically quick!
The additional choice between the different driving mode settings lets you drive it in Eco Pro mode for ultimate economy (officially it returns 44.8mpg on the combined cycle) or as a cross-country machine in Sport or Sport+ modes. It is either a choice between a comfortable 5-Series or the only answer to the absence of a F10M M5 Touring!
BMW M550d xDrive variants benefit from aerodynamically optimized body elements at the front and rear (M body package), Ferric Grey exterior mirrors and air intake bars, and exclusive 20 inch light-alloy wheels. The interior offers the same refinements as any other 5-Series. M badges on the dashboard and the main controls, special door sills and a matching badge on the trunk are a reminder of the excellent ride.
After a day behind the wheel of the new BMW M550d xDrive Touring we were drunk with over-enthusiasm, because this wagon is the ultimate combination of space, comfort, sportiveness, performance and excellence. Normally we would start nipping about some minor improvements or major fails, but we simply did not find any weakness.
The only major point to discuss is the availability in the US and the UK. In our opinion any country on this planet should be able to experience this kind of brilliance!