Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2011 BMW 550i

"Ultimate," as an adjective, means "last or last possible, final" according to the Oxford American Dictionary. Of course, BMW's advertising wizards were thinking about "ultimate" as a noun ("best achievable or imaginable") when they wrote "The Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline.

The adjective applys to the E39, the BMW 5 Series now two generations old, sold here from 1996 to 2003. Like the smaller, less costly 3 Series that made the brand the envy of every other premium automaker, the E39 offered the right balance of suspension compliance, sharp handling, and crisp steering. For its feel, feedback, and precision, the E39's steering became a benchmark for BMW's competitors.

The 2004 E60 5 Series was a disappointment for its new, active steering and BMW's least successful application of Chris Bangle's flame-surfacing design language. The car just seemed bigger, heavier, and more complex.

So we approached the F10 5 Series with optimism and apprehension. The new sedan shares its component set (similar to platform sharing) with the hatchback 5 Series GT, and with the 7 Series that was new for model year '09. The F10 5 Series is essentially a shorter version of the 7 Series, though the 5 Series remains one of the few cars in its class still available with a manual transmission, negligible as its take rate may be.

Opt for two pedals and you get eight forward speeds, with tall seventh and eighth gears for improved highway speed fuel efficiency (sixth is "direct drive"). With four planetary gearsets and five clutch packs, the new transmission is designed so that no more than two of its clutch packs freewheel at a given time.

The six-speed gearbox is available with the 535i, which has the single twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 rated 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet, and the 550i with its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8, rated 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. The 528i, powered by a 240-horsepower naturally aspirated 3.0-liter, comes with the eight-speed automatic, only. And xDrive all-wheel-drive is available on the 535i and 550i, but not the 528i.

Servotronic, or active steering, is back on the F10 5 Series, though now it's an electronic power steering assist, a first for a car in this segment, according to BMW.

Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1010_2011_bmw_550i/index.html#ixzz148w61TZC