As a dyed-in-the-wool Audiphile, I wondered if I could be objective reviewing our year-long midnight black 2011 BMW 550i. Don’t get me wrong, I like BMWs plenty, but everyone has their preferences, journalistic integrity or not. While my affection towards the “Four Rings” has not dampened, I do have a newfound love and respect for the “Propeller,” the famous logo that adorns the hood of every BMW.
Automotive Rhythms’ extended German loaner is more than a super sedan, it’s a soul soother, an ego booster and a rocket sled chocked with so much tech wizardry, I had to study the owner’s manual like a Georgetown law student! For those still in the ranks of the nonbeliever, raise the hood and stand back in awe. A 4.4-liter, twin turbo, 400 horsepower V8 resides there, and provides locomotion that gives you the ability to walk on just about everything on the road. AR Publisher Kimatni Rawlins learned the hard way when he dared to exploit the mighty Bimmer in the new Audi A8. It wasn’t even close folks!
The AR 550i now has just over 16,000 miles on the clock, with a full service recently performed by Tischer BMW near our home offices in Silver Spring, Maryland. We found the Tischer experience positive, and of course, the final tally for service was zero dollars thanks to BMW’s comprehensive “Ultimate Service” maintenance program, which is so complete it even covers wiper inserts and brake pads. Savings compared to competitive brands can total over a thousand dollars!
Inside, my 6’9”, 240-pound frame was right at home. Decent head and legroom, with outstanding seat support means jaunts up and down I-95 were done in total comfort. Our test 550i came with all the goodies, including “Night Vision” with pedestrian detection, a blind spot warning system, lane departure system, adaptive cruise control to maintain a preset distance between you and the car in front of you, “Side View” cameras to see cross traffic, a self-parking feature and much, much more.
“Parking Assistant” self-parking uses ultrasound sensors to safely guide you into a parking position. Engage the system, put the car in reverse, and the Bimmer will measure the space available. If it senses the proper amount to execute the maneuver, you just control the situation. “Parking Assistant” works very well, and really impresses those who’ve never seen a self-park system like it.
While I’m not crazy about the rotary controllers invented by BMW, this new iteration of iDrive is the best yet. iDrive now gives you many more options, and is easier to use. For example, you can change programs that previously only dealers could adjust, like the automatic door-lock settings. I especially like that you can program radio presets as direct access keys for navigation and other iDrive functions. When I needed to access the electronic owner’s manual, I was able to program a preset to take me there with the touch of a button.
So if performance, luxury, and stealthy good looks are high on your list, the 550i delivers with a passion, and dishes out a great deal of respect to its owner. Sorry Audi, but it’s now a mutual feeling.