PDA

View Full Version : 550i M-Sport 1300 mile car review and pictures


vortexx
01-12-2011, 02:23 AM
262775 I recently obtained redelivery of my 2011 550i after initially receiving it at the Welt in Munich during a Euro Delivery in October. I have driven it 900mi in Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France), with another 400mi in So. California after receiving it a couple of weeks ago.

More pictures of my dark graphite 550i M-Sport here:
http://tinyurl.com/flikr550ipics

Here is a bit about me, so you can get a better idea where my perspectives are coming from: I am 53, an Electrical Engineer and CEO of a Home Technology integration company that designs and installs electronics systems (Home Automation, Lighting Control, Audio, Video, Home Cinema) for the ultra wealthy. So, my experience in technology integration and expectations regarding fit and finish is probably lopsided. I am also a bit analytical.
In order, my previous few cars have been: 2008 550i M-Sport, 2005 MB E500, 2001 Audi A6 4.2, 1998 Lexus GS400. So, I have sampled a number cars in the premium 4 door sedan category. My previous favorites were the BMW and the Audi.

So far, by a wide margin this new 550i is my favorite car. To be clear, this is a very different car than my previous e60 550i M-Sport. The E60 was actually a step or two back in terms of luxury and accouterments to either the Mercedes or the Audi, and particularly if you consider that it was a later model. In spite of that, and the much-maligned Bangle asthetics, which I grew to like, the e60 was a great car. I was sad to see it go. However, the new 550i is in a different league, in my opinion. It does nearly everything that I care about better: It is much faster, significantly quieter, better overall ride quality, better looking inside and out, more luxurious, has much better fit and finish with better materials, has significantly better technology integration, a better audio system, much better ergonomics, better HVAC, better NAV, and better quality control. Certainly there are many people that will disagree on the quality control subject, since I know there are issues. Maybe I got lucky, but mine has no problems at all. No grinding, no pulling to the right, no jerky transmission, no numb steering. There are only a few things that I liked better about the E60: It didn't have run flats, and it had a spare tire. In addition, the E60, particularly the M-Sport model that I had, sat quite low, with a very small gap between the tires and the wheel well. I liked that look. The wheel gap in the new 5 series is too big. I am going to have to lower the car to satisfy my sporting desires. The other thing I miss is the adjustable side seat bolsters. It is frustrating that they left them off of this car. I don't understand why they have them on the 550GT but not the 550i.

My favorite things (not in any particular order):


Overall Design Language
Exterior design: I like the way it looks, particularly with the M-Sport package. It is not quite as stunning as the new Jaguar XJ or even the new BMW Gran Coupe, but I think it has just about the right mix of understated elegance and sporting lines. I really like the Dark Graphite color. It changes color with the light. If you look at my pictures (link above) you will notice how it looks neutral metallic grey in the sun, somewhat blue grey in the shade and takes on quite a bit of gold at sunset. At night, it has multiple hues depending on the light source. My E60 was carbon black which is also a spectacular color - I almost got it again.
Interior design: In 2001, the Audi A6 was so far ahead of BMW in the interior design it was no contest. Things have changed. This new BMW has a very well conceived interior. Overall not quite as nice as the new Audi A8, but pretty close. I chose Oyster Nappa interior and I really like the looks, especially with the two tone with black details and carpet. This also makes it practical.
Technology integration
iDrive - The previous generation iDrive was poorly implemented. It was slow, illogical and the graphics were aesthetically amateur. This version is a dramatic improvement. The additional buttons on the controller help significantly, and the User Interface is dramatically improved. It still has a few rough edges, but overall a good piece of software. The display is beautiful, and rather than burying the display in a "hood" they moved the display forward, and simply used a transflective screen with and anti glare surface that can be seen pretty well even in direct sunlight.
Phone and Music Integration - The iPod / iPhone integration is extremely well done, thanks to some help from Apple. Metadata shows up on the screen as it should, playlists work, contacts show up as they should and the Bluetooth streaming is well done with very good fidelity. I was surprised at how good Pandora music can sound on this system. The quality of phone calls is extremely good in both directions. This is a major improvement over the E60 and an even bigger improvement over the current 3 series which is poorly implemented.
Audio System - The audio system is fairly good ***8211; not nearly as good as the optional Burmester system in the Porsche Panamera, or the B&W system in the new Jaguar, but almost the equal of the B&O system in the Audi A8 and some of the optional Mark Levinson systems I have heard in various Lexus vehicles. It is the best audio system I have ever heard in a BMW. My main complaint with the audio system is the subwoofers produce flabby bass, particularly at high volume levels. I wish there were more frequency bands in the EQ, or better yet, a parametric EQ so that it could be more accurately tuned, but I do understand that most people wouldn't know what to do with it. Keep in mind that I evaluate million dollar audio systems for a living, so I am a bit jaded in this area. Most people will consider the audio system to be very good. If you want to hear a GREAT factory car audio system, go listen to the optional Burmester system in a Porsche Panamera. WOW!
Heads Up Display ***8211; I love this feature. Important information at a glance that only you can see. Very unobtrusive, and adjusts its brightness automatically ***8211; and quickly. If you go into a dark tunnel, it quickly dims to right level. Turn by turn directions from the NAV right in front of you is handy.
Cameras ***8211; The three views ***8211; side, top and rear view cameras are great. The top view is very well done and really helps avoid obstacles in tight quarters. The side view cameras I used on a number of occasions in Europe, but have not used it in So Cal yet.
Drivetrain
Engine: The turbo V8 is smooth and powerful with an abundance of torque. It feels significantly more powerful than the last generation 550i. New info: I just added the Dinan Stage 1 software tune. Awesome addition. A link to my comments on that upgrade here: http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=516025
Transmission: The 8 speed Sport Auto transmission is a dream. It nearly always finds just the right gear (and there are a lot of them!) and it does so with very little fanfare. Shifts are executed very quickly but since the ratios are reasonably close, there is no jerkiness. I also like the way it automatically blips the throttle during a downshift.
DHP ***8211; I really enjoy the dynamic handling package. It transforms the vehicle significantly depending on setting. I find the normal setting to be ok for commuting, but prefer the sport setting most of the time. The comfort setting works but is a bit under-damped, so it feels disconcerting at times. The slick thing about DHP, is that no matter what setting you are in, if you get into a situation that requires the car to maneuver well, it automatically switches to the most aggressive setting to handle the situation, then switches back nearly instantaneously. It is a sophisticated system with many accelerometers in multiple planes to calculate the instantaneous dynamic needs of the vehicle. It works. The only real flaw is that it cannot change the spring stiffness (obviously), so it works by changing the shock damping and the anti sway bars. So, the springs are a bit soft in order to get a good ride when the system is set on comfort. I would prefer if the springs were stiffer, and normal was the softest setting, and there was an additional more highly damped setting above sport and sport+. It is possible that after market people like Dinan may come out with a software change that can offer that, along with aftermarket springs. I want to lower my car by 25mm to 30mm anyway so I may go this route.
IAS ***8211; For those that have had Active Steering in a previous BMW, the IAS system is new, different, and better. Previous AS was a non linear, variable ratio steering that attempted to make the car handle quicker and sportier. It worked to an extent, but many people (including myself) thought that it felt awkward and unnatural. I test drove two E60's one with and one without and decided against it on that car. The current IAS also is variable ratio, but the key differentiator is that IAS also controls the rear wheels. At lower speeds the rear wheels turn counter to the front wheels, it turns the wheels in the same direction as the front wheels. At low speeds, it really makes the car feel much smaller, and it has an amazing turning radius. Just try making a U turn. At high speeds, it acts to increase the wheelbase. I have read others say it feels twitchy at high speeds. That cant be further from the truth. I have to believe that anyone that said that didn't actually drive a vehicle with IAS. It is not linear (on purpose!) so it takes a little adaptation period to take advantage of it, but once you do, you can put the car right where you want.



My take on steering feel: I know this topic has been pounded into the ground, but I will give my perspective. I like how the car handles and feels. A lot. It does not feel like my last 550i, but if I wanted it to, I would have kept that car. The steering is precise, with absolutely no play. In fact it has less play than a typical hydraulic steering system which has a very small amount of hysteresis. The electric steering doesn't seem to have that which makes it feel different. My only real objection is that the steering is a bit over damped, which makes it feel "dead". Along with that there is reduced bump steer, which I don't really miss, but does play a part in making the steering feel "sporty" for some drivers. Unless the damping is done mechanically, the system should be tunable by software, so one nice thing about the EPS, is htat it can be changed with a software update. I personally do not think it detracts from the overall experience, but others opinions may vary.

My NITS: (some of these I have already mentioned above)

Even though the trunk is very big from a total volume standpoint, it isn't as wide as other cars I have had, so it is slightly harder to get my racing bike in the trunk, which is always with me.
No adjustable seat side bolsters ***8211; had them on my previous two cars and miss them.
Wish the wheel well gap was smaller ***8211; car needs to be lowered
The key fob is way to big. Much bigger than the e60 fob.
I wish all of the various panel, instrument and ambient lighting were individually adjustable and then could be raised and lowered as a unit, once they were individually adjusted.
The "black panel LCD in the dash doesn't have sufficient contrast ratio, so the backlight shines through and produces a dark grey glowing background. This bugs me, particularly since the LCD is not centered on the dash. The 550GT has a much more elegant solution. I understand this will be changed in 3/11 production.
I wish the active blind spot detection lights on the rear view mirrors were brighter, or adjustable.
I wish there was an option for no run flats.

bmwarchitect
01-12-2011, 03:49 AM
Congratulations. Very informative write up. The photo gallery is terrific. Some of the best photos I've seen of the car. You have really captured the beauty of the design. Who detailed your car for the photo shoot? Very sharp. This color really stands out the way it has been photographed and the background scenery sets off the car. Thanks for the post.

pharding
01-12-2011, 04:52 AM
Great write up. With split folding rear seats the F10 works great for me also to put my racing bike, cross bike, or tri-bike in. My bikes are size 58 or 60 so they take some modest maneuvering, but this works quite well for me. The trunk is exactly the same size as the E60 and getting my bike in what absolutely critical to the purchase decision otherwise I would done something else.

Needsdecaf
01-12-2011, 06:45 AM
Great write up. Especially since you managed to work the term hysteresis into the discussion. LOL.

vortexx
01-12-2011, 08:38 AM
Congratulations. Very informative write up. The photo gallery is terrific. Some of the best photos I've seen of the car. You have really captured the beauty of the design. Who detailed your car for the photo shoot? Very sharp. This color really stands out the way it has been photographed and the background scenery sets off the car. Thanks for the post.

Thanks! I detailed it myself, and when I was done, decided I should take some pictures knowing it was going to rain again. It was challenging capturing the essence of the metallic paint, in a still photo, since movement is what makes the color stand out - the color and reflection changes as you move around the vehicle.

SANguru
01-12-2011, 09:16 AM
great write up!

johnbmw6
01-12-2011, 09:58 AM
Great write up, mines on it's way Saturday (550i M Sport Space Grey):thumbup:

melor
01-12-2011, 12:00 PM
Nice review, great pictures. Will keep an eye out for you on the freeway. I too am in OC.

Paul

vortexx
01-12-2011, 12:04 PM
Great write up. With split folding rear seats the F10 works great for me also to put my racing bike, cross bike, or tri-bike in. My bikes are size 58 or 60 so they take some modest maneuvering, but this works quite well for me. The trunk is exactly the same size as the E60 and getting my bike in what absolutely critical to the purchase decision otherwise I would done something else.

Pharding, good point. I forgot to mention the folding rear seat as one of my favorite features, probably because I have had it on my last several vehicles. However, my requirement was to put my bike in the trunk without folding the seats down, since I keep my bike in the trunk all the time, but also need to fit four adults in the car on a regular basis for business lunches, etc. I test drove an Audi S4 and really liked the car, but when I tried to put my bike in the trunk at the dealer, it didnt quite fit. I attached a couple pics of my bike in the trunk of my new 550i.

Two additional favorite features that I left off the list is the storage compartment to the left of the steering wheel and the automatic high beams, which I also had on my E60, but they seem to work better on the new car.

The storage compartment is big enough for two pairs of Oakley sunglasses, which I previously had to keep on the sun visor. Invariably they would fall into my lap.

brott
01-12-2011, 12:45 PM
Great write up...tnx :thumbup:

highyo
01-12-2011, 01:50 PM
GREAT WRITE UP! i had similar conclusions in my write up from a few weeks back. it passes all my previous e60 tests with flying colors. the bolsters are a bummer though, even though overall those seats are MUCH better.

highyo
01-12-2011, 02:01 PM
GREAT WRITE UP! i had similar conclusions in my write up from a few weeks back. it passes all my previous e60 tests with flying colors. the bolsters are a bummer though, even though overall those seats are MUCH better.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=506683

of course the xdrive vs rwd variant is moot.

DarienJim
01-12-2011, 02:12 PM
Excellent review. I am in a similar situation (51 years old) and going to order mine with the Carbon Black exterior and Cinnamon Brown interior with the same wheel options.

No pics of the interior?? Loved the last photo with the angel lights on and the sunset.

vortexx
01-12-2011, 02:23 PM
Excellent review. I am in a similar situation (51 years old) and going to order mine with the Carbon Black exterior and Cinnamon Brown interior with the same wheel options.

No pics of the interior?? Loved the last photo with the angel lights on and the sunset.

I will shoot some interior pics, but have not done so yet.

Carbon Black with Cinnamon Brown will look hot. My E60 was Carbon Black with Natural Brown and it looked stunning. I saw a Cinnamon interior with ventilated seats at a dealer and the ventilated seats really looked good with the Cinnamon.

dunderhi
01-12-2011, 02:42 PM
Pharding, good point. I forgot to mention the folding rear seat as one of my favorite features, probably because I have had it on my last several vehicles. However, my requirement was to put my bike in the trunk without folding the seats down, since I keep my bike in the trunk all the time, but also need to fit four adults in the car on a regular basis for business lunches, etc. I test drove an Audi S4 and really liked the car, but when I tried to put my bike in the trunk at the dealer, it didnt quite fit. I attached a couple pics of my bike in the trunk of my new 550i.

Two additional favorite features that I left off the list is the storage compartment to the left of the steering wheel and the automatic high beams, which I also had on my E60, but they seem to work better on the new car.

The storage compartment is big enough for two pairs of Oakley sunglasses, which I previously had to keep on the sun visor. Invariably they would fall into my lap.

Nice review and pics. With the handlebars rotated 180 degrees from your pic, do you think there would be room to squeeze my wife's 47cm bike on top of my 58cm frame? I was assuming I would need a roof rack to carry both bikes, but your pic makes me think both bikes might fit.

vortexx
01-12-2011, 03:08 PM
Nice review and pics. With the handlebars rotated 180 degrees from your pic, do you think there would be room to squeeze my wife's 47cm bike on top of my 58cm frame? I was assuming I would need a roof rack to carry both bikes, but your pic makes me think both bikes might fit.

dunderhi,

I suspect it is possible to squeeze another bike in, since a 47cm is quite small, but I have not tried it. However, if you rotate the handlebars 180 degrees, the brake lever keeps the trunk from closing, so you would have try a different position. You also would need a blanket of course to keep the bikes from scratching each other. However, there would not be room for two bikes and four wheels, for sure. Do you have fold down seats? You can easily fit two bikes and four wheels with the seats folded down. Hopefully you got that option.

The F10 does have a nice concealed roof rack mounting system that makes it easy to remove and replace a roof rack.

dimok
01-12-2011, 03:45 PM
Great review, thanks!

dunderhi
01-12-2011, 04:07 PM
dunderhi,

I suspect it is possible to squeeze another bike in, since a 47cm is quite small, but I have not tried it. However, if you rotate the handlebars 180 degrees, the brake lever keeps the trunk from closing, so you would have try a different position. You also would need a blanket of course to keep the bikes from scratching each other. However, there would not be room for two bikes and four wheels, for sure. Do you have fold down seats? You can easily fit two bikes and four wheels with the seats folded down. Hopefully you got that option.

The F10 does have a nice concealed roof rack mounting system that makes it easy to remove and replace a roof rack.

Thanks. I ordered the folding rear seats, but if we go on an organized multiday ride, I would think it's a nice option to have the bikes concealed in the trunk rather than semi-exposed in the back seat. I don't think most crooks would have any idea what is in the wheel bags in the back seat. With our 3 Series, the bikes ride on the roof and we bring them into the hotel room on travel weekends. I plan on getting the BMW rack for the 5 Series, since I don't think our tandem will fit in the car with the seats down. I will need to make some custom mods to make the rack work with a tandem.

vortexx
01-12-2011, 04:42 PM
Thanks. I ordered the folding rear seats, but if we go on an organized multiday ride, I would think it's a nice option to have the bikes concealed in the trunk rather than semi-exposed in the back seat. I don't think most crooks would have any idea what is in the wheel bags in the back seat. With our 3 Series, the bikes ride on the roof and we bring them into the hotel room on travel weekends. I plan on getting the BMW rack for the 5 Series, since I don't think our tandem will fit in the car with the seats down. I will need to make some custom mods to make the rack work with a tandem.

A tandem almost for sure will fit! I had a tandem in my E60, and I am pretty confident that the total length of the F10 cargo bay is at least as deep. If I recall, I had to remove at least one seatpost, but it was on a quick release anyway. What tandem do you have?

dunderhi
01-12-2011, 06:25 PM
A tandem almost for sure will fit! I had a tandem in my E60, and I am pretty confident that the total length of the F10 cargo bay is at least as deep. If I recall, I had to remove at least one seatpost, but it was on a quick release anyway. What tandem do you have?

Good to hear. We have a Santana Team Al, but since my wife got her Cervelo last year, the tandem hasn't been getting too many miles.

jsf1993
01-12-2011, 06:45 PM
Outstanding review. Love the color and appreciated the pictures of the bike in the trunk. I've always dropped the rear seat when transporting my road bike. I never thought it would fit into my prior E60 or into my new F10 w/o doing so. I'm now going to give it a try. (Being able to transport my road bike w/o having to use a bike rack is an absolute requirement for me, as well.)

Love the Tarmac, by the way. Great bike! :)

P.S. You did an amazing detail job on the car.

Sherman B
01-12-2011, 10:52 PM
What do you think about the M steering wheel? Does it feel comfortable on longer drives?

vortexx
01-12-2011, 11:42 PM
What do you think about the M steering wheel? Does it feel comfortable on longer drives?

I love it. Not only is it more sporty, but it is extremely comfortable on long drives. The larger diameter reduces the pressure because there is more surface area that your hand is resting on.

grande d
01-15-2011, 11:46 AM
Thanks for a very informative overview. Heading to dealership and ordering my 550 for European delivery this afternoon.

johnbmw6
01-15-2011, 12:17 PM
Just picked my 550i M Sport up today, covered 50 miles and it's doing 29.7MPG @ 80MPH :angel: thats fantastic IMO, the car has ZERO faults and is almost silent in operation, well pleased.:thumbup:

Pictures to follow when the weather improves.

BigPimp
01-17-2011, 02:22 PM
Very nice write up, interesting point about wheel gap, not a big fan, would want it lower as well. Beautiful car!

teutonic7
01-17-2011, 08:57 PM
Thanks for the review. My first thought when I saw car at dealer last was why the big fenderwell gap. Very un-BMW for a sport pkg car. My car has no sport pkg and gap is barely acceptable to me. The gap on F10 is very pronounced. But if it can be fixed I will probably still get one and ditch my 7.

vortexx
01-17-2011, 09:26 PM
Thanks for the review. My first thought when I saw car at dealer last was why the big fenderwell gap. Very un-BMW for a sport pkg car. My car has no sport pkg and gap is barely acceptable to me. The gap on F10 is very pronounced. But if it can be fixed I will probably still get one and ditch my 7.

It can definitely be done and it looks good! A few bimmerfest members have posted photos of their cars. I think Lacster has some good pics.

There are some nice pics on the Racing Dynamics site:
http://www.racdyn.com/Model_Intro.cfm?esk=11047&e_id=99999

blackmars
01-18-2011, 12:34 PM
Nice Write up!!

Although i don't like the look of the new F10, i still prefer the V8 Turbo engine. !!! The NA engine in 08 550i is powerful too but lack of turbo, so i can imagine what you said about the "significant" power increase compared to 08 550i.

yeah, the new F10 is not low at all.... you should definitely lower it ASAP, at least to the same level of E60 550i Sports Package.

kaysid
01-18-2011, 01:13 PM
Great in depth review. Concur with you on the nits regarding the trunk and the non-RFT availability as an option. I actually Mountain Bike quite a bit, so got the split fold option. I am thinking of looking into a tow hitch so that I can use a bike rack on the back for multiple bikes when required.

vortexx
01-18-2011, 02:53 PM
Great in depth review. Concur with you on the nits regarding the trunk and the non-RFT availability as an option. I actually Mountain Bike quite a bit, so got the split fold option. I am thinking of looking into a tow hitch so that I can use a bike rack on the back for multiple bikes when required.

I have not tried to get my MTB in the trunk yet without the seats folded, but I doubt it would fit. When transporting my MTB, I just leave the rear wheel on, and fold the seats.

I would also be interested in the tow hitch solution for multiple bikes, so please let me know what you come up with. I like that idea better than the roof rack - better mileage and less noise. Also, last time I had a roof rack on my 2008 550, I had forgotten about it after a long trip and started to drive into the garage with it on! luckily I was going very slowly and the only thing that happened is the brake levers jammed against the garage door header. I let some air out of my tires and was able to back out without damage. Could have been disastrous however.

ProRail
01-20-2011, 08:06 PM
You seem to be a very perceptive and intelligent person. Congratulations on your purchase.

ProRail
01-20-2011, 08:08 PM
Very nice write up, interesting point about wheel gap, not a big fan, would want it lower as well. Beautiful car!

To each his own. Sorry...lower? Why would anybody want it lower? It a BMW, for Gd's sake. (It's got the best suspension in the world..for an affordable car.)

Edb5020
01-26-2011, 08:19 AM
Great write up!

One thing though, You are comparing apples to oranges when you keep comparing the 550i to the Audi A8. If you want to compare an Audi A8 a 7-series I feel is the only fair comparison.

vortexx
01-26-2011, 09:18 AM
Great write up!

One thing though, You are comparing apples to oranges when you keep comparing the 550i to the Audi A8. If you want to compare an Audi A8 a 7-series I feel is the only fair comparison.

edb5020:

Thanks!

I agree, the A8 is actually a direct competitor to the 7 series, not the 5 series. In this case however, i was simply comparing the new 5 series audio system to other "best in class" car audio systems, and the A8 is a good point of reference. Since to your point I wasnt actually considering an A8, I do not know if the Audi B&O system is optional, and if so how much it costs. The optional (and expensive) Burmester system in the Porsche Panamera is, in my opinion, the gold standard. I would have paid the premium to have it factory installed in my 550.

vortexx
01-27-2011, 11:48 PM
Today I got the Dinan Stage 1 upgrade. So far I have driven about 30 miles, so not too much experience with it yet, but so far, it is pretty impressive. I will post more to a new thread after I have a chance to drive it some more.