MotorTrend: 2011 BMW 550i – Two Generations Past the Ultimate Driving Machine

5-series | October 30th, 2010 by 13
2011 BMW 550i front three quarter in motion

MotorTrend reviews the 2011 BMW 550i and gives us more insight into the driving experience aboard the new 5 Series. Here is an excerpt from …

MotorTrend reviews the 2011 BMW 550i and gives us more insight into the driving experience aboard the new 5 Series.

Here is an excerpt from their review:

“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.

2011 BMW 550i three quarters in motion 655x409Turns out the E60 was the ultimate 5 Series to come with a strut-type front suspension, used on BMW sedans since 1965. Like the ’09 7 Series, the ’11 5 Series switches to the multi-link front suspension first used on the second-generation X5 crossover utility. It has an upper lateral A-arm, with double-pivot lower arms for three links per side. BMW also offers a Sport Package plus Adaptive Drive, which includes the 7 Series’ and Z4’s Driving Dynamics Control. In the 550i, it includes Dynamic Damping Control combined with a 10-mm lower suspension, and Active Roll Stabilization.

Unlike too many driver-controlled adaptive damping systems, the 550i’s transmits noticeable changes in road surface harshness as you cycle through the four settings. Whatever magic BMW performed to balance ride and handling on older 5 Series models hasn’t been lost with the switch to the multi-link suspension.

2011 BMW 550i front three quarter in motion 655x409

Subjective driving feel bears this out. The 550i is quiet and smooth at quickly reached highway speeds, then feels too big and heavy to negotiate canyon roads with tight, fun corners. And while the turbo V-8 is strong and makes the right kinds of noises, its power delivery isn’t as linear as BMW’s naturally aspirated engines.

We’re more taken with the Adaptive Drive. You can feel the difference among its four chassis modes, with “a noticeable step increase in harshness on choppy roads,” according to one editor, who found it one of the quietest, smoothest cars extant at highway speeds.

Read more at MotorTrend

13 responses to “MotorTrend: 2011 BMW 550i – Two Generations Past the Ultimate Driving Machine”

  1. Giom says:

    “Unfortunately, the sublime driving and handling dynamics that once set this model apart from its competitors has now been lost for two generations.”

    To an extend. But, the five still is the more sporty car among its rivals. What these writers doesn’t seem to get, BMW has to build cars its customers want. Not the magazine writers who trash these cars around a race track and expect them to perform like 3’s.

    The Five has grown large and I don’t think its buyers want to be racing their cars up and down the street every day. They want a cosseting upmarket ride but with a capable chassis. Thats the new Five!

  2. plaxico says:

    ”Unfortunately, the sublime driving and handling dynamics is still lost”

    hahahahahahaha oh man

  3. ChoCho says:

    Well said Giom, BMW makes car it’s customers (the one with the cash) want, not what certain magazine reviewers want. The fact is, the F10 5 series is the best handling car in it’s class, no matter how the reviewer wants to hide that fact.

  4. Babken says:

    HERE IS THE ULTIMATE TRUTH: the new 5 Series is still the king of its segment.

  5. Frederik says:

    Hell, I love mine … despite the oil consumption

  6. TB says:

    Mind the 6-Series Gran Coupe is coming – taking place of Ultimate Driving Machine among BMW sedans.

  7. bob says:

    Motor Trend is lame.

  8. Joe Black says:

    Most of the driving experience, both journalists and customer experts say the new BMW 5 Series is less engaging than its predecessor. Probably the new electric steering and suspension are more comfortable, but less suitable for those who enjoy the pleasure of driving. Maybe it’s more modern, environmentally friendly and safe, but sin that BMW will become Audi and Mercedes, sacrificing driving pleasure!

  9. Lance says:

    Love the new 5. Took 20 years to get back into one (1990 525i) and now I drive the 550i. It’s great, with only a few frustrations. Sometimes the suspension overreacts to bumps and it reverberates through the structure, feeling as if the car is bottoming out. Some think that’s the runflats, but I dont like it. Overall though, this IS a Bimmer and I love every minute of driving it.

  10. dj says:

    Ultimate is the e39 M5. Love my ’02 “Beast.”

  11. DRK says:

    I have a 2008 550i and a 2001 E39 M5. To me the E30 was the perfect size and it’s handling is still the standard for sports sedans. I love driving both but the E39 feels like a train on rails going around corners and the steering on the M5 in the sport position is unmatched by anything I’ve ever driven, even my old Porsche 911. Looking forward to driving the new 5 series as a loaner when I take mine in for service.

  12. Auba says:

    I have a question. I have just recently ordered a 530xd (to be put in production next year-March 2011). I have chosen Head up display, but I wonder if it will be with the second generation (like the new 6 series).

    Anyone out there that knows?

  13. Steve J says:

    Out of the current crop of Fives, the 550i is the most enticing. Passing acceleration on the expressway is of paramount importance. I would never take chances with weaker engines.
    The 535i just is not quite up to par; and its skinny
    exhausts leave a picture of the body builder who didn’t eat enough!
    In Africa’s narrow roads, the extra tenths of a scond needed to overtake, could be the difference between life and death!

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