Tourings. You either hate them or love them, and I for one have never been a fan of the sports wagons that Europeans simply adore. Whenever I had the choice between a BMW SUV or a bimmer sports wagon, I always picked the very same type of vehicle that is so popular among Americans: an SUV or in BMW’s world, SAV, short for Sports Activity Vehicle.
But as a reviewer of BMWs I have to keep an open mind and not let my personal choices interfere with my writing. Therefore, in my last trip to Munich, I decided to give the Tourings another shot, but not just any touring, THE BMW M550d xDrive.
The Heart Of The Uber Diesel
The high-performance diesel uses three BorgWarner-built turbochargers, not all equal in size. The first small turbocharger provides initial boost and ensures quick launches at very low RPMs. Past the 1,500 rpm mark, a larger turbocharger takes the engine close to its maximum torque figure. Above 2,700 rpm, a second small turbocharger is engaged, providing additional boost pressure.
To handle all that torque, while still providing decent MPG figures, the Bavarians matted the diesel engine to the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. The car we tested also make use of BMW’s rear-wheel biased xDrive system that helps quite a bit during spirited driving.
Along with the power upgrade, the M550d takes advantage of M-tuned technology: suspension, bodyshell mounting, engine and transmission mounting, springs and dampers. Driving the car through fast corners and back roads gave me the opportunity to experience one of the most balanced sport wagons ever built by BMW, with virtually no body roll. Despite its overweight body (around 4,350 lbs), the M-tuned chassis handles the car superbly, a feeling also enhanced by the hydraulic power steering that has more in common with the M5 than the regular 5 Series sedan. It is still not up to the standards seen in M cars, but satisfying enough for the touring demographic.
The xDrive system lives up to its reputation and even on slippery roads, it handled the corners with confidence and safety, just as you would expect from a touring, and an all-wheel drive platform.
Jumping onto the Autobahn and into triple digits speeds showed me how much soul this car really has. Official times say 0 to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds, but from behind the wheel, the M550d felt insanely quick. The throttle response is instant, throwing you back in your seat, thanks to that high torque at low revs. Reaching 155 mph (250 km/h) would make you think that the redline is near, but in the case of the M550d, the rev needle was below the 5,000 mark.
I can even say that the car lives for high speeds, with still effortless acceleration when above 120 mph. Of course, there is a slight lag, typical to not just a diesel engine, but a turbocharged unit as well. But then again, this is not an M5 nor it was built on the same principle, so most of the drivers won’t take an issue with this.
Over a few hundred miles, at high speeds and revs, the M550d Touring showed us a fuel consumption of around 25 mpg.
BMW’s Adaptive Drive system is standard on the M550d xDrive Touring and comes with the usual Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport + modes. A wide range of pre-defined settings that cater to all, from moms driving her kids to school, to the young buck that jumps behind the wheel to enjoy a long, sporty road trip.
Would I Buy One?
The only downside: not available in the United States. So if you’re looking for a great BMW sports wagon, either move to Europe or settle for one of the great BMW SAVs we have here.