It really boils down to what you plan to do with the car and your general taste…

We’re fortunate enough to live in a world where brands like BMW take pride in their performance arms and like to apply M-power to just about everything. But, is it for everyone? Probably not. M-cars are typically much more expensive than the model that sits below them, but the tradeoff is usually lots of extra power and slightly more aggressive looks. Unless you’re one of those people that needs to have the best of everything, you could find yourself questioning whether or not the M5 is really for you, and I honestly can’t blame you. The new M5 comes just a year after the 5 Series transitioned into its seventh generation. With this transition, the 5 Series lost some weight (as much as 137 pounds) and came complete with some updated engine options that deliver better fuel economy and performance. On top of that, BMW finally decided to give the M5 all-wheel drive (standard in the U.S. but optional everywhere else) which is enough to bring it up to par with the competition from Audi and Mercedes. But, with a car like the BMW M550i xDrive resting just below the M5 in the lineup, do you really need to pony up for the M5?

Well, that’s not something I can answer directly, but I would be lying if I told you that the M550i didn’t have some intriguing points to back up why it just might be a better candidate. After all, the M550i is a gorgeous car with attractive and aggressive looks that make it stand out among its brethren, and it does have enough balls to compete on its own in most cases. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at why the M550i may be a better option for you and talk a little more about it.

Interested in Looks?

2018 BMW M5 High Resolution Exterior
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2018 BMW M550i xDrive – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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If you’re really into looks, and that’s a focal buying point for you, it might not make sense to go with the M5 over the M550i. See, while the base 5 Series is a little bland in comparison, the M550i has a nearly identical front end. You get the same grille and headlights, while the lower fascia is actually a bit sportier on the M550i. The biggest difference is that the recessed area just above the air dam on the M550i is a little more pronounced on the M5. The M550i has similar vents but also gets the chrome trim that matches the time around the kidney grilles and the mirrors. I don’t know why, but those chromed mirrors look better than body-color units on the M5. Outside of this, the front end of the M550i is basically identical to that of the M5, but what about the rear?

2018 BMW M5 High Resolution Exterior
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2018 BMW M550i xDrive – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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There isn’t a lot of difference in appearance out back either, but the M5 is a little sportier and even a little more aggressive. Where the M550i happens to have a large body-clad insert on the lower fascia that houses rectangular exhaust outlets and horizontal reflectors, the M5 simply gets a center diffuser element that is flanked by dual, round exhaust outlets. The reflectors are vertically oriented on the corners. The interesting thing to point out here, however, is that the fascia is actually a shared item between the two – the M6’s rear fascia just isn’t cut out at the bottom to make room for the cladding and instead cut in the center to make room for that diffuser-like element. Is this enough to justify spending a significant chunk of extra money for the M5? Well, let’s look at the interior of both as see what’s popping inside.

Maybe You Prefer to Bask in the M Ambiance?

2018 BMW M5 Exterior Interior
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2018 BMW M550i xDrive – Driven Interior High Resolution
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So, now that you’ve seen how similar the exterior is, what do you think about the interior? To me, it also looks nearly identical, and it really isn’t surprising considering the M550i has a lot of that M love going on too. Just about all of the interior trim is the same, including things like the steering wheel and center console garnishing. I actually like the silver trim on the M550i’s shifter handle. Notice how both have the aluminum pedals, gloss black face for the HVAC controls, and the same split for the center console? The only real difference here is the gloss black trim on the face of the dash of the M5 and the slightly more supportive M-Performance seats that feature a similar but more elongated stitching pattern. Onboard technology is generally the same, so no big difference there, and the door sill plates even feature the M logo on both cars. Hmm… still not much of a case as to why you would choose the M5 over the M550i. Well, unless you’re all about power, and then maybe it makes sense. Let’s see about that…

Any Man’s Real Deciding Factor….Power

2018 BMW M550i xDrive High Resolution Drivetrain
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2018 BMW M5 Exterior Drivetrain
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2018 BMW M5 Engine 2018 BMW M550i Engine

At first glance, you might be inclined to say that you’re looking at two different engines here, but I know you guys better than that. You wouldn’t make a rookie mistake like that, would you? What you see here is a pair of 4.4-liter V-8s. Obviously, BMW went out of their way to dress up the engine bay of the M5 to make it stand out – easily noted by the quality looking air intake ducts not found on the M550i. But, there’s also a good reason for the difference outside of the fact that the M5 should look a little better under the hood. See, the M5 benefits from a considerable amount of extra power over the M550i. All told, the M5 delivers a cool 591 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 553 pound-feet of torque as low as 1,800 rpm. That accounts for an increase of 135 horsepower and 73 pound-feet over the M550i, but does that really matter? That depends. With the M550i offering 456 ponies and 480 pound-feet, it can hit the 60-mph sprint in 3.9 seconds – that’s just a half-second slower than the M5 at 3.4 seconds. Both models send power to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and both top out at 155 mph thanks to electronic limiting. Of course, you can opt for the M Driver’s Package with the M5, which effectively takes that limit up to 189 mph. But, who really needs that kind of speed? Nobody, unless you’re going to the track. So, unless you’re planning on hitting the track from time to time, or just want to be a crazy person on the road, it might be better off to save your cheddar and go with the M550i, and by saving cheddar, I mean saving a lot of cheddar. Let’s look at pricing.

BMW M5 BMW M550i
Engine 4.4-liter V-8 4.4-liter V-8
Horsepower 591 HP @ 5,600 – 6,700 RPM 456 HP @ 5,500 RPM
Torque 553 LB-FT @ 1,800 – 5,600 RPM 480 LB-FT @ 1,800 RPM
Transmission Eight-speed M Steptronic Eight-Speed Auto
0 to 60 mph 3.4 seconds 4.0 Seconds
Top Speed 155 mph 155 mph

What the Wife Cares About

2018 BMW M5 High Resolution Exterior
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And the bage you know you want!
2018 BMW M550i xDrive High Resolution Exterior
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The biggest differences between the M5 and M550i is the amount of sheer power you get and the price you pay – both important factors to take into consideration if you’re stuck choosing between the two. And, let’s be honest, you really should be. The M550i starts out at $73,400 in base form, which includes xDrive AWD (just like the M5.) Pricing for the M5 hasn’t been released quite yet, but the 2016 model started out around $94,000. In Europe, the new M5 will retail from €117,900. With that said, we’re expecting a mild price increase here in the U.S. that should take the M5 closer to the $100,000 range, probably around $98,000, to be honest. Even if the M5 price remained the same from the last generation, it would still set you back an extra $20,000 over the M550i. That’s a big chunk of change, and enough to kill your savings and maybe ruin a marriage, but no regrets, right?

The Bottom Line

2018 BMW M5 High Resolution Exterior
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2018 BMW M550i xDrive High Resolution Exterior
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In the end, both the M550i and M5 are pretty damn similar from a visual standpoint. Both should come with a long list of available options, and you’ll look just as good rolling in one or the other. So, unless you’re someone who’s dying to have the most powerful 5 Series offering, want the status symbol, or are going to hit the track, the M550i should be more than sufficient for your daily driving needs. And, it’s not like the M550i’s 456 horsepower is anything to sneeze at, either. In the end, I suppose it all boils down to individual taste but for the most part, going for the M5 is likely just taking things to excess. But, what do all of you think? Is the M5 worth springing for, or should most people stick with the similar but less-powerful M550i? Which would you choose? Let me know in the comments section below.

References

2018 BMW M5

2018 BMW M5 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 BMW M5.

2018 BMW M550i

2018 BMW M550i xDrive – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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Check out our driven review of the 2018 BMW M550i.

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